NECHE’S TALE

It was 3:00 p.m and I heard it again- Ariana Grande’s ‘Side to Side’ blasting from my nokia phone which was probably somewhere in the living room. I heard it the first time but it was faint as the shower was on and I was singing to myself.

I traced the sound to the sofa in the living room and saw it there vibrating on the couch. I looked at the phone screen.

‘Mum’

“Hello?” I said into the receiver knowing exactly what she was about to say.

“Bia Neche, okwa i ka no n’uno?” she asked in igbo. “What are you still waiting for? Madame Uju would soon leave and she is a very impatient woman! Do fast and get out of that house!”

Mrs. Uju. I remember the last time I had to go with her somewhere. I was supposed to go with her to Ozubulu on an errand. My mum called me an hour before hand telling me she was impatient and I took this piece of information for granted. It was until I had to board a bike in pursuit of her grey mazda wagon car that I understood exactly what the word ‘impatient’ meant.

I was supposed to go to Enugu with her this time around by 4:00 p.m to meet with the family eye doctor for my yearly check ups and mum had already called me an hour ago to tell me how impatient she was.

I had already packed my bag and kept it in the sitting room and laid the dress I was supposed to wear on the bed with my underwear too.

“Nanya! Nanya!! where is my pink bra?!” I yelled. My little sister always seemed to know exactly where everything was in the house. I decided to try my luck with underwear this time around.

“Kedu onye n’aju that question? Who is that careless person?” the scary voice I had been trying to avoid all day barked out from the master bedroom. If there was one thing my father didn’t condone, it was carelessness.

“Why would an adult like you be looking for your brassiere?  I bu di nwata?” dad continued. If you knew my dad, the last thing to do in situations like this was to try to give an explanation to justify your stupidity. I just kept quiet until I didn’t hear his voice again.

I slowly tiptoed to Nanya’s room but met her halfway holding up my pink bra by the strap with a beautiful smile on her face.

“Thank you” I whispered to her as I tiptoed back to my room to dress up.

At about 3:15 p.m, I left the house for the Eastern Mass bus park where I was supposed to meet Mrs. Uju.

At exactly 4:00 p.m, I saw her coming towards the park. She slowed down when she got to the entrance of the park and motioned for me to enter the car with impatience written all over her face as expected. I rushed into her car and we were on our way.

We had been on the road for about 30 minutes when Mrs. Uju’s phone rang. This phone call that ruined my day.

Apparently Mrs. Uju had issues to take care of at Awka that required her sleeping over there. I called my mum immediately to seek for advice on what to do because the doctor told my mum that I had to be at her place by 9:00 a.m the next day. I called mum and she told me that I had to take a bus on my own when I got to Awka and she sent me directions to grandma’s place and wished me goodluck. When we got to Awka, Mrs. Uju dropped me at the park and gave me 1000 naira for transport and stayed around to make sure I boarded a bus. This surprised me because Mrs. Uju was, well…impatient.

The arrangement was very effective because I was going to reach Enugu before it got dark and grandma’s house wasn’t too difficult to trace according to my mum.

The bus moved about 20 minutes after Mrs. Uju left the park. I said a little prayer to myself and tried to relax. I was sitting at the front seat, scratch that, floating on the front seat. Just my left buttock was touching the seat and I was very uncomfortable. When I boarded the bus initially, I had sat on the seat closest to the front passenger door, feeling myself and listening to Florida’s Going Down For Real until the air that was coming through the window just stopped and something was casting a shadow on my phone screen. I looked up to see what was wrong and I saw him.

“Bia nne, shift for me, let me join you” he said, his voice echoing in my head

I looked back at him because it sounded like a big joke, keyword – big. This man had no neck and no it was not his beards that covered it, it was his chin. This man was fat and huge!

“I am talking to you young lady.” he repeated

“Oh ermm…” I quickly turned around to see if any free seat was behind but there was none, it was full and he was the last passenger to board the bus.

“Oh okay.” I said almost crying. He opened the door and struggled into the seat by my side and pushed me into the driver’s seat. I just sat back down on what was left of my own seat and started thinking about the next one hour.

The driver finally came and squeezed himself onto his seat and the front seat looked like an unequal hamburger. I was sandwiched between a sweaty driver and an unhealthy version of the hulk. I gave myself hope in the fact that when the bus moved the breeze was going to soothe my suffering. But it didn’t. The driver kept moving the gear against my knee, there was no air whatsoever coming from the passenger window because the hulk and the air coming from the driver’s side reeked of dry gin and dirty armpit. Oh God, why did Mrs. Uju’s phone decide to receive that call? Why wasn’t it unavailable at that moment? Curse you MTN!

