A burnout has Solá Michael taking some time off and returning to Lagos for an extended holiday with his sister. An almost robbery and a gorgeous rescuer have him seeing the true state of Lagos: the chameleon that never sits still and never sleeps.
Dámilólá woke up with a jolt to the screeching sounds of the alarm clock. He buried his head in his pillow, hoping against hope that the act would mute the volume. A minute later, he accepted his fate that he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep, and pushed off from the bed, until he rested with his thighs curved beneath him.
He blinked owlishly and looked at the clock. Five thirty in the morning. He suppressed a groan, unfolded his legs and climbed out of the bed. He had an interview for nine, and he was already running late.
With the speed of one accustomed to being late, he rushed through his morning wash, brushed his teeth and got dressed. He glanced at his wristwatch that now read 5:45 a.m., grabbed his keys and wallet and ran out of the house. “Bíódún, lock the door,” he shouted to his roommate and jogged to the bus stop.
It was pitch black and the cold air had his body breaking out in goose pimples. Dámilólá rubbed hard at his chilled arms and took a deep breath.
The harsh glare of an oncoming car’s headlights illuminated the area, and he put out his hands to signal to the driver, praying fervently that the lights he saw belonged to a dánfó—a commercial bus—and not a privately-owned vehicle. The sooner he left Ìkòròdú, the sooner he would be in Ìkejà, and the sooner he could run his errands at CMS. It was going to be another busy day. He wondered if it was too much to hope for something surprising, relaxing and out of the ordinary to happen to him today. Something to help him snap out of the rut he was presently in.
The dánfó came to a stop in front of him and he hopped inside. The conductor called out in a shrill voice, “Mile twelve, Kétu, one fifty; Ojóta, two hundred; Maryland, two fifty; Yába three hundred. Mú chángè e dání. Mi ò ní chángè lówó o.”
Dámilólá rolled his eyes. That was the usual closing phrase uttered by every conductor and cab driver in Lagos. They never had any change. If a person was going to Yába and handed a one-thousand-naira note to a driver, that driver would complain, spew out some curses about one’s family and, with a lot of grumbling, reluctantly hand over the person’s change.
Some drivers were rude enough to ask that a passenger forget about the change because they didn’t have any. Yet, if the reverse was the case, the conductor or driver would not leave their change with any passenger. It was just not possible.
Dámilólá took out a two-hundred-naira note from his wallet and handed it to the conductor. All that was left was for him to get some breakfast and some sleep. It would take him about two and a half hours to get to Ojóta, considering the traffic, and there was no way he was going to stay awake for that period of time.
The bus crawled from the Ìkòròdú garage to the Agric bus stop, where it had to stop to load more passengers.
Dámilólá noticed a girl with loaves of bread and called, “Bread.”
She immediately rushed over with her tray and began to push her wares at him. He decided on eighty-naira bread and seventy-naira Àkàrà, along with a sachet of water.
He settled back in his seat, cut off a bit of bread, and placed an Àkàrà ball in between the bread. He bit into his food and his mouth was filled with the delicious taste of bean balls fried in palm oil and spiced with pepper and onions. Dámilólá moaned and polished off the rest of the meal. With a few gulps, he emptied the sachet of its contents. That done, he rested his head against the windowpane and dozed off.
He woke up to a light tapping and opened weary eyes to stare at a fellow passenger who pointed outside. “We’re at Ojóta.”
Dámilólá mumbled his thanks and alighted from the bus. He joined the crowd of people who were all heading to the dánfós who were in a queue. Ìkejà was a busy part of Lagos. It was an area that housed a lot of companies, so everyone was heading towards the Ìkejà dánfós.
There was a lot of pushing and curses, and the stench of the Ojóta waste disposal vans permeated the air. Dámilólá walked around a crippled man begging for alms and called out, “Allen Avenue.”
The conductor for the Allen Avenue dánfó waved his hands and pointed at his bus.
Publisher: Less Than Three Press