After the cool breeze had relaxed her somewhat, her anger receded and her mind slipped out of the bus and travelled to her brother, the university drop-out. Having been rid of one set of anxieties, she was now besieged by an other and quite different one.
Why couldn’t he be like other people? Afterall he wasn’t the only poet ever born, nor would he be the last, would he?
Thinking about Tony brought pain always to Ada’s heart. If it wasn’t the pain of disappointment, sorrow or worry, it was the pain of incomprehension and yearning.
She slipped her hand into her shopping bag by her feet and brought out the sheets of paper he had given her, a look of hope in his eyes, early that morning before she left for the market.
The Molue bus ambled and roared on. And what a roar. By now they had gone past the Air Force Barracks and were fast closing in on Ikeja Bus-stop, the outer. Because it was the middle of the day, there were not too many people at the intermediary bus-stops who were going their way.
Like a fruit ripening out of the skies, an ADC plane bore down, above and to the left of them, but fast and loud sinking, into the domestic airport behind the National Petrol Station on the other side of the road. One of the bus-conductors was already leaning out of one of the perpetually open doors of this Lagos road-monster, preparing to shout out his route and stops to the pedestrians waiting at the bus-stop.
Another conductor was guardedly, swiftly, unsmilingly moving from one seat to the other, collecting his fare.
He was soon by her seat. His rough hand quivered, open palm face-up, before the faces of the three women sitted there.
“Yes? Owo da!” His voice permitted of no negotiations. His eyes were fixed, heavy-laden, on Ada’s exposed dark brown thighs. As she paid him, his eyes lifted a trifle and hers caught them. They stared at one another coolly for one moment, then he turned, his money in hand, to go.
“Ah-ah! Changi mi da?” the heavy-set woman on Ada’s left called loudly at him.
“Ma fun ẹ change, jọọ, durooo,” he replied without turning back.
“Give me my change now! Ole! Thief!” she ejaculated poisonously at him.
Ada shifted a little to the side and stole a glance at her from under the corner of her eye. The woman had a fleshy face that pinched in her eyes and weighed down the corners of her lips.
The conductor turned around and thrust a twenty naira note into her outstretched claws. As he turned to give her the money and then turned back again to continue with his fare-collection, his yellow-brown eyes slid back and forth again up and down and across Ada’s full, exposed thighs, and there was a look in those eyes.
Instinctively, Ada locked her knees tightly together and haunched forward over her upper thighs. The woman to her left saw everything and, with an amused smile, turned her face away and pointed her eyes out of the open window. Now that she had collected her change, she could afford to be thus entertained even by the offshoots of the things the eyes of the same conductor now did, and in the back of the woman’s throat Ada again heard the little dirty laugh. Why was Lagos so dirty?
… to be continued.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije