I walked and walked for a long time, my mind was blank. It was as if I had just woken up from some long sleep. As I walked, thoughts of recent events started fluttered back to my mind. I was so confused. More scared than confused but even in my confusion, I knew I had done the right thing with Princess. It was an irresistible offer; one I could have never imagined but I had bigger problems. No matter how fantastic Princess’ offer sounded, it still did not wipe out the thought of facing Uncle Mufu from my mind. What will I say, where will I begin …. I’m probably one of the worst liars alive so every time I tried to come up with a lie…… there’s just no point…..
Beep Beep Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The blaring sound of the car horn brought me back to reality and it was then I noticed I was almost at Osbourne. My God! I had walked all the way from Princess’ estate and didn’t realize it.
Ring Ring Ring!!!!!!!!!
All of a sudden there seemed to be so much noise around me. Traffic was building up, my phone was ringing off the hook and I just felt like evaporating. I checked my phone. It was Dare, probably wanted to find out where I was and why I didn’t show up for the test.
I ignored but he kept calling and it got me wondering if something else was wrong. I eventually answered the call.
Azeez, bawo lo se miss test. Ibo lo gba lo? (Why did you miss the test, where did you go?)
Classic Dare, he just had to nag. I wasn’t even remotely in the mood.
It’s a long story Dare. How many marks was it or was the test so easy?
Wait, forget that one. Uncle Mufu just called me. He said he has been trying to reach you. He said it had to do with mother. Call him quickly please.
Mama? What is the matter. What did he say…did…
Won o so anything. Sha call won ki … (he didn’t say anything, just call him…….)
I cut the phone before he could even say bye but before I dialed Uncle Mufus number, my phone rang again and it was the devil himself. I picked up immediately and even though the thoughts of the car immediately filled my mind, I was still more bothered about Mama. What if he asks me to come around? What if…..I thought to myself…..
You think you can just off your phone anyhow?
(He spoke in English – that’s never good)
All you children of now. How do you want plenty customer when your phone is off.
I was in…..
Ibo?…Where?…Iro wo lo fe pa (What lie do you want to tell?)…. Anyway, Iyabo is in the hospital.
Ha. Mama. Kilode?
What happened aga…..
I say keep calm. Is not a big something. She is ok. I just want to tell you to phone her so she can hear your voice. Sho ti gbo (Have you heard me)
Yes sir ….. Ma call won. Ese gan sir…. (I will call her, thank you sir)…
I cut the phone and stood on the road more confused than I was before I spoke to him. The doctors had found a tumour in Mama’s head a few years back. My father was still alive then. Even though they had been separated for long, he came to her rescue and funded the surgery that saved her life. She barely made it and members of my dad’s family still say that it was the fear of losing my mother (the only women he ever truly loved) that killed him – I say that is rubbish. If he loved her, why did he leave her for another women – other women….
For some reason I felt angry… I didn’t know what about but this wasn’t time for anger. I needed to make a decision and I needed to make one fast…..
In 15minutes I was on a bus heading to Ibadan. I love my mother too much. She’s all I have and I also needed time to think. I had no car meaning I had no job and no means of survival once all the money on me was gone. Even if by some miracle, Uncle Mufu decides to forgive me and let the car go, will he be able to trust me enough to give me another car? Questions. Decisions. I might be brilliant but this is something I shy away from. God please let Mama be in good condition like Uncle Mufu said.
The bus was taking so long to fill up. People kept getting on and off. The sun was harsh but still, the many activities that made the park what it is, continued. Hawkers, Agberos (Touts), policemen, Lastma men, bus conductors, drivers – I paid little or no attention to all of these, I just wished I could sleep and wakeup somewhere peaceful and sane. The bus eventually took off an hour after I got there – 11:15am. If all went well, I could be back in Lagos today. Most of the passengers in the bus were market women who must have come to stock-up on goods for the holiday season. It was the first week in December already and I hadn’t event noticed. It seemed like so much had been happening lately. I drowned myself in my thoughts and they weighed down so heavily on me, I fell sleep, something I had probably only done just one other time in my adult life.
