The Bus Ride (ride of life) {Short story by Kolade Pelumi)



Commercial buses fondly called “danfo” buses are the commonest means of transportation in the cities. Motorcycles locally termed “okadas” are a good alternative for better flow of traffic and comfort, sadly they are very dangerous as most of their accidents are fatal.
If you move regularly by means of these commercial vehicles , you would have noticed  that they are not jolly rides. Especially for people like me. Maxi-sized individuals rarely pity skinny boys like me. I dread times when 3 robust and well fed market women sit at the back row of the bus with me, squeezing life out of me. The annoying thing is that after noticing that I am apparently in pain they would still be making gestures at me to move aside.
There are times when I wish I suddenly triple in size and fight for my right. Sadly, wishes are not horses, and these magnanimously blessed individuals take advantage of my slender structure. It hurts that I still have to pay the same amount of money with them. If I had my way, they would pay for two!! I jokingly say to myself that one day I would become a human rights activist whose specialty is fighting for the bus rights of we “lepa”(skinny) people.
On this fateful day, I was approaching the bus-stop silently praying that good fortune smiled my way today, I was tired and weak as a result of the day’s activities. I tried to salvage the little strength that remained with me and I was not ready to expend it fighting for space.
As fate would have it I saw a bus which harbored two beautiful ladies at the back seat, they were youth corpers apparently as they wore NYSC shirts. The front seats were also free and naturally would have been a preferred option. But only heaven knew the kind of person that would sit next to me. I decided to sit in between the two ladies because the devil that you know is better than the angel you don’t know… plus my case was better it was 2  angels I already knew, though I was soon to discover that all that glitters is not gold. I wore a smile over my face that conveyed relief, I did not have to struggle for space  today. Little did I know that I was in for the ride of my life.
I got into the bus in a somewhat majestical style. while trying to act cool, I gently took my seat in between the ladies as planned. After waiting for two minutes I leaned over to ask the man sitting in front of me about the whereabouts of the driver as the driver was not on sit. He merely told me that the driver went out for a moment and would soon be back. He also said the bus would move shortly. A while later he and some other guy got down from the bus. It turned out that he was the driver and he was posing as a passenger to give us the illusion that the bus was almost filled up. This was not a sincere act but I had to acknowledge that it was smart.
He cranked up the car and we were off. I inserted my earpiece into my ears ready to enjoy cool music during what I expected to be a peaceful ride. It was not long before my ordeal began. About 5 minutes into the drive I heard one of the girls sniff. I Soon realized what she was reacting too as I too started sniffing. Someone had released a chronic pungent odor which soon filled the whole car like heavy tear gas.
The smell concentrated more around me and I was convinced that this special fragrance must have been released by one of the pretty girls beside me. Yet, they were both muttering comments like “fmm fmm” ,“this is just terrible”, “this is not fair ooo” another man said “people need to drink hypo in order to wash their stomachs”. Funny enough, it was obvious the smell came from my direction and since the two girls sitting beside me where cursing, other passengers started looking in my direction suspiciously. I shouted angrily probably borne out of embarrassment “no be me ooo”.
I was already holding my nose and gasping for breath with my mouth. Slowly but surely the smell weared off and we reached a bus stop. A young guy who I assume to be in his mid-twenties alighted from the bus. Just as the bus was about to take off we started hearing someone yell “ my phone is missing”!!!!!!…
The driver pulled over. Alas! The man that just alighted from the bus was the person wailing that his phone had gone missing. Pandemonium broke free and all hell was loose in the bus. Some passengers were busy swearing, others complaining that time was being was wasted, the rest shouting and ranting some nonsense at the man whose phone was missing. I just sat still in my chair, not knowing what to think or say.
Soon a man in a soldiers’ apparel( I had not noticed him before) got down from the bus. This man was quite built physically and if you stared deep into his eyes you could almost feel the pain and anguish they were carrying. I started thinking of how many men he would have murdered, of course he was a soldier and that’s what they were trained to do. I began to picture myself in military school, I thought to myself that there was no way a guy like me could survive such harsh training. I would have probably died long ago or dropped out… …. My day dream was cut short as I felt a tight grip on my wrists. This was the kind of grip he must have used to murder people. He dragged every individual one after the other out of the bus. Fear had  gradually began to creep in
Suddenly I started feeling guilty as if I was the one who stole the missing phone, what if its in my pocket? what if it was dropped in my bag mistakenly? What if it developed wings or crawled into my bag miraculously?  Those were the questions flying inside my head. Then I started convincing myself that I could not be the thief. While I was engaged in my dilemma, the soldier announced he was going to search everyone from head to toe. He started looking at everybody’s face and soon our eyes clashed. He sensed my fear and said “ I dey suspect dis pikin” I felt like telling him to his face “who be pikin?” but the thought of receiving a deafening slap kept me mute. Though I was sure I did not take the phone, my face betrayed my conviction.

After the soldier’s comment, attention started coming towards me . People started throwing suspicious glances at me once again. This time I had no reply for them.My expressions only betrayed my innocence the more .I could hardly feel my mouth, talk less of moving them. My hands were already shaking and my entire body was now the epitome of the personification of fear.
Just then, one of the pretty NYSC ladies asked the phone owner for his phone number, I wonder why this had not occurred to anyone yet, probably we all thought it had been stolen and the thief could not be so dumb to leave it on. But I mean, it was still worth the try. She dialed it and the phone started ringing….
 

Lo and behold, it was ringing in the trousers of the owner. Apparently, he had a leaking pocket and his phone had slipped all the way to the bottom without his knowledge. He was wearing skinny pants so his phone could not drop to the ground. You need to see the look on his face when he discovered the phone, he was like a helpless puppy looking for its mummy, simply priceless!!!
Different people now wore different expressions. The soldier was putting on an angry look, some looks portrayed disbelief, others frustration, the driver was upset, angry, frustrated all in one. He had missed out time to make more returns. I had the best look at that moment. My look portrayed relief. Our tight-fisted soldier apologized for rough handling us.
The journey henceforth was silent. I could not wait to get off this plagued vehicle.
As I approached my bus stop I reached into my pocket to bring out my #100 naira note. All I that was in my pocket was this flyer I was given to attend a program. Come to think of it…. I could bet I had thrown that flyer away. On my way to the car park, a lady walked towards me and handed me this flyer. She made me say to her that I was going to attend this praise programme her church was organizing. Not wanting to waste my time and also disappoint the lady, I said I would come. After I left her, I remember reaching into my pocket to throw the flyer into the dustbin.
Did I throw my money away instead of the flyer?…. See me see #GOBE . All that was irrelevant now. What was on ground now was how to produce the 60 naira transport fare!!

Written by @koladePelumi

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