Journey from Ogba to Obalende
Date: A day in the month of July, 2016
Time: Some time around 6pm
I ducked before climbing into the bus, careful to clutch my delicate pink purse close to me lest its thin strap hook and rip on the back of one of the wooden punishments that would serve as seats during the long journey back to Obalende. I tucked myself in close to a window to the left, three seats behind the driver, and leaned on the slightly cushioned metal frame of the bench in front of me, after checking for the fifteenth time that my purse was zipped. My earplugs had been duly secured so the lines wouldn’t irritatingly creep into my mouth or get entangled in my folded arms; placing my head on said arms, I sighed and released my mind’s leash as I gazed at the scene outside my window.
It had been a good day, a fun day in fact. The parts where I was forced to follow direction and misdirection from one place to the next, was not included. However, what was left had been doted on my darling sister and her smile alone made all the public transportation confusion so worth it. I smiled just thinking about the pleasantness of the visit we’d had.
“OBALENDE, CMS! OBALENDE CMS! Madam enter, we no go wait make this bus full oh. Na now now we dey waka! No worry. OBALENDEEEE!”
I smiled to myself as the good-looking conductor who’d met me earlier cut through my reverie with his hoarse voice, while lying to yet another weary traveller. When he’d used that line on me, there were only about two people in a bus that looked like it could seat at least 18 persons, and at that time he was also going to leave ‘now now’. I raised my head and turned to glance at the woman he was trying to cajole into the vehicle. She hesitated for a few moments, clearly regretting coming to stand at the entrance of the bus where the loader was hovering over her like a dragonfly – eager to be enriched by her 300-naira bus fare – and eventually she told a lie of hers and said she was coming back but needed to get something first. Already sensing the kindred lying spirit within her, he made two last feeble attempts to persuade her to stay, but the exclamation marks had left his yells. She walked briskly away and he recovered in an instant, going back to source for more potential passengers. I equally resumed staring out the window at the lovely looking woman at the roadside corn-seller’s stand, who hadn’t stopped talking since I’d gotten on the bus. Initially she appeared aggressive but along the line her expression looked more like guilty slash defensive. Even when her arguing mate appeared to lose interest in the discussion, she persisted. It made me smile to watch her, because she reminded me of myself when I foolishly got into arguments. I’d start off telling myself I won’t fall for the bait and begin to argue, then I fall for it (or sometimes hook up the bait myself), then I feel rotten and regret it, then I start trying to smooth any ruffles out while playing defense for my actions just so I don’t feel so rotten anymore, then my smoothing sometimes gets misunderstood and sparks reignite…
I shook my head, chased the self-flagellating thoughts and continued staring.
After locking eyes with the talking lady about thrice, I sat up and just then a young man came into the bus and sat down beside me. I looked around. While I was backing everyone within the bus and staring a hole into the talking lady’s face, about three more people had entered. Most preferred the first two benches but I’d gladly skipped them to be near a window and now turned to the person who’d come to needlessly interrupt my aloneness. I waited about four seconds to give him a chance to do the honors but he just plopped down on the seat, pretended I didn’t exist, fumbled to get his wallet out of his pocket and began to rummage through it. I sighed internally, sad that so few people ever seemed to act contrary to my expectations.
I lifted my right hand and gave a tentative wave right in front of his face. Since he was seated right beside me it ended up being a backhand wave but who cares really? I’d have voiced a ‘hi’ if he was looking at me; he seemed to be making a concerted effort not to though, so I just saved my energy. As I have come to learn, in my generation it seems to be something of a daunting challenge to exhibit basic courtesies. When he finally noticed the hand in front of his face and came to the realization that it was attached to a living person, he turned and gave me a startled look. I smiled and mouthed ‘Hi’, not wanting to interrupt Labrinth as he explained to me through my earplugs why he was in need of Treatment. Slowly he took my hand, still looking utterly confused, and so I was forced to be rude to dear Labrinth.
I took off an earplug.
“Hi. Don’t worry, you don’t know me; I’m just greeting you.”
All of a sudden, the fellow let out this very unexpected and almost shrill high-pitched laugh that left me momentarily dazed. What was so funny? Was saying hello really that strange a phenomenon? And no offence but, what business did his laugh have sounding like that?
“Oh my GAHD! It’s you!”
I stopped smiling. Say what? Who was I?
“What’s up now?”
I slowly retrieved my hand and shook my head with an understanding smile on my face. I got it. Giving strangers friendly greetings was such foreign behavior to the lad, he decided he had to know me.
“Uhm, no. I don’t think you heard me. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I just greeted you because that’s what I do. If someone sits besi-.”
He nudged me in the shoulder with his elbow. “Stop jor, what are you saying? Aduka, right?” My eyes widened in surprise. I couldn’t understand what was going on.
“Who’s Aduka? Is that supposed to be your name?”
“Ahh, you’re playing with me now. You’re trying to turn my head.”
“Dude, I’m serious. We don’t know each other.”
“I know you.”
“Okay, from where? How did we meet?”
I was momentarily glued to the dirty window as he used his shoulder to push me this time. I stared; he then looked at me from the corner of his eye with this knowing smile that said, ‘You think you can fool me?’ and I started getting really concerned for the fellow.
“Oh, oooh.” I finally figured it out. “I look like someone you know or something? Is that it?”
“You don’t look like someone I know, you are someone I know.”
The girl who was seated in front of us glanced back. This was getting exasperating. I started regretting all the etiquette training my mother had poured in me and wished I had just ignored the guy.
