Since Ibadan wasn’t my final destination, I had to move on. I chattered a bike to “Express junction” where I boarded another bus going to Ake, my final destination. I got lucky this time as the vehicle was almost a new one aside the one with torn seats and a tipsy driver. I said my little prayer, sat back and hoped to enjoy the trip. The rest of the trip went by almost peacefully aside the little argument I had with the “kondo”, a toutish bus conductor, for not issuing my complete balance on time. I was back in my solitary state because the other two passengers sitting next to me were market women who don’t seem to have time for the stranger sitting next to them. All they talked about was how they would finish with their trades on time, usurp Iya Mayowa, a fellow market woman’s customer and head back home on time to make plans for the weekend’s “Association of Plantain Sellers” meeting. I needed not eavesdrop, as they were chatting raucously at the peak of their voice. In the face of all these, loneliness was the last thing I felt because I took solace in seeing my real angel, Modupe, in less than 3-hours time, if all things remained the same. She had earlier called informing me that she would prepare my favorite meal of rice and stew lavishly decorated with meats of all sort.
I couldn’t wait!!!
The trip from Ibadan to Ake wasn’t supposed to take more than two hours if not for the extra thirty minutes wasted on changing of a flat tire somewhere along the dreadful highway. I slept off almost immediately the bus got fixed and moved – to ease the frustration of listening to these garrulous women who resumed their gossips almost immediately.
I woke up due to a factor I couldn’t decipher and realized I was already in the city; just few seconds away from the last bus stop. I yawned, stretched my frail body and prepares to step off the bus.
A little step away from the vehicle, I flagged down a motorbike, described my destination to the okada man, negotiated and zoomed off. I was still feeling quite lethargic but the hope of eating my favorite food in less than half an hour kept me going without taking the risk of sleeping while the motorbike was moving.
Home, they say, is where the heart is.
Another extra minutes was again expended on an unnecessary argument which ensued when the bike-man decided to increase the fare to #100 against the #60 we earlier agreed on. The #40 difference will go a long way to buying soft drink to quench thirst on a seemingly hot day, so I couldn’t be too charitable to let it go and being the type who doesn’t take nonsense even when offered on a platter of gold. The scene became a little more theatrical when other bike men rallied round all in the name of loyalty, to support their comrade whom they thought I was about cheating – probably because they felt he’s a little younger than I was. The case got settled, thanks to few reasonable older ones who came around. I had to part with an extra twenty naira and he also took loss of the same amount. We moved on, both pretending to be happy with the decision.
Subconsciously, my pace increased as I approached her apartment. I exchanged pleasantries with some guys playing football in the compound and move past the ladies gossiping at the other corner of the house. I headed straight to Modupe’s room. Getting to her room I needed not knock the wooden door extravagantly designed with stickers of all type, as she was anxiously waiting in front of her room. She threw her body on me in form of a tight hug, rubbing her sumptuous breast against my muscular chest. For a moment, my heart beat increase and my heart was beating out of my chest.
After relieving me off the burden of my luggage, she ushered me into the bathroom of her one-room self contained apartment and as I quickly as I could, I splashed water on my body so as to fill my belly “sharply” with the mouth-watering food she already made. The aroma oozing out of the kitchen was hurriedly picked up by my nose and carefully discerned to contain crayfish, locust beans and assorted meat.
Home sweet home.
I gulped down my meal while she talked about how much time has passed between us and how greatly she missed me. I claimed to have the so-called table manner of not talking while eating so all I could do was nod my head, shake it sideways and force a smile to respond to a yes, a no and a funny response respectively.
With my addiction for meat, one can cal me a cannibal or a hyena, and you wouldn’t be far from the part of me that is wildly meat-loving. Serving me more than four piece of meat will get any information out of my brain, classified or non-classified.
After devouring the six piece of meat accorded to me, I showed my profound appreciation and acknowledged the effort she made in preparing such a delicacy. I moved to where she dropped my bag, emptied it and gave her the gifts I had bought for her. She smiled in gratitude and said “Thank you, Ayo teminikan soso”. I explained how stressful the journey was and she advised that I sleep for a while.
I rested a little for my food to settle down and made for the bed to rest a little because I was still very tired from the traveling and now from the over-feeding.
