I lean back in my seat as the plane taxis off the runway and sigh loudly – drawing stares from other passengers. The past two days have been hectic, packed full with dancing, drinking, and non-stop partying. Sadly, weekends always come to an end, and now I am on my way back to the hustle and bustle of Lagos.
Out of habit, I start to compose a text to my dad – to let him know the plane is on its way – but then stop myself. I have led my parents to think I am spending the weekend with Toye in Ogudu GRA. Instead, I caught a ride with a colleague who was dropping off a car for his wife in Abuja and spent a wild weekend with Niyi.
It was the perfect excuse, really. Our fathers had grown up together in Ibadan, and had been friends since Form Two. They trusted each other with their lives, and a common joke between us children was that the only things they did not share were their wives. Of course, both women were great friends too. We often spent weekends at each other’s houses, and our fathers encouraged us to hang-out – in the hope that we would carry on in their footsteps.
Toye was my best friend too, so it was natural that I asked his advice when my dad turned down my request to spend the weekend in Abuja. When he suggested I lie that I was in his house while I travelled, I was apprehensive – a myriad of things could go wrong. My father could drop into his house unannounced and ask to see me. My mother could call his, and ask if I was giving trouble. Anything could happen.
He calmed my fears by reminding me that they seldom bothered us in the Boys-Quarters when we had spent past weekends together. All I needed to do was show up on Thursday evening with my clothes-bag, and let his parents see that I was around. If they did not see me after then, they would assume that we were lost in our own world – and would not bother to disturb us.
Beyond that, what could possibly go wrong? I would ride with Bolu to Abuja on Friday, and fly back to Lagos on Sunday. I would be back before my parents could suspect a thing.
It was amazing how it had all worked out perfectly. I and Toye conference-called my parents on Friday evening, telling them we planned to spend the weekend indoors. When they called on Saturday to say they had to travel to Ibadan urgently, I conferenced Toye in so that he could wish them a safe trip. No one suspected anything.
I would never understand what the problem was with my dad. He was too conservative, too controlling, too protective…the list could go on forever. We never spent holidays with family, or took vacations by ourselves – except he or Toye’s dad was there. He did not let me learn to ride a bicycle – obsessed as that I would fall and break my neck. I did not learn to drive till I was 21, because he was afraid I would die in an accident – even then, he got me a driver with my first car. My sister used to say that we had lots of money, but no fun. There was no truer statement.
My dad had no faith; fear seemed to fuel all his actions. I chuckled as I remembered the day he announced that he would be making his fortnightly trips to Abuja by road. Out of his ear-shot, my sister bet a thousand naira with me that some prophet had forseen a plane crash. She won. My dad was that kind of person.
The plane shook as we encountered turbulence some thirty minutes into the hour-long trip, and I thought back to the way Niyi’s car had shaken when his tire burst on the way to the airport three hours before. We were cruising at a reasonable speed of 60kmph when we heard the ‘plop’ sound and lost one of the front tires. I shuddered as I thought what would have happened if we had been going faster. In his usual way, Niyi had an interpretation for it. Coupled with that he had hit his big toe twice that morning and I had hurt my thumb getting into the car – he declared that something evil was going to happen – and suggested that we return to his house.
I did not share in his fear, but even if I did – I had no choice. Toye’s family was travelling early the next day, and would be dropping me and their dog over at our house. I had to be back in their house by evening. I said a quick prayer, then flagged a taxi to drop me at the airport while he changed his tires, and thought no more of the matter.
All of a sudden, I awaken with a start – to shouts of ‘Jesus’, ‘Jesus’, and all manners of prayers and entreaties…
A quick glance out the window confirms my worst fears – the stuff of which nightmares is made. The ground is rushing up at us alarmingly fast, and the runway is nowhere in sight. I know it. We are going to crash.
Surprisingly, I do not panic. The man next to me manages to kneel, and loudly beseeches God to save us. The young woman across the aisle, the one with two babies – lets out a shriek, and hugs her babies tight to her body. The cabin looks like a scene from a Pentecostal service.
I am amazed at how calm I feel. We have one minute, maybe two before impact. I close my eyes, and mutter a prayer – confessing my sins, asking God to forgive me and welcome me into heaven. My heart-rate has doubled, tripled maybe; my blood races, my head throbs.
I should text my dad, one last time – so I pluck out my phone. Acrid smoke fills the cabin. My eyes hurt. It is impossible to see. The air is thick with smoke. I can’t breathe. I open my eyes long enough to open the ‘Text Messages’ app on my Blackberry, then clamp them shut as I begin to type:
“I lied & went 2 Abj. Dana Air Flight 992. We’re going 2 die. I luv u dad. I luv u all.”