He walked briskly on the pedestrian bridge, not that people would think anything was out of place if he ran, but he walked, like every other hasty passer-by on the streets of Oshodi. He got off the bridge and resisted the urge to run to the BRT bus stop. He stopped in front of one of the vendors to get a ticket. Why was the guy so slow? He paid, snatched the ticket from the vendor – a move with left the vendor shouting “oga, take it easy na, haba!”- and hurriedly entered the bus. He made his way to the back of the bus and sat quietly in a corner. Now if the bus would just fill on time.
He adjusted his baseball cap so it would hide more of his face, and looked down to see if his over-sized jacket concealed his shirt. Ah, people were entering the bus now. He needed to appear normal, so he turned his face to the window, and the view that greeted him brought a sad smile to his face; the hawkers, with trays of ‘robo’ and ‘dodokire’, pure, poor and bottled water, advertising their wares at the top of their lungs, the muffled voices of men over PASs calling out destinations: “Obanlende! Yaba, Obalende!” Half-filled buses with passengers either fanning themselves or dozing, middle aged women selling ‘paraga’ (local gin) in the corners, hairdressers way-laying young ladies, begging to make their hair, making promises of expertise and quality. The garage touts harassing drivers with weed – deepened voices: “oga, oya now, e fun mi l’owo”, the cars and buses driving past at top speed and the scared pedestrians running as far as their legs could carry them across the street. These people had freedom, they had lives. He didn’t, not anymore; he wouldn’t, never again. He still couldn’t explain what possessed him. As the bus started moving, he put his mind on replay.
In his mind’s eye he pictured huge frame that housed their wedding picture; they were all smiles and hopeful eyes. They had been the perfect couple then, crazy in love, resolute in their belief that love would be enough. No one would’ve thought that two years later, their marriage would be in the deplorable state that it was. He was once in love with her, madly even, but somehow, resentment had set in. Was it because she had a job and he didn’t? Even when he was working, she earned more than he did, and consequently, she paid most of the bills.
They had disagreements more often since he lost his job. In fact, these days, their disagreements often lead to fights. It never mattered who was right and who was wrong, no one ever backed down. She’d hit him first, he’d hit her first; it didn’t matter, he would beat her black and blue. He admired her way with make-up though, a lot of things a little powder and lipstick can conceal. He smiled sadly and turned to get a bottle of Vodka, which had been his repose lately. The colourless liquid made him forget his sorrows and float in mid-air. He remembered their last fight. He had gone out the previous night to blow some of the money he took from the account she opened for Pelumi, their beautiful one-year old. The child was the only thing that could bring some semblance of a smile to his face these days. But she was at his parents’ so things were not smiling at all. Funny thing, Jane still wasn’t aware that he took the money. He came home that day drunk as hell. He had to leave his car at the bar and let his friend drive him home. She was waiting, sitting on the sofa with her eyes fixed on the screen, but she was seeing nothing. Immediately the doorbell rang, she jumped up and opened the door to a staggering, red-eyed husband.
“My God! Where have you been? What is this stench? I’ve been…”
“Please, stop the racket, I have a headache.”
“What is this now? You’ve never been this drunk, is it this bad? Is this what you’ve turned to?”
“I’ll tell you one more time; stop that noise” he said, raising a finger threateningly.
“Alcohol won’t help you! You best dust your papers and start looking for a job. Small thing now, you’ll be yelling that you’re the man of the house, what sort of man…”
A slap across the face, and then,
A blow, and then another…Her face was still bluish black and her cheek was slightly swollen when she went out that morning. He didn’t like beating her though, but usually felt better after he did.
So there he sat, drowning in the bottle and trying not to think of what to make of his life. She unlocked the door from outside and walked in with a bag of groceries. She dumped the bag on the ground and made her way towards him. Was he drunk or did she look angry? Oh well, he couldn’t be bothered.
“Deji! Deji! How dare you?”
“How could you withdraw money from Pelumi’s account without telling me? And what did you use the money for anyway? Still putting your signature on all the bars in Lagos or are you spending on women now? Have you added womanizing to your list of problems? What?”
“Don’t talk to me like that, besides, she’s my daughter, and whatever is hers is mine” he was glaring now.
“Yea, she’s your daughter alright, only thing is: THAT’S MY MONEY!! So because I made you a signatory you think you can just withdraw the money in the account?”
“Lower your voice or you’ll be sorry” he said deceptively calmly
“What will you do that you haven’t done before? Beat me up?” He walked away from her into the kitchen, trying to get away from her, from the noise. His head was already banging.
“Don’t you walk away from me, I’m talking to you!” she yelled, as she stomped after him
“Woman, leave me alone!” he barked, but she wasn’t deterred. She kept up the raving, ranting, name calling and finger pointing.
“Girl’s gonna turn out to be a slut like her mother anyways”.
Thwack! A stinging slap across his face
“How dare you call me a slut, it’s your mother that’s the slut, do you hear? Your moth..”
In one fluid motion, his hand found the butcher’s knife lying on the kitchen counter and he plunged it into her, then he hacked, and cut. There were blood stains all over him but he didn’t see. He left the knife in her neck.
Five minutes later, the blind rage and all traces of alcohol gone, he realized the magnitude of what he’d done, so he grabbed a jacket hanging over the kitchen door, and jumped out through the window.
He took the back gate out of the building, ran through bushes until he found the road and made his way to a bus stop.
The passenger sitting next to him was tapping him; forcing him back to the present, seemed like had been tapping him for quite some time. He shook himself out of his reverie and turned to face him.
“Bros, are you ok?”
He realized that a single tear had fallen down his cheek and he quickly wiped it.
“Where are we?”
He got out of the bus without answering the concerned passenger, and entered the bus park. He had no specific destination in mind, until he heard “Kano, Kaduna, Last bus!”
He entered the bus; he needed to get far, far away from what he did, far away from himself, far from the nightmare that was now his life.