Waking up later in the evening was not easy, but for the aroma I perceived. This time it was amala and ewedu (Jute leave), my third favorite food after Rice and Pounded yam – staring me in the eyes inside the big bowl. I have a terrible weakness for good food; especially those on my favorite list which makes it always hard to reject such a beautiful offer. I failed to ask if it was meant for the two of us as I did justice to the meal all alone.
I needed the sweet home-cooking, the soft love of a woman, the fond flattery and banter only a woman of Modupe’s caliber could provide. There are lots of things left undone and a lot left unsaid. I took time to appreciate the arrays of good food she had been offering me ever since I got home.
As time and tide waits for no man, time flew by like lightning and in a twinkle of an eye, it was almost the dead of the night. I turned my phone off, to avoid distraction from my BlackBerry Messenger admirers’ incessant “pings” and tuned to her station for live broadcast. She talked and talked while I listened with rapt attention. It soon became my turn to share my own “super story”.
Since I had a very boring time during my short stay in Ilesha, I had little or nothing to talk about. I decided to talk about my earlier meeting and encounter with Doyin. She remained mute and listened with her eyes goggling out at my comprehensive explanation of the whole scenario. I sensed danger as her countenance changed and tried to change the topic to sport, but it was too late. She was deeply hurt; probably due to her thinking I was flirting with her (Doyin) or planning to cheat on her. She threw caution in the wind and challenged my decision of narrating in details my conversation with Doyin.
I’ve never seen her like this ever since we started dating over a year ago. I wasn’t too good at apologizing so I kept mute which seem to infuriate her more. “What have I done?” I asked myself. “It’s not what you think, I was….” I said but couldn’t complete the sentence when she cut me off. “Shut up, just shut the fuck up” she retorted. With her response, it was glaring all hell will let loose. I became a weakling in the face of all the ensuing drama. I got lost in the game of nagging and decided to reply her in the same harsh tone. “On top wetin nah, haba” I said in a hard baritone voice hoping she would shiver and maybe calm her down. But, wrong I was, as that added more fuel to the wild fire, ‘I’m done for” I said in a low whispering tone. It was glaring I couldn’t get a draw, let alone win the hot argument. I gave up and made to hold her and apologize for my imprudence. She screamed “Do you want to hit me?” Go ahead, hit me; in fact you must kill me today” she continued in an action much more than just nagging but almost violent. I kept my poise and didn’t relent in using all sorts of tricks known to me just to calm her down and sooth her hurting pain, but all was to no avail.
Finally, nature performed its contractual obligation. She got tired, fell flat on the bed and in a jiffy, slept off. There was no need for me to consume Nicotine or Caffeine because insomnia had already taken over my soul. My eye ball remained wide open and I kept staring at the ceiling, wall papers and other designs in the room. This went on for hours until the crack of dawn. She moved, swerving from one side of the bed to the other obviously searching for me. She realized I wasn’t on the bed and that finally woke her.
“Sorry about what happened last night” she said after staring at me for more than five minute. Relieved, I moved closer to her and touched her soft skin. “I’m deeply sorry for hurting your feelings” I said, morose to portray that I truly meant it. “I accept my folly and hope we can put this behind us” I continued in a manner that seems touching, even to me. “You deserve better from me, I will be better” I concluded my speech convincingly. Tears rolled down her chubby cheek; I used my shirt to wipe the tear marks off and hugged her tightly, with her lips firmly glued to mine. “It’s okay, but please don’t ever hurt me again”. “I love you” she added her voice to the emotional conversation I got started. “I love you too, heaven knows I do” I said in a soft low tone yet gleeful. We continued the kissing thing and got lost in the emotional state.
The next few days were filled with bliss, good food coming in its due time, plenty movies to watch, watching her dance, playing Ludo while I gentlemanly decided not to “kill” her tiles just to allow her win. We also had good time playing computer game – though she won almost all the matches because I chose to allow her the satisfaction of feeling like a good player. We made plans on when next to meet and we talked deeply about our “future together”.
In almost a flash style, the week went by and I had to resume work at my NYSC designated post in Haramia, Boko state. Boko state is the extreme end on the country popularly known as the giant of Africa, judging from the southern part where I reside.