I woke up just as we went past the tollgate at Ibadan. It was 12:28, not bad. I got off at Challenge bus stop and took a bus heading to Dugbe. As the bus moved, I looked out the window and realized I hadn’t missed Ibadan. It seemed to get rougher each time I visited. I got off at the bus stop and walked to the hospital. Mount Cenai Hospital. The Nurse at the reception recognized me and welcomed me with a smile. Good. I asked to see Mama and she told me I had to see the doctor first.
Is everything ok.
Yes Sir, Mama is fine, she’s just sleeping right now and Doctor said you should see him whenever you come.
My discussion with the doctor was short and painful. He went straight to the point. Mama had another tumour and she needed another surgery – fast. The tumour was causing her to slip into short spans of amnesia and break out in all sorts of spasms. It was painful to hear but the doctor told me I had time. If we were lucky, 3 months. He took me to see her then. She just laid there – pale and very ill. The doctor told me Uncle Mufu sent in some money but they would soon need more. I gave him all I could from what I had on me and promised to send some more. I stayed with her for a while but seeing her that way only made me want to cry. I thanked the doctor again and I left.
The trip back to the bus park at Challenge bus stop was a blur. Seeing Mama in that condition made me realize only one thing, I needed to find a way to get the money she needed to have her surgery. With my car gone and no other likely means of getting money, it didn’t look very promising but I made-up my mind to save Mamas life and I would do whatever I had to, even if it meant putting school on hold for a while.
My bus left the park just before 4pm and I just couldn’t wait to get back to Lagos so I could put my plans into action. Halfway into the journey, I left my thoughts and came back to reality. I noticed almost everyone in the bus had slept off. Everyone except the lady who sat beside me. I turned slightly to further examine her and it was then I noticed she was quite young. 20/22 maybe? She was deeply engrossed in the photocopied document she was reading. I later noticed it was a lecture note. Something on the lung diseases in children. I tried to get a closer look to see if I could spot the name of the school but just then she turned to look at in my direction and our eyes met briefly. I looked away and then she reached into her bag and to my surprised produced a copy of Complete Sports.
I took more interest in her. Its hard enough finding a girl who cares about football and sports not to talk of one who follows it enough to buy Complete Sports. I was impressed and if she was a guy, I could have easily just asked for the middle fold so I could read to get my mind off Mama but I just peeped instead. She must have noticed me trying to read over her shoulder as she suddenly took out the centerfold and handed it to me. Surprised and a little embarrassed, I took it and said thanks. I breezed through the pages and when I handed it back to her, she asked if I wanted the other fold.
Let me guess, Arsenal fan? She smiled.
Why would you say that?
I can’t imagine a Man U fan or even a Chelsea fan being this nice.
Well, yes. I’m an Arsenal fan.
Wait, fan or Supporter.
There is a difference?
I was about to go into a speech I had given over and over again about how being a fan of a football club was deeper than been an ordinary supporter when I felt the bus swerve to one side. I looked up and pretty much all the other passengers were still asleep and as the bus swerved again. I took a look at the bus driver and noticed he was struggling to steady the car. Immediately, I knew there was something wrong with the brakes. The firm grip on my right arm reminded me of the girl seating beside me…
What is wrong…wha…what is going on… DRIV….(she was about to yell)
SHHHHHHH!!!! I held her back…. Don’t scream. Don’t wake up everyone…
But whats going …
It’s the brakes, I think they’ve failed…grab on to the seat… Blood of Jesus ( I murmured)
Driver…. I was going to try to talk to the driver as calmly as I could but before I could get a word out…
The front left corner of the bus rammed into the backside of a Toyota Prado jeep just as the driver tried to swerve into the bushes off the road.
What followed was pandemonium. Passengers woke up and some had suffered minor injuries as a result of the positions they were in before the impact. The women in the bus started yelling at the driver who had only realized just how much trouble he had gotten into when a fully dressed military officer came down from the prado. I pleaded with the passengers who seemed to be taking forever to get off the bus to move faster even as I realized the cold hands of the gurl beside me were still firmly holding on to me.
