I was sitting at the rear of the Ikorodu bound BRT bus (those red ones with fancy adverts plastered on their body), nonchalant to the usual eccentricities commonplace to all BRT buses in Lagos. People always rush to board into the nearest available BRT bus because it’s cheaper than the danfo buses. Most of the passengers don’t even mind standing along the aisle -their hands firm on the metallic railings affixed to the roof of the long bus- in the occasion where all seats have been occupied. And there’s the usual chanting by the BRT ticketers when calling for passengers: Sabo-Ikorodu-Garage-hundred-naira-hold-your-change-o, jamming all the words together like it were some sort of incantation.
The almost filled bus was yet to leave Ojota because passengers were still scrambling to get in, the same way I imagined those animals in the time of Noah, must have stampeded into the life saving ark with careless abandon.
Sabo Ikorodu Garage wole! The ticketer kept screaming.
By Jove, my attention was charged to the stunning figure pacing towards my end. In a swift maneuver she beat another woman to the only vacant seat next to mine.
Boy, she was drop dead attractive, one could pass her for a maami wata. That popular Maami Wata song by Sir Victor Uwaifo, the Joromi maestro, began to play softly in my head.
If you see maami wata eh/Never never run away…
I’m not running away, I assured myself. I’m not running away, not today.
My eyes couldn’t be still in their sockets, they kept revolving over the radiant damsel by my side like the planets in the solar system hopscotching round the sun.
There was something distinctive about her fair skin, it sparkles spotlessly like the golden-yellow of the evening sun. She was clad in a white cotton t-shirt, the hem was tied into a small knot by the side, which exposed a circumference of skin around her waist axis. Her jean was white as well, shredded horizontally along the knee area. This combination of hers made me to think of fashion savvy angels doing away with their flowing white robes to look more sexy and trendy on white t-shirts and distressed jeans.
I felt like running my hand through the silkiness of her long hair that culminated at her midriff. As I surf with my hand through the wave of her hair, I’d plant a kiss on her nape, and another on her cheek, tracing it all the way to her soft lips, glossed with a shade of red (to match the colour of her hand bag).
The ticketer’s flat wooden voice cut short my reverie abruptly. Owo, he was staring impatiently at me. Your money sir, he repeated this time in English. I reached for my wallet in my back pocket, retrieved a dull looking hundred naira note and gave it to him. I was issued a ticket by the ticketer, who then moved on to another passenger.
In my mind I was rehearsing how to strike up a conversation with my beautiful neighbour. What should I say? How do I say it? What if I say the wrong thing? What if she snubs me? Or doesn’t even pay me any attention? So many questions were going through my mind at the same time. She looked my direction and our eyes met. In that brief moment, I willed my lips to move but my tongue was inevitably frozen. I felt like Lots wife stuck in a pillar of salt.
Half way through the ride her phone rang. I pretended to be looking out through the window, but my mind wasn’t on the lagoon landscapery, intermittently surrounded by green vegetations and decrepit settlements, I was thinking about the ‘White Girl’ beside me. The sound of her voice felt like music to my eardrums, I eavesdropped on her conversation over the phone as if I were listening to the music of Asa. She was telling her mother that she was still on the road and that she didn’t have much money on her (probably her mother wanted her to get something on her way home). From the phone conversation, she had spoken a phrase or two in Igbo. She’s definitely Igbo, I concluded.
It was when I heard some passengers shouting, Agric wa o, it dawned on me I was already close to my bus-stop. My only wish then was for her to alight at the same bus-stop with me. As fate would have it, my wish was granted.
She was about crossing to the other side of the road, and I was yet to even say hello. Man up dude, I chided myself. I was still contemplating whether to take the plunge or not, while I was hesitating she had already crossed over. That’s it! No more dulling, it’s either now or never. Without thinking twice I ran after her. She doesn’t bite, I was saying to myself.
Excuse me, I said politely trotting behind her. She didn’t respond. So I tapped her arm gently from behind. She turned but didn’t stop walking.
Again I was lost for words, so I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. Are you Igbo? I couldn’t place her expression, she barely even looked at me. Yes I am, she responded uninterestedly.
Kedu? I chipped in impulsively, hoping my speaking her language would change her attitude towards me. Adim mma, her response was cold. It seemed more like a sneer.
Undeterred, I was bent on not letting her attitude dissuade me. Which state are you from?
Maybe she didn’t hear what I said, or probably she heard but chose to ignore. I decided to cut to the chase, for her to know my real intent.
I have been observing you while we were in the bus… I began to mumble.
She wasn’t listening anymore.
I’d like us to be friends, what do you say?
No response. She kept moving, my presence and all my mumblings didn’t seem to have any effect on her.
I kept pushing my lucks but to no avail, she was bent on not giving me audience. If only she knew the amount of courage it took me to walk up to her, even though I wasn’t articulate enough, at least I tried. The least she could have done was to hear me out.
She wasn’t going to hear me out. She never will. The queue of okada riders lined up at the junction of the popular Agric Market, took turns calling at us (especially her) to patronise them. She signalled one of the okada men, told him where she was going to. I didn’t get to hear that clearly because of the noise around.
How about your name? I asked desperately.
Please tell me your name at least, I pleaded.
The response I got was the Voom! Voom! Made my the motorcycle. And off it went with my White Girl.