The Ramadan fast ended with a two-day public holiday in my country.
The holidays fell on a Monday and a Tuesday. It provided for a long holiday/weekend. Muslims in my country must have been ecstatic.
I was not.
I had to work.
My work needed me to travel.
All flights to my work place were fully booked.
I had no choice but to go by road.
The road trip would take eight hours. Beard of Moses! Aaaarghh!!
A few days later I was on my way back home. Same road transportation company, but I did not get my preferred seat beside the driver (or captain as God is Good drivers prefer to be called). I got seat number ‘7’, close to the door, with plenty of leg room…but no headrest. Beard of Moses! Aaaarghh!!
Seated to my left was a pretty girl. Despite my sour disposition, that fact was impossible to miss.
Something reeked though. That fact too, was impossible to miss. It smelled of something slightly fetid like a damp item of clothing, pungent body odor or unchanged sanitary pads left on for too long.
Yes, my nose can perceive that.
My nose knows.
It is not my fault.
I was born this way.
Please, leave me be.
We both kept to ourselves throughout the duration of the journey. Maybe like me she did not understand the dialect the rest of the passengers were speaking. Maybe like me she was not a member of the church the rest of the passengers obviously belonged to. They had booked as a group. But she smiled at me bashfully whenever she caught me looking at her, she was very pretty. And she had very long (and dirty) hair.
The bus was a fourteen seater Toyota Hiace. Fully air-conditioned. The captain was nicknamed ‘Man of God’. The bus was in very good condition.
Five hours into the journey, the stench grew increasingly worse. Man of God was becoming increasingly jittery too. He began driving quite badly. My country-people are extremely religious, and these passengers were members of the ‘MFM’ church. Their prayers were notoriously firebrand and they frequently called for the death of perceived enemies human and non human. They immediately reverted to type and began to pray in agreement, loudly.
It seemed to calm Man of God somewhat. Whenever the prayers waned though, the stench would propagate exponentially and Man of God would seem like he was attempting to crash the bus and their prayers would intensify and it would seem to calm Man of God somewhat.
Mercifully we arrived at a scheduled rest point. It was the last stop before the final two and a half hours to our destination. Gratefully we all scrambled out to go eat, relieve ourselves and / or return circulation to cramped and tired limbs.
About fifteen minutes later, we began reentering the bus to continue the journey. We were all accounted for, except for my pretty neighbor.
Ten minutes later she was still nowhere to be found… Same thing fifteen minutes later… The situation remained unchanged thirty minutes after that. At this point the passengers had gotten impatient to the point of hostility. They demanded that we drive off without her. All the restaurants and conveniences had been searched to no avail.
I then advised that we refer to the ‘passenger’s manifest’ and get her cell phone number and try to call her. Man of God acquiesced… He tried calling her, but his service provider had poor service where we were. Utterly disgusted at the entire scenario, I requested for the number and dialed it. I kept it on ‘speaker’ and it rang unanswered five times. I subsequently suggested that we call her next of kin who’s details ABIKU had also listed on the passenger’s manifest. Man of God acquiesced… And luckily a woman picked up and suspiciously requested for the identity of the caller. We were all listening, the call was on ‘speaker’.
“Madam, good evening. Na me be driver for God is Good Motors. Abeg one woman wey follow me travel drop your number as next of kin. Her name na ABIKU GAWA. Her phone number na 0*******666. We no fit find the woman. You know am?”
“Hello madam, you hear wetin I talk? Abeg you know the woman?”
“If this is a prank, I suggest you stop it immediately!” She suddenly spat out. Hysteria bubbling under…
“Madam no be ‘plank‘. We dey find the owner of the number. We go continue journey leave am for here o!”
“She is dead! She died four years ago!! Why are you doing this?!”
Beard of Moses!
Pandemonium broke out!!
Long story short, I joined them in a heated prayer session that lasted the rest of the journey. Obviously we arrived safely.
I am an author. I write on my android smartphone. It is convenient and I get to write on the ‘go’. This incident took place a week ago. As I started writing this recollection, ABIKU GAWA suddenly started calling me back. The ‘Truecaller’ application on my phone confirmed her name. So far I’ve refused to pick up thirteen of her calls within the last forty minutes.