The journey continued and I managed to rest my head on the car seat and catch some sleep because body no be firewood. I was up all night in the struggle to finish Daredevil Season 2 and ended up sleeping at around 3:21 a.m. I was dreaming about eating the hot okpa that mumsy planned on cooking later that day until I was literally jerked out of my sleep. The bus was doing a little move and stop dance in the middle of the high way and finally rolled to a stop by the side of the road. The driver tried continuously to start the engine of the bus to get us going again but it refused to start and the passengers soon started murmuring.

“All these drivers that cannot take care of their car. Mtcheww…”

“Nne I wonder o. Driver do fast and get us out of here biko it is getting dark…”

“Just negodu this idiot; he’s just sitting down there.”

“Oga do something nau. Some of us have important places to be.”

The driver on hearing this, replied them with a truck load of obscenities in his native Abakiliki tongue. No, I don’t understand Abakiliki language, but the sour look on his face and the droplets of saliva on my face confirmed that what he was trying to say was not nice at all.

“Oya everybody come down! Bus don spoil!” the driver said as he came down from the driver’s seat. I checked my watch and it was 5:15 p.m. Well at least there was still time and it wasn’t going to take time for a second bus to come and pick us up to continue the journey.

All the passengers had alighted from the bus and had gathered in different groups. My phone battery had died so I was forced to listen to everything they were saying.

“Biafra is our land! There is nothing aboki can do about it. Biafra ga adi…” a man from one of the groups said aloud

“In fact, I don’t buy my clothes anywhere except Onitsha o, all these boutiques will tell you 4,000 for one blouse…” another woman from the other group said as she struggled to breast feed her baby.

We waited for about 15 minutes and another bus had not come. The driver on the other hand was across the road eating aki n’ukwa and had been on the phone. When he was done with the call, he crossed back to the right side of the road and startled us with a question.

“What are you people still doing here? Una no wan go house?” he asked too innocently.

“Oga, you are not well o. We have been standing here waiting for another bus to come and carry us. Or haven’t you called them?” one of the passengers asked in frustration.

“Oh na true o, I never even call them sef” he said as he held up his phone. His nonchalant reply caused an uproar of hisses, curses and yelling which later died down to murmurs when the driver ignored them. I just stood there arms crossed watching everything happen and laughing at the funny scenes. Speaking of funny, I turned around and the hulk was no where to be found. He probably could not stand the heat and boarded another vehicle.

“Ehen, see another bus no go come o. I no know as we wan take do am today.” the driver said nonchalantly and then the yelling and cursing started all over again.

“Driver wetin be the problem nau? Make we try push this bus. I get appointment by 6 o’clock” one of the passengers said adjusting his belt to accommodate his over-sized shirt.

Five men helped to push the car to and fro continuously for about five minutes until the car started doing the same dance it did earlier and then the engine started. Phew! I was so happy with myself because I was going to get to Enugu on time and the Hulk had disappeared.

All the passengers boarded the bus again and the car was ready to move. But the car wasn’t moving.

“Driver howfar nau? Let’s be going” I said to the driver and then he laughed. I was confused. This was until I felt a familiar shadow by the window. The Hulk was back.

He struggled into the bus and kept asking me to shift until I ended up floating on my seat again.

“Could this journey get any worse?” I said to myself. Ten minutes later, my stomach rumbled in response.

“Dr…Dr…Driver…” I said while trying to hold it in. “Driver please stop…stop…I need to shit”

“Ehn? Shit? Time no dey for that one o!” He said as he continued driving. I continued to shift in my chair trying to hold in whatever wanted to come out. I wonder what I ate before leaving the house that could have caused this. I was distracted with my thoughts and whatever wanted to come out came out. It was gas. Thank God.

“Hmmmmm, Jesus! Na you do this thing?” said the driver as he was forced to roll to a stop by the road. “Abeg commot for my bus go shit. All these children wey go dey chop indomie and egg. Hmmm tufia”

I practically ran out of the bus into the bush and I let go. It felt good.

I was enjoying this blissful release until I heard the faint sound of an engine starting. It took me about 3 seconds to realise what was happening.

“Wait! Wait for me!” I screamed as I cleaned up with leaves and  ran out of the bush pulling up my skirt “Driver wait!”

I limped towards the bus as I adjusted my skirt and entered the bus. The hulk and the driver couldn’t stand the stench and shifted away from me, creating more space for me to sit down. The rest of the journey  was a breeze. I guess my day did not as badly as it started.

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