The young man wakes up. Yawning sleepily, he stretches himself, and sighs deeply. The mattress is cold and damp with musky sweat. His movement disturbs a small swarm of mosquitoes that had taken temporary lodgement in the areas disturbed by his motion, lift off; buzzing noisily, abdomens engorged to bursting point with fresh blood. They scamper to their various hiding places in the corners of the dark room, to await the next refilling when all nutrients are used up. His stomach groans silently and with the reality of wakefulness, his bladder sends voiding signals to his weary body muscles to become active otherwise bear the consequences of an already taut bladder. He forces his body to move despite the obvious weakness which threatens to overwelm him, a light-headed feeling swarms over his vision but he pays no attention to it. “It will pass”, his inky-black mind whispers reassuringly to him; and it indeed passed. A few steps from his pallet, and he seeks the door knob in the blackness of his room and finds it.
It turns squeakily and the door springs open, but not without a bit of forceful yankings. Now there is a new urgency to his steps. He has to reach the toilet before The Bladder voids itself. A few drops of the amber-coloured fluid begins to soil his boxer shorts. In the few seconds it takes him to reach the rest room, a panicky thought crosses his mind, ‘what if it is occupied by another tenant?’ That would spell doom for him because it would mean a few minutes delay before voiding time would occur and he doubted if The Bladder would care to wait that long. Time (not even 5 seconds) was not a luxury he afforded his master these days. He has been christened thus after he had fallen victim to an infection 2 years back. His constant urgings at appointed times had seen the necessity to christening the organ who wouldn’t give him a minute’s respite. Yanking the restroom door open (to hell with any temporary occupant therein), an inky blackness (instead of a shocked scream) greeted his eyesight which was miraculously adjusting to the dark: a sure sign of its vacancy.
By this time, The Bladder had thrown all caution to the wind and began to jitter and jive, his underwear receiving dose after dose of hot fluid. Pulling out the tubular organ which was closely affliated with Mr. Bladder, a semi-arc of fluid dotted the air temporarily, a sure sign that his Majesty’s irreversible mode was now fully activated. Relief washed through both as the the flow now levelled out to a regular flow. The voiding was happening. A feeling close to ecstacy washed over the young man and he held onto his little man and tried to properly locate the proper position of the toilet bowl. Some drops splashed on the seat, some on the areas outside the bowl, but most hit their target giving rise to a watery, hollow sound.
At the end of the the process, Mr. Bladder had gone into hibernation, not to awake till later. He made his way slowly back to his room located at the right end of the yard, careful not to stumble on any object which might have been lying in his path. The night before, NEPA had struck and thrown the entire neighbourhood into an abysmal darkness which had lasted throughout the night and showed no sign of relief. The mosquitoes in his room who were normally inactive when the strong draughts from the ceiling fan made their flight path irregular, now divebombed upon his naked torsos and limbs with the fury of ten gods dethroned. The dregs in the insecticide spray bottle had only a temporary, stunning effect on the ravenous mosquitoes. As soon as they were able to shake off the effect of the stunning vapors, they again converged, then struck. Not even the constant swatting could deter their feeding frenzy. Weary sleep finally claimed him, saving him from the painful pricks and aggravated itchings caused by the proboscis of the hungry attackers bent on utilizing every moment of this feast. The young man feels as if several pints of blood have been drained from his body.
The sweltering heat of the night had drained his body of most moisture leaving him dehydrated and extremely tired. Thinking about his all-night predicament, he sighed and muttered a common Nigerian faith-laden confession,”well, e go better”. This is a well mouthed creed. And as if this was a panacea which corrects all previous ills, he began to feel better already. Some strange reserve of strength begins to permeate his mind and body; his thoughts becoming less hazy and more defined. His limbs received strength as if being commanded with the scriptures of Isaiah 35:3 from the Creator himself. His feeble arms and knees were indeed strengthened.
He goes indoors and takes some time out to communicate with his maker, his prayers filled with thanksgiving despite the prevailing conditions around him. Rising once again, the darkness is finally giving way to some light. He steps outdoors and the former silence isn’t so absloute anymore. Some of his neighbours seem to be stirring into life. Thinking fast he opens his large water drum and begins bailing water into a pail. Thereafter he makes his way to the bathroom which he shares with other occupants of the yard. He has a cold hasty bath, his bowels grunting in anticipation for the Second Voiding.