Suddenly, an idea came. “Okay, you know what? Why don’t you call the person you think I am, and we’ll see if my phone rings? Go on, try it and see.”
He gave me that look again, shook his head and took out his phone. I sighed and rested my head on the dirty window, replacing the plug in my ear and trying to figure out who was singing now, knowing Labrinth would have already left after being ignored for so long. How did saying “hi” metamorphose into such a tedious engagement though? I wondered warily.
“Yeah, hey what’s up? How was your day?” Pause. I refrained from shaking my head. Hopefully he wouldn’t say I answered my phone but used ventriloquism to hide the fact that I was the one talking. “I’m fine. Actually I’m sitting close to someone who looks so much like you. Yeah. I said I’M SITTING BESIDE SOMEONE THAT LOOKS JUST LIKE YOU. Ha ha, yeah. Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’ll call you soon. Okay, we’ll talk later. Bye.”
I rolled my eyes. Of course I had lowered the volume of my iPod, hoping the sister would pick so I wouldn’t use any more saliva or volume to convince this guy of my stranger status, but I stayed staring out the window and didn’t even glance at him when the call ended. I felt him gently quack my arm and I raised my head slowly.
“Lol (I actually say that as a word most times), no wahala. It happens.”
“You guys look so much alike.”
“I can imagine.”
He laughed. “Well at least you’ve found your look alike.”
I wasn’t going to point out the technical falseness of that statement (considering Aduka and I were yet to even sight each other) because it was just going to make me look like a mean person so instead I shrugged. “I have many actually. Many folks gawk and swear someone’s my twin but there’s only one person out of all the ones claimed, whom I legit think bears a strong resemblance to me. Even my family members agree.”
“Let me… let me show you what she looks like.”
He found the picture and gave me his phone. I stared at the black and white edit of a pretty girl with cheekbones that looked a lot more defined, a jawline that looked more firm, eyes that were larger, and a face that was wholly unfamiliar. I shifted my eyes slowly to him, letting my disbelief pour from them; before I moved it back to the picture. I did this twice more and handed him back the phone.
“This is the person you were so certain was me?”
“I don’t see the resemblance.”
“I think it’s more about this particular picture.”
I gave a closing smile and proceeded to shut him out again. But it was energy wasted because in less than five seconds I received another quack.
“So, I guess you’re from a very good home or just a really nice person.” I smiled in acceptance of both his comments, seeing no use in denying statements that are truth under the guise of being ‘modest’. “And I’m the bad person.” I shook my head at that one.
“Naaah. Not necessarily. It’s just something I do. Greeting folks has become a norm for me so it’s no big deal. In our generation, you never know the kind of person you’ll run into, y’know? You could have walked in here and said ‘hey’ and I’d have been like – ‘Ugh. Whatever. Like, please’.” I rolled my eyes and raised my hand, palm out turned, in imitation of a few ‘extra’-type females. “And people are just so terrified of being snubbed so they don’t even want to risk it. For me, I couldn’t really care less. I mean if you answer, fine. If you don’t-.” I shrugged. “But I’m not just going to ignore someone who walks by me or sits beside me…it’s just rude kind of. You know? But most others would just rather not risk it.”
“Yeah yeah. You have a point actually, it’s true.” He nodded like I’d said something really profound.
I exhaled. That was longer than I’d planned. I gave him one last reassuring smile to let him know I didn’t think he was a bad person, turned to look back out the window, returned my head to its spot on the dirty window, and prayed I would at least get to listen through one full song before the next nudge came from the ‘not-a-bad-guy’ guy.
The above occurred sometime mid-2016. Let’s call my seatmate on that bus ride Ralph. Eventually, Ralph asked for and received my number and, although we never really communicated after that period, whenever I check my archived Whatsapp contacts I get an amused reminder of the experience that day in Lagos at the sight of; ‘Ralph who thought he knew me.’
However, as amusing as I found our little interaction, several days later when I thought back to it, it occurred to me that many of us act exactly the way Ralph did! In many ways, on several occasions and for whatever reason, we sometimes just come across or directly receive some information, and begin to do things and make claims without leaving any room for considering the possibility of inaccuracy, or attempting to analyze what exactly informs certainty in our belief. In Ralph’s case, it didn’t turn out as such a bad thing because he was able to figure out his mistake in time. But just imagine if he didn’t. Imagine if I had been too stunned by his claims and accusations to think up the option of him calling my line to confirm? I’m guessing it would have been a most tedious ride; we’d be sitting together, he’d probably glance at me every other minute, wondering why I was denying knowing him, and I’d be wondering why I didn’t just snob people more often. Better still; imagine if he’d refused to call me. Imagine if he was unwilling to do anything that would either better prove him right or prove him mistaken. I may get really riled up at his stubbornness and refusal to see ‘the light’ – that this young woman beside him was indeed a stranger!
It’s likely that if you were in my situation, a reaction like the last one described above may wear your patience thin. Wouldn’t it be irritating having to repeatedly deny the knowledge of a person who kept insisting you knew them? It’s not their knowing is it? However, what you wouldn’t likely do is begin doubting who you are. Would you start thinking; “Wait, what if he’s right? Could it be that I’m Aduka? Have my parents been lying to me all these years!? Has my whole life been one big lie!?”
Errr—I don’t think so.
Of course, such conclusion would require a really long jump. Still, though the questions may read absurd now, there are actually persons who are often inclined to respond that way at the slightest provocation. There are also people who have made a habit of making use of several faulty knowledge acquisition techniques, that do much more harm than good.
To be continued…