Image Credit: TheHindu
A flash of light from an oncoming vehicle assaulted my half closed eyelids and in my attempt to evade them, I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter. The moon had enveloped itself with bleak black clouds and gave the glory of the night to tiny blinking stars and after I was sure the car was gone, I rubbed my eyes with the back of my palm and checked the time on my watch. 10:58 p.m.
I could not shake off the sense of dread that had accompanied me through out the entire journey and by checking my time, I felt I was only waiting for whatever danger there was to make itself manifest. Tragic stories of late-night journeys started to flip through the pages in my head, the beats in my heart started to make rhythm with the sounds of the whispering trees that whizzed past us on both sides of the roads like dancers in fast paced motion.
“Omo-school, you don wake up,” I turned towards the voice, there was a sarcastic smile splattered across his face as if it had been painted there. His mouth still reeked of alcohol and his head looked like it was in conflict with his hair. The haggard looking old man. I managed to fake a smile back at this haggard looking old man sitting beside me, the gear-stick separating our chairs. I had not liked him as the driver nor his car in the first place and now being in his metal box that seemed more like a coffin, I wished there had been another cabu-cabu car when I got to Berger park several minutes earlier
“Abegi o, oga-aa diręfa, where we don reach o?” This time, it was the voice of the woman sitting directly behind and as she leaned forward, her hands pressed into my chair and made me adjust uncomfortably as she tried to get as close as she could to the driver. Her voice had been the loudest so far among the five of us in the car. She kept receiving phone calls since the tyres of the car first rolled and for each of the calls, she raved like some hungry lioness with loud laughs, heavily accented Yoruba dialect and scattered English spoken with a shrill voice. The worse of the calls was the one she had received around Ijaye bus-stop when she kept howling “Oloshi! Con-ma pay me my money tomorrow o,” to the person on the other end of the line.
“Agbado-Crossing,” the driver and I rhymed, turning our necks backward as we replied the woman in unison. Our faces almost coming together as if in their own battle of ‘the-first-face-to-point-directly-towards-her-face’ contest. Those two or three seconds was all the lurking danger needed to rear its head, as my head was jerked back to the road when the driver swerved off the road in an attempt to avoid a looming pothole his alcohol drenched eyes must have missed before he turned to answer the woman.
The old vehicle protested the treatment and he lost control. The car skidded off the road and made a beeline for the trees like it was being chased. My heart stopped in my chest, my breath became horses in motion as the car stumbled over a rock and flipped into the air. My heart banged on the walls of my chest like a pit-bull with no leash and my mind raced like a happy Ijesha woman pounding yam for her husband as even among the din of noise I made out the scream of Jesus! Jesus!! from the young lady that sat in the middle of the back seat to the fear filled yell of “Ori-iya-mi-o” from the old man that sat just behind the driver. Then it was all a cacophony of noise as all sank into a blasting tone of a massive bell, ‘grrron-rong, grrron-rong’.
The car finally came to a halt albeit upside down and I opened my eyes to see the leaking petrol mixed with blood before a flame seemed to leap out of the ocean.
“It’s ok, it’s ok Bolaji, stop there and sit down, Salewa, oya, you continue reading from there. Everybody make sure you are following the comprehension passage, I can call on any other person at any time to start reading from wherever Salewa stops,” Miss Ajayi interrupted in her polished English.