Goodbye is the hardest thing to say, especially when it has to do with people you hold so dear to your heart. My pains for departing from her were immeasurable. I held back tears while I allowed her use my shoulder to cry on, being the man that I am. Leaving the love of your life, good food and real fun to embrace loneliness and state of unrest of the mind isn’t a decision any sane individual would jump at, if not for answering the so-called “clarion call”.
She walked me through to the park. As I was about boarding, she gave me the tightest hug I’ve had in days and planted a kiss on my cheek…. Goodbye that’s it. It dawned on me instantly that I was going to miss her “everything”.
A man is a man.
I told her to take care of herself and should be expecting my call every half-hour. She smiled at my white lie because we both know I don’t usually call unless I see up to twenty missed calls on my phone.
Hardly had the bus moved when one of the passengers led us into prayers and before the praying session was over I had already slept off. The shout of “Hallelujah” woke me and I joined in “shouting” the remaining six of the twenty-one hallelujahs and back I went to my somnolence. I slept through out the 14-hour long journey, though I was awoken more than ten times by one thing or the other.
I got to Haramia extremely weak and fagged out. I made for the Corpers Lodge, exchanged pleasantries with few friendly colleagues, “yimued” at the back of the not-friendly ones, and headed straight to my apartment. I dropped my bag, zoomed off to the bathroom, rushed through my bath, zoomed back to the room, wore my pajamas and like a log of wood, fell on my flat bed.
I woke up quite late the next morning with body pains and slight headache; a hangover of yesterday “bus lag”. I quickly made for the prayer room to avoid another private preaching session from Pastor Temitope Teniola for not attending the Morning Prayer. Few minutes later, it was all over because all I met in actual sense was just “The Grace”. I went back to my room and made the necessary preparation and an hour later I was on my way to work
The hard life of “serving” in a place far from home continued for few more weeks, and then I got adapted to the whole “show” thanks to the survival training I went through and passed during my university days.
One hot afternoon, a fellow Corper rushed into the Ministry of Petroleum where I work. Panting and screaming with sweat oozing out of his body. We were used to hearing about this kind of thing since Boko state ceased to have peace, courtesy of “Alupayida”, a terrorist group who have taken laws into their hands by violently enforcing their beliefs and ideologies on others – but never really had the chance to experience it. Haramia is at the center of the violence being the capital of the state. Nowhere seemed to be safe; not even the Ministry of Peace which was struck by suicide bombing just few days back.
Abdullah, the running Corper, dashed inside the building and collapsed immediately. It took close to five minutes before he was restored back to consciousness. Few other colleagues held him and tried to pacify him while some were eager to know what happened or what was really happening as the case may be. I already had my mind prepared for anything since I decided to throw away the offer of redeployment to Lagos offered to me few months back on a platter of gold all in the name of sticking to my damn belief that “My life has been according to God’s plan and I’m never going to influence any decision by myself or with the help of any family or friends”.
“They blew up Mammy market at Bombia” said Abdullah still breathing heavily. “The mob is running toward us” he said again and collapsed. Bombia is a neighboring town to Haramia and it would takes ten minutes on the maximum before the said mob will reach Haramia. Abdullah was left to his fate as nobody was “extra-caring” enough to revive him again. There was confusion everywhere as we all started running helter-skelter. “Zo ka bi na, Na san wuri mai kyau walahi” (Come, follow me, I know a safe place, I swear) came a voice from my back which I later found out to be one of the security, Ackmed, a staunch Muslim and an indigene of Haramia. Without a second thought, we followed sheepishly as he led us to an underground buried deep inside the Ministry’s edifice unknown to all us.
There we were for close to three hours, everybody saying prayers in our diverse religion and dialects while waiting for the said mob to come. My thought went out to my family and my dear friends, Modupe inclusive – who tried all their best possible to make sure I accept the redeployment offer. I chose not to regret my decision and remained adamant while hoping God will make a way out of this seemingly horrible situation. Abdullah’s story of the mob coming to Haramia turned out to be just a hoax.
Suddenly, my phone rang. The ringtone breaking the eerie silence and I swiftly dipped my hand inside my pants to bring it out and set it to “silence”. I checked the incoming call number and realized it was an unregistered number. I freed my hand a little to allow me some freedom of enabling my phone reach my ear and answered the call. “Hello”, came the seemingly familiar voice. “Hello, who is this please” I said in my faint fluent American accent. “This is Doyin” came the soft voice on the other side of the line…