We finally made it out of the bus and even as the passengers yelled and cursed the driver, he seemed to pay little or no attention to them. The Military man was making all sorts of threats and it was all chaos. I couldn’t deal with it. I needed to get out of there. I began to walk forward and the girl who had been holding on to my hand followed.
Where are you going?
I don’t know but somewhere far away from this madness
We had only walked for a few minutes when a car pulled up beside us. The driver asked if we wanted a lift. I looked into the old, beat up Mercedes 230 and seeing it was an elderly man driving with a teenage boy seated on the passengers seat beside him, I thought to myself, it seems ok. I turned to the girl and beckoned to her to get in but she stood behind me and asked me to go in first.
The rest of the journey to Lagos was long and awkward. I don’t recall anyone in the car saying a word. The car was old and not in very good working condition and I just kept praying in my head for it to see us safely to Lagos. The few times I turned to look at the gurl who sat beside me, I noticed she was scared stiff. She sat up straight and watched the old man closely as he drove. I noticed how pretty she was. Very pretty actually but I was too pre-occupied thinking about getting to Lagos. We got to Berger bus stop in Lagos a few minutes before 6pm and I could feel the relief in the air as we both got out of the car and thanked the driver. The car drove off and I turned to look at my co-passenger:
So, which way are you heading?
Erm… I didn’t even get your name …
(she smiled then, and revealed beautiful pearly white dentition like no other)
My name is A…Ze….. I mean, Azeez.
Azeez? A muslim that prays in the name of Jesus?
Now that’s a long story. I’d have to get your number so I can tell you later.
She smiled then again, this time I could see in her smile that she was more relieved.
No.. small thing for a fellow Arsenal…… fan?
She then took out a piece of paper from her bag, scribbled on it and handed it to me.
I was so relieved I didn’t have to bring out my trusty 1100. That would have been…….interesting.
Ok then. Take care of yourself.
I snapped back to reality. The distraction of the journey was nice. Now I had to face my problems. First stop was Uncle Mufu. I figured I should just tell him and get it over and done with. I took a bus to Yaba and hopped on a bike heading to the first gate. The bike man went through the one-way route past Abule Oja and just as we made it past the junction, I noticed a little traffic building up ahead. I looked up and realized it was caused by an accident. A danfo and a Toyota ….. A Toyota Corolla… That’s when I saw her. She just stood there looking confused, helpless, almost in tears. I asked the bike man to stop. Literally jumped off and went towards her.
Princess, what happened?
Oh, A-Zed. I….I… must have….
Danfo Driver: Madam, na so so grammar you don dey blow since… do quick shake body. That full light wey commot for there na fifteen thousand.. panel beater go collect …..
Me: Ahn ahn.. oga.. kilode… a ko ye je jo.. se orun le ti ra Faragon yin ni (what’s that… did you buy your bus from heaven?)
My comments enraged the bus conductor who had been arguing with the passengers in the bus. The passengers had been begging the driver to forgive Princess and get them moving again but he paid no attention to them and they turned on the conductor. Hearing what I said to his driver, the conductor ran towards us and yelled…….
Ahhhhhhhh…….. abi e fe kin ya were sibi yi..
(Ah.. do you want me to go mad here)
Ahhhhh… talo ma ba mi nu agbon kin fo mo ori mi…..
(who will get me a coconut let me hit it on my head)
He then hit his head on the body of the bus… Princess swiftly hid herself behind me even as the driver moved to calm down the conductor. I asked Princess how much she had on her… she said about ten thousand in cash but she could go to the ATM. I asked her to give me six thousand. I took the money and pulled the driver aside. I squeezed the money in his hands and told him that was all she had. He counted it and from the smile on his face, I knew he was more than satisfied.
Ni to ri yin ni o egbon… Malouda, je ka lo… (It’s just because of you oh… Malouda, lets go)
With that, they got in to the danfo and drove away. Princess handed me the keys to the car and I couldn’t even bring myself to argue. She looked like she was about to cry.
Where are you going?
Yes, that’s my school.
Oh, I’m errr…, I didn’t know.