All voidings and cleaning done, the decision of a suitable apparel to grace the day becomes a decision whose options are narrowed down by NEPA: PHCN if you want to be a bit civil. He curses himself silently for not heeding the voice of reason which whispered warnings to press his clothes the night before, when electricity supply was still present. NEPA is useful only in narrowing down your options. Picking yesterday’s work clothes, he shrugs into them, hoping no one would notice the repetition. Not still able to see his appearance on his wall mirror despite the waning darkness, he squares his shoulders, whispers his creed for the second time in 30minutes, steps outdoors, ready to face an usually harsh world. His creed is of course, “e go better”.
As he makes his way down the lonely street towards the busstop, he is wary of any suspicious person(s) he might encounter. Safety isn’t well known in these parts and most especially not at such an almost ungodly hour. At the busstop a couple of early risers are also trying to steal a match from other commuters and beat the hellish traffic jam that would soon grip the major highways in about an hour. His face is covered with a thin sheen of persperation, a continuation of the night’s. He waits for a while and a short while later, a few other early risers join the wait. He routinely scans the faces of the waiting commuters for any appearance of something suspicious. They all look ok to him, if not a tad uneasy themselves. The uneasiness is similar that felt by a nocturnal animal caught in the sudden glare of car’s headlamps. In the distance, a ‘danfo’ approaches. Feets shuffle in preparation to board it. As its image grows and the interior becomes visible, it is clear to see that a number of passengers were already on board and the vacant spaces were but a few. Hardly enough to seat the entire waiting crew. As if on cue, all biceps and calf muscles of the waiters flexed in anticipation for boarding. This wasn’t a period to play the gentleman or lady. It was time for rofo-rofo.
Hardly had the bus applied its brakes than one of the waiters, an agile looking youth skillfully boarded. The game was on. Ruthlessness with an equal amount of wit and skill was needed in order to secure a place on the bus. He nimbly spied that the front passenger’s seat had a lone occupant. While the others scrambled for the back seats, he deftly pulled open the door and swung upwards, and ‘hey presto!’ he was onboard. He smiled smugly as he spied the other combatants through the right rearview mirror of the danfo, as they continued to do combat over the quickly diminishing seats. A young female student, who didn’t look properly schooled in the art of boarding took a hit from behind, lost her footing and lay sprawled halfway into the bus. Her tiny voiced protests at the push and more for help was hardly noticed. Securing a seat was paramount. In a few seconds, the battle was over. The victors had smiles (and seats) while the vanquished dusted off themselves, squared their drooping shoulders, and prepared to do battle over the next danfo. The student emerged ruffled but unhurt despite her fall.
The journey commenced and was uneventful, at least for a while. Ahead, appeared a makeshift police checkpoint which looked as if it had been assembled in a hurry. Manning the post were 4 mobile policemen dressed in their usual garb of faded greens and black. They all cradled Kalashnikov assault rifles. They looked combat-ready and also ready to begin the day’s takings. Flagging down our bus, two of the fellows approached. The driver, a middle-aged man with a slight salt and pepper in his hair, knew the routine. He parked at the loud urging of the shorter but stockier forceman. “Park! Park!!” he ejaculated, waving his rifle in the general direction in which he preferred his order carried out. The driver rifled through the odds and ends in his dashboard drawer and came up with a misearable 20 naira note which he felt was sufficient to do the trick.
The armed officer approached the bus and demanded the usual ‘kola’ with snappy finger gestures. The driver stretched over to my window which happened to be the opening in which the foremost officer stood. On accepting the note, he turned it over for closer inspection and I noticed a frown cross his face. He flung the naira note back inside and yelled in an accent which confirmed his Northern heritage, “which kain fucking moni be this? Eh? Oga, which kain dirty moni be this?” The lady beside me in a bid to pacify the lawman’s anger pleaded, “oga police, abeg no vex. The moni dey. . .” and before she could finish her plea, the angry (and extremely dangerous) man spat back, “shut up dia you stupid girl! Shut up! Ashewo like you na who tell you make you talk?” All the while he was waving a stubby, nicotine stained finger at my seatmate.