The light drizzles disturbed her face. She angrily swiped at the droplets on her eyes, mixing the tears with the rain showers. A bus conductor stood close by, hollering ‘along along’ at the top of his lungs.
She knew if she looked straight into his mouth, she would see his lung sac swaying to and fro like the devil. The absence of passengers around did not sway him. He continued to scream eagerly at the top of his lungs for ten minutes. She could see the few passengers inside the bus, fidgeting, their tempers rising by the second. His shouting did not help matters.
The driver’s leg was propped on the open door, shaking his head to the afro music playing from the speakers. As she watched, the rain still mixing up her tears, two passengers alighted from the old battered bus, taking their furious steps and hardened faces a bit farther to await the slightly more expensive taxis which careened now and then in the previously busy road.
The shining sun that was currently battling with the light rain discouraged much movement. The stories surrounding this paradox were abundant: a lion and an elephant were fighting, a lion or a snake was giving birth. She couldn’t remember which in particular.
It took another ten minutes for the showers to stop and the victorious sun began smiling so brightly, it cast a mirrored reflection off the head of the passenger in the front seat. His extra-large brown suit with grey stripes gave off the air of an academic. His nose which was buried in a newspaper, his face cast in a concentrated frown and his tiny glasses which looked too small for his wide face, earmarked him as a teacher. She knew his gold shining head would earn him numerous nicknames from his students.
The rain-sun paradox had emptied the road of the agberos. Only one or two remained, seeking passengers for the waiting taxis.
She began to feel self conscious. The rain could no longer be the excuse for her wet face. She took deep breaths and willfully climbed into the bus. The look the conductor gave her made her smile. He was probably wondering why she had stood in the rain for twenty minutes only to finally get into the bus. She didn’t care at that moment. In her mind’s eye, she could already see the look of disappointment that would be on her father’s face. For a tiny second, she considered running away but she immediately dismissed the thought. She wouldn’t last five minutes on the streets.
Being the last to get into the bus, she sat at the edge of the door while the conductor stood right in front of her. He started off the usual warnings against big currencies and loudly proclaimed that everyone should have their change. As he stretched his arms to collect the fare from the passengers in the back seats, his arm was directly above her head. The smell oozing from his armpits was bad enough to kill a new baby. She just knew it. She held her breath and struggled not to cover her nose with her fingers. Her stomach heaved and roiled in protest of this unwelcome new smell. The bus lumbered to her junction. She lightly tapped the conductor, still holding her breath and and pointed downwards.
He immediately hit the top of the bus through the window and the bus came to a halt. She gave him fifty naira or ‘one white’ as they usually called it and alighted.
Walking towards her house from the junction, she felt like the world, which was already firmly lodged on her shoulders, took on massively increasing weight with each step she took. Her father’s Honda Accord was parked outside. He was back from work. She avoided the parlor and went in through the door at the back.
When she walked into the kitchen where her mother was fixing dinner for her husband, she didn’t need words to answer the apprehensive look that filled her mother’s eyes. Her mother knew that she had gone to a cyber cafe. She understood immediately and her face fell. She cast anxious eyes to the parlor, asking if she had informed her father. She shook her head again.
With renewed vigor, her mother dished the soup, with heaps of dried meat and stock fish, as if she was trying to placate him in advance. She put the soup next to the semovita wheat on the tray. Lately, her father had stopped taking garri. The semovita wasn’t doing much as his stomach was still vastly round.
She waited until he was halfway into his favorite dish before she walked into the parlour. Dropping the paper on the table, she simply proclaimed “I didn’t make it this year. I scored 140.”
She walked away, not waiting to see her father pause in mid air, the meat lodged in the semo fell back into the soup with a small thump, in recognition of the sad news.
JAMB had done it again, just as it had been doing it for the past five years. She tried not to look at the picture hung close to the door. She didn’t want to see the smiling face of her kid brother on his matriculation day.
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