As I drove past the park, I noticed it was past seven. Uncle Mufu would have probably left. I drove into school and asked Princess which hostel we were heading to. She told me to drive towards High Rise. Well, I wasn’t surprised. Anything less would have surprised me. She directed me to her building. I parked and we both got out. I walked towards her and handed her the key.
How will you get to the gate.
Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.
A-Zed. This is the second time you’ve come to my rescue, I’m beyond grateful.
No it’s not. Let me try to help out. I hardly use my car. I just need to get out of school once in a while. You can have it. Do your rounds and make some money.
(I took a deep breath) Princess, that cab wasn’t mine. I still have a lot of explaining to do to my uncle – he owns the cab.
Then start with this. Just take the keys and think about it tonight. I don’t need to go anywhere till tomorrow.
But you don’t even know me.
(she smiled)… Do you know me? That’s life A-Zed….. see you tomorrow morning.
She walked into the building and I just stood there for a while. I then went and looked at the damage done to the car – it wasn’t so bad. Scratches really. I didn’t know where to go, what to do with the car. What if I park it somewhere and it gets vandalized. What if…. as I contemplated my next line of action, my phone rang.
Please I need you to come and pick me now now now…. this is very urgent
I’m at home … in Badore.. I’m waiting…
She hung up without listening to my explanation. Part of me just wanted to park the car and go to my room but another part thought of the extra money I could make. Mama was still on my mind. I jumped into the car and drove out of school. Driving to Badore was no longer daunting. I had mastered the route expertly. A little over 10pm, I was outside Kassy’s house. She came out almost immediately. She had t-shirt and jeans – that was quite unusual. It was none of my business really. I just wanted to drop her off and go back to school.
A-Zed A-Zed…. ahn ahn.. see as this car come fit you… she said as she brushed my cheeks with her fingers… I started the car and asked:
Where are we going?
Yes. Epe Town. I’m going to see Baba Ibidun.
Oh, so you’re going to act like you don’t know….
I don’t know any Baba Ibidun.
Ok, ok…just drive…
I headed back to the expressway and drove towards Epe. The road was absolutely free and I was tempted to see what the car could do but I resisted. I drove at a steady pace and got directions from Kassy. As we got closer to our destination, I noticed how familiar the area was.. then it hit me – this was where Princess and I had met that vigilante man. Could that be who Kassy was referring to as Baba Ibidun? But the man also asked us about Baba Ibidun that day…
Kassy asked me to park somewhere along the untarred road.
Wait for me here.. I’ll be back soon
Yes. Nothing will happen to you and I wont be long.
She hurried out of the car and vanished into some bushes. I wondered then just how Kassy managed to get me to agree to some of these things. It was late in the night and I was in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone I had no idea where she went and when she was going to get back. Incredible.
True to her word, in just about 30 minutes, Kassy appeared from the bushes clutching tightly unto her bag. She got into the car and asked me to drive back home. For a while I noticed she had an irritated look on her face. Perhaps she was disappointed she couldn’t locate Baba Ibidun. But I noticed her mood change later on. She was back to her smiley, chirpy self.
A-Zed, A-Zed….. fine boy…. she said as she ran her fingers through my head. I made a mental note to talk to her about that. I needed to concentrate on getting her back home and returning to school. It was past 1am and there was no other car in sight. I gave into temptation and increased my speed. It took less an hour for me to get to the Badore junction. As I made the turn, I noticed Kassy reaching for her bag. Her hands vanished into it for a while and then she closed the bag, rubbed her palms together and then on her face. I wondered what sort of lotion she needed at almost 2am. Except …. maybe we still had another destination. But I guess I was wrong. We got to her gate and instead of asking me to wait she asked me to please come in to get my money as she was the only one home and didn’t want to walk all the way out again.
I hesitated but I thought to myself, what could possibly go wrong? I parked the car properly and went in with Kassy. The compound was quite big. There was only a little bungalow built at the end of the compound. We made our way to the door and as she unlocked the metal door she asked me to come in. I stepped in and I noticed she had a broad smile on her face. We got into the living room area and Kassy almost immediately sat on the couch while I stood.
I’m so tired A-Zed…… Oh, your money. You know what, please go into that room, through that door on the right and wait for me there, I’ll come give it to you.