It was 8pm.
The tricycle came to a rather hasty halt. The driver -a young man in his middle thirties- ordered the passengers to come down.
“This is my last bus stop”, he declared with a Thrasonical toast of lordship.
“Last bus stop? It’s still way down”, an old woman at the back seat fired back.
” This is my own last bus st-“.
Before he finished the last word, he was out of the tricycle and vanished into a gathering bush nearby.The old woman motioned in the direction of the driver, whose pose and pee line could be made out faintly with the help of the dying street lamps that laced the whole way up to the entrance of the city. Her face and voice looked late sixty, her physique, however, told tales of a girl tired of youth. She continued toward the peeing driver, pausing intermittently as if sharp moments of fits flashed flashed through her head, riding on the cool night breeze that occasionally distorted the driver’s pee line. She finally reached his back and stopped.
“Dreba, do quick and take me to the last bus stop”, she uttered, touching his back line with her nail less middle finger.
By now, he was done peeing and turned to her with a gentle grin.
“I told you this is my Rehoboth. I’m turning back here”.
“Na wa for you people in this country. Why did I board your vehicle if I’d have to walk, eventually?”
The driver whistled and walked past her- towards his three legged business.
“At least, give me ten naira as change since you’re not taking me to my destination”.
“Mama, your money don complete. You don’t have any change. The distance no far again. For all this back and forth, you would have reached the last bus stop if you had reasoned with your legs”. He turned on the ignition and zoomed off.
She stood for a while – making it into another tricycle that headed for the last bus stop. Almost immediately, another tricycle stopped at the point where the old woman’s did. This time, two people came out.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name”, the young man mentioned in a low tone as he tried to catch up with his mistress.
“I didn’t catch yours either, young man”.
“Oh! Bopongo. Thought I mentioned earlier”. He looked at her like his face bore a handshake.
She stopped at a wooden kiosk that overlooked the lonely road. There was a group of dark, tribal marked men enjoying a local dish made of corn and bitter leaf in front of the kiosk- they recognized her instantly and exchanged greetings in their local dialect. She returned their greetings. Bopongo brightened up half of his face with a fake smile and nodded a greeting.
“Do you take cigar?” She asked him.
“Yes, I mean sometimes”.
“Very well. I won’t feel out of place in your company then. You have no idea how some guys make you see how terrible you are”.
“Is that true?”, Bopongo thought to himself as he examined the full project in front of him and the implications of a task of such magnitude. He let out a sigh. He was certainly in for a long night at the hands of his fair, short stranger whose black hijab hanged loosely around her neck. One would think her a Moslem. Other things certainly fight that thought; like her tight top that struggled, albeit unsuccessfully, to maintain a cover on her cleavages, her extra short and extra tight skirt that gave recognition to her unconventional butt size, and her cigar love too, of course.
“Two packs”, she said to the stout man who stood up among the group of men. Bopongo removed his wallet and paid.
She held his hand and turned into the next street.
It wasn’t the best of days that day. The day started on a rather hot note. The fierce sun that had come to turn a legend worthy of a biopic started so early- something around six o’ clock. It was this legend of sorts that woke Bopongo up. By the time he was on his feet, his back had beautiful, artistic designs; the designer being the mat that provided respite during nights when the heat was ferocious- like the previous night. As he bent to roll up the mat, his phone rang. He dashed inside his room and hissed almost immediately he picked the phone to check who the caller was. He held the device for a while, until it stopped to ring. He reached out for his toothbrush on the trolley, beside the remnant of the fanciful wardrobe he had wasted his money on. So he thought when he came back from a trip, only to meet the giant wardrobe lying on the floor.
Again, his phone rang. This time, he picked up immediately; he said nothing; just kept the phone pressed to his right ear. Finally, he said something.
Throughout the conversation, his eyes wandered the entire dimension of the small room he so happily cherished, so much he yelled at Ogogo, his privileged, spoilt friend, when he jokingly described the room as a hole. From a frame of his mother hanging loosely on the wall to empty containers labelled ‘salt’ and ‘sugar’ in the middle compartment of a dusty trolley, his eyes were on repeat. When he finally ended the call, he picked up the empty sugar container, stared at it like a sober child whining about a stick of candy he had just finished, and dropped it back into the trolley. Without a thought, he dashed into the bathroom.
By the time he reached Broad Television, his producer was furious. Sighting him at one corner of the production studio, he doubled his steps.
“I’m sorry, sir. I was–“.
“Save your excuse”, the stout man cut him. He was used to his frequent acts and was not prepared to give him the satisfaction of attention.
” Are you ready to record?”, he asked.
“Yes sir. I woke up late because I prepared late into the night”.
” Persisting bastard!”, the producer thought to himself as he looked at him blankly. He wanted to tell him, one more time, how no media organisation will staff him if he continued like this- but he didn’t want to puncture the morning so early. He walked towards the cameramen, and after some seconds, motioned Bopongo in the direction of the centre stage. Wednesdays were busy days for an intern.
“Sir, I’m back. This is the food; there was no coke but I got a 7up; this is your change too”, he dropped a nylon on Mr Nwokem’s desk. He smiled at him as if he owed him his life and handed the change back to him.
” This is yours”.
Bopongo thanked him. Apart from being the one that helped him secure an internship at the media station, he was the only one whose errands promised reward, good one.
“I’ll give you a call later in the day, sir”.
” No problem”.
It was no surprise that Bopongo and Friends decided to relax in the evening. It was no coincidence, also, that he ended up with Somto.
‘So, tell me, how many girls that you met in a tricycle have you followed home like this?’, Somto’s voice crept out of the bathroom weakly. She was the madam of a leisure crib. Bopongo wasn’t very comfortable, and it was obvious in the way he observed the whole room with keen attention.
‘None. You’re the first and probably last’, he responded.
‘Hmm… Why are you here? What do you want?’, she fired again.
How does one even start to answer a question like this? Bopongo couldn’t imagine. For one, Somoto was the seducer. He was on his own, after downing three bottles of Beer, inside a tricycle he joined in front of the bank where he went to withdraw money to pay off bills at the bar he and his friends patronized. The seducer came in along the way, offered him fruits and asked him a few questions. As if that was not enough, she removed her cover and the sight of her cleavage screamed for attention. When a lady does these things, the menfolk think it a clue, a green light, a passageway. He merely followed the clue and it got him where he was. But how do you tell your prey you had no prior intention to kill it, but it somehow showed up at a very unfortunate time when you were hungry and angry?
‘I guess I liked you immediately I saw you and something told me there’s more’. The smart boy answer.
‘Join me in the shower’, she said. Shower? Lucky boy. He pulled everything off and stepped inside the bathroom.
‘So, who am I to you? I saw the number of guys who called you on our way back’, Bopongo asked calmly.
‘You’re my tonight guy and I’m going to rock you all night long’.
When he got out, his head was filled with thoughts. Tonight guy? There’s a guy for every night? Is she a witch? Will she eat me up or sacrifice me at 1am in the midnight? What if she has HIV? Shouldn’t I run?
It would have been a perfect ending after a long day and chilled booze. But this is a mystery girl. The country is already bad enough. At a point in a man’s life, he has to make a choice, embrace risk. So, he thought. ‘I’d go a round, lure her to follow me to a bar to buy a drink for the all-night task, and find a way to run away’.
He had made a choice; he was going to eat his cake and still keep it.
She brought out the cigarettes and match box and switched on her stereo. Hozier’s words filled the smoky atmosphere: ‘I’ll fall in love a little oh little bit everyday with someone new….’