Thinly veiled

Last week, I went to Abuja.

It was a long road trip and when i arrived, I was terrified. Of every movement, of the flowing Danshikis, of the trailing black scarves worn by the women. The realization that the northerners were a nice lot hit me, much later, but it did. That my friend, is a story for another day.

This story is from when i was leaving Abuja.

Keffi road, 7:30 am, God is good motor park.

——————————–

The bike man dropped me at the park. He had meandered his way past the “Lagos-like” traffic, the first I had seen in Abuja. Buses packed like tinned sardines, splattered with mud from the broken tarred road. I liked this sight. It looked familiar, like the Oshodi, Agege or Berger traffic in Lagos. I grinned to myself as i walked into a scantily put together shelter. The “Park”.

It took an hour and fifteen minutes for the bus to fill up. Apparently, no one wanted to go to Lagos except me and a  group of 3 scantily clad girls. Flowing Malaysian weaves, long nails and lashes that drag queens would beg not to be associated with, their chatter was loud and pidgin English filled. I learnt they were from UNIABUJA and had a rich man field trip to get to in Lagos. Interesting, i thought. These ones would be the life of the bus.

The final call for entry into the Lagos bus took place by 9am. I rose slowly from my seat where I had dozed off, smelling like generator fumes. How was i supposed to know i would come out smelling like this,warming myself near the generator had been the intent, not getting a new smell. I pushed my way to the front of the little group assembled by the bus.

“Seat 8”, the driver yelled.

I showed him my ticket and fell into my row.

I turned to the window to check if it could open. I always do that on buses; just in case anything happened, I could jump out. Turning to my side to see who i would share the seat with, my eyes made contact with a hijab wearing lady. I averted my eyes and looked at my phone, pretending to check the time. Five minutes passed before we were all seated with our luggage. The three girls chattered on, this time munching on Kilishi and asking everyone if they cared for some. A preacher climbed in the bus to preach and pray before we left.

The sermon went on for 10minutes, the driver grumbled. He made as if to pull out of the park in a bid to get the preacher down but preacher man paid him no heed. I had gotten a bit tired of murmured “Amens” and ” Hallelujahs” and started looking around, wondering when we would leave. My mum had called earlier and warned that bombs were dropped at locations with loads of traffic. Way to go mum, i really needed that piece of info.

“Hold your neighbor’s hand. Let us pray.”, the pastor finally yelled.

I turned slowly and looked at the hijab wearing lady, she stared back defiantly. Okay, that definitely meant a no. The pastor repeated his instruction again and i closed my eyes.

The warmth startled me. The feeling of my hand being clutched, by soft hands smaller than mine, it scared me. I forced my eyes to remain closed till the prayer ended.

We got to into Berger, Lagos by 8:00pm. My seat partner  indicated she was stopping there and as she proceeded to get down, she took a last look at me.

” We all serve one God.”, the words came out muffled from under her hood.

Her first words to me throughout the journey. She turned, got down and disappeared in a flurry of black into the crowded mass that is Lagos.

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