As I sat down quietly in the rickety moving bus, I could feel cold perspiration clouding and clustering around my forehead. Though it was late August, and it rained last night, but I could still feel the heat coming from me. And even if that was not enough reason for my leaking sweat pores, the bus was moving at a speed of 100km/h, and with the opened windows that were rattling under the ardent influence of the wind, that seemed pressurized, I still found myself sweating heavily like the bus was engulfed in flames.
I exhaled deeply as I wiped the strands of rolling sweat off my face with my already soggy handkerchief. If only I had listened to myself I wouldn’t have been stuck in this ordeal, that might cost me my life. This was too much pressure for one person to take, if I am busted, I’d face trial and then find my worthless self in jail.
I coughed a little, my chest constricting with each wheezing turn I took, causing my eyes to transform from solid white, to blood-red. I dabbed on my chest softly, as I recalled how the morning’s conversation took place, the hindrance obvious in my voice when he suggested the horrific plot of events to me, the fear visible in my eyes and the pleasure he derived from it.
“Yemi, you too dey fear,” he said, as I watched him roll something that looked like decaying grass inside a crumpled wretched looking piece of paper. He coughed, then continued, “Just carry the contraband hide am well well for your fanny pack, no baga go catch you.” He rolled the paper, then licked the tip with his saliva and sealed it in. He offered me, “You wan try am?” He coughed again. “This one na correct confidence booster. I call am superman for your veins.” I watched in disgust, and nodded in disapproval of his offer.
I thought he’d be pissed off by my denial of his offer, but he laughed and said slowly to me, “You’re still a child, eh?” he looked at me inquisitively, waiting for a reply, but I didn’t reply, I jist looked at nowhere in particular. He coughed again, this time with more effect than before, and cursed under his tongue, in utterance annoyance. “Where this boys keep my lighter?” He coughed again as he searched for it. I watched for a while as anger ate through me like a squirming worm, this was just too much to take.
I scratched my day old stubble before I responded, “Big Ed, you know I can’t do this. If I am caught, I’d be reprimanded and those contraband would be confiscated, you’ll lo—”
I didn’t even push the words out of my lips fully before he cut me off abruptly. “No come my crib dey speak English for me. I look like your English teacher for school? Abi I look like somebody weh complete primary four?” He rasped out angrily as veins protruded from his forehead. He lit up his home-made weed cigarette, took two quick sharp inhales, and puffed out a ring of thick white smoke from his mouth and nose, then he added almost immediately, “Alaye!” His voice raw and thick. “You too dey fear. Why you dey act like say na your first heist be this? You dey low-key fall my hand.”
I coughed slightly as white smoke shot up my nostril, and floated down my lungs. “Big Ed,” I started, as I tried to clear my head. This white smoke was beginning to make me feel tipsy, I wondered how he felt right now. “I don’t want to go to jail. After this operation, I no want anything to do with smuggling business again, abeg,” I pleaded. He laughed, a hard crackled laugh that filled my ears with uneasiness and erupted my head like a volcano. He continued laughing, with white smoke slowly and in a random motion oozing out from his mouth and nose.
He laughed some more, before he continued. “Okay, Yemi,” he said, his red eyes staring at me deeply like a wild animal staring at me from the thicket of a thorny bush. “After this one, maybe I go leave you. Maybe you go fit go rest.” His face looked stern, he inhaled his crumple looking paper again and said to me, “Oya, comot from here. Ask Jonas make he give you the contraband, you know wetin to do from there.”
He puffed the thick white smoke from his mouth, then added, “And that your baybe (he added with a funny accent), wetin be that her name again?” He squinted as he tried to access his dead memories, from his dead brain cells,
“Ope,” I said without much interest.
“Yes, yes. That fine fish. No tell her about this operation. Oya, waka dey go.”
The rumbling and revving of the bus engine brought me back to a even more bitter reality. With my throat parched, the sweat and grime on my body increased, making my clothes sticky, I coughed. I must have contacted this from Ed, I thought to myself. My head throbbed, trepidation hung in the air. I was unsettled, any faint sound and I’d flinch in my seat, and exhale in disappointment and my stupidity.
I held my bag close to my chest, so close that I could feel my knuckles tearing apart. A light tap on my shoulder from behind me startled me half to death. I spun around quickly, and saw a woman, probably in her late fifties, staring at me deeply with concern. “Oga,” she said, her words pure and filled with care. “Oga, are you alright?” She looked really concerned. I nodded. I didn’t have the tiniest of strength to hold a conversation with her. She poked me again and added, “Oga, if you are pressed and want to use the bathroom, I can stop driver and you can—”
I stopped her. “Madam, I am fine, thanks for your concern.”
She looked hurt, but was persistent. “Sir, you don’t look fine to me. I am a lawyer, and I know the look of guilt on somebody’s face.” This was getting annoying. Who cares if you are a lawyer? I yelled within me.
But I maintained myself and replied her, “Trust me ma, I am fine.” My voice was croaky, but not too croaky to freak her out. “I am alright. Thank you.” She gave up and reclined back to her seat. I was in a state of taciturnity for a short while, before the dreaded moment I’ve been avoiding came along, poking its ugly head at my guilt.
The stop-and-search checkpoint.