That afternoon at the popular Garrison Bus Stop in Port Harcourt the sun tied her wrapper firmly like a native soldier who was prepared to unleash total misery on insurgents. The sun was ready for the earth people, to burn them to death for unknown reasons. Unfortunate metrologist rumoured that it would rain heavily. But the sun shone so much that the people feared the sky would blow up or that Jesus was about to come down to carry the Born Again Christians to heaven.
While a few people stood at the bus stop observing the heat and the burning coal tar, a smoky and noisy old bus pulled up. The passengers alighted. Amongst those who stepped out was Nuka, a young tribal marked face Ogoni man dressed up in some off-coloured dresses which made him look like a traditional masquerade with particles of mirror on its apparel to make it beautiful. With a mighty shoe which could have been that of his ancestors he shuffled his legs on the ground, to rid it of sands from Bori and welcome the sands of Port Harcourt, his dream city.
Nuka had been advised by friends and family to leave the village to Bori, and then to Port Harcourt, after he failed to secure a job as a security officer in multinational oil company which had ruined his small village of Dukana with oil spills. Nuka threw a nylon bag which had a few clothes and some vegetables over his shoulder, and walked. He was visiting Port Harcourt for the first time in his life.
Nuka had heard so much about Port Harcourt City popularly called Pitakwa from friends and enemies. When they quarrelled they mocked him. They called him a primitive man who had not been to the oil city. He had sworn in his mother’s kitchen to put his enemies to shame by visiting and conquering the oil city. He had been told that the roads were wider, decorated with streetlights, that there was uninterrupted electricity supply and that the people lived either in tiny houses and wore big clothes and dreamed all day of better possibilities or stole for a living. When he first arrived he could not believe his eyes. The city was truly large and expensive. There were few potholes on the roads he drove through. There were taller buildings, so tall they looked like they would fall on him.
“When you step out of the bus at Garrison,” his brother had told him, “walk up to anyone who is selling something and ask for direction. It is safer than asking any pedestrian you could as well be a robber.”
Nuka had been specifically directed to the Ogbunabali community, a popular Ikwerre village located in the metropolis, which had cheaper apartments and accommodates more Ogonis than any other area of the city. At Ogbunabali Nuka could find someone who is either of same parent with him, or someone who cared about his dreams to own the city. Nuka had no money on him. Half way in the journey to the oil city he had realized that his back pocket was lighter. His wallet had been withdrawn by either a thief or some unfortunate ghost who must have traced him from the village. He could not shout. The people who sat around him were either asleep or too serious to be accused. He cursed his fate. He cursed the idiot who had welcomed him with such courtesy. He swore to make so much money to rid the city of criminals who were probably jobless.
At Garrison a few people went about their businesses despite the witch-hunting sun. Nuka walked up to a bread seller, a woman who seemed to drone in sleep. He tapped her and weighed loafs of bread on her table like he could tell which one had more flour in it. He finally settled for one and excused a sachet water vendor and bought a pack of cold water. It was his first item of a drink in a city which he had come to conquer. Nuka requested for a space with one of the newspaper vendors and folded his sleeves; he unwrapped the bread, pinched a portion, and threw it to the ground for his ancestors. He did same of the water and then drank.
Across him was a beggar woman. She had no attraction on her face except her eyes which were in the colour of almond, then an open sour wound on her leg which people feared. Those who walked closer to her jumped when they realized that such a woman was the one they had come closer to. Nuka had seen her when he was looking for bread. She could not be mistaken, she was disgusting and smelling, she was not the type of woman he would want his city when he ruled as a mayor. The woman sat under a torn umbrella. She wore many worn out clothes on her body even though the sun was so hot it could make a bucket of water boil. The woman had a bowl in front of her. She did not beg anyone for money or help. She channelled her energy into fanning her open wound which served as food to unnumbered healthy flies from across the city of Port Harcourt.
Nuka chewed on his bread. He munched so much that his arteries appeared like they were also enjoying the meal. He bit a part of the sachet water and sucked a little. He carefully balanced the water on the bench where he sat. The people at the Garrison Bus Stop, newcomers of the city, those who were visiting Port Harcourt for their first time could be seen amongst the herds of people who gathered at the bus stop. Some clutched their bags so closely like someone had pre-informed them of a robbery. Those who could not walk in the sun waited under the shade provided by the bus stop. The homeless people also found a place nearby and slept.
When Nuka lifted his eyes from his bread he saw the wounded woman staring at his direction without a blink. She was either a pathetic witch or hungry, Nuka thought. The woman made no facial gesture. Her hands moved interchangeably, chasing the healthy flies. Nuka’s eyes moved carefully from her face to the sour on her legs, they had many colours including blood particles. Some lucky flies were in the wound, eating all they could find. Nuka saw it and puked.
Nuka kept his eyes from the woman. He picked his water and drank. Two children ran to where he sat. The sun did not keep them from playing. One had a toy in his hand, the other hadn’t. They shared it until one of them screamed “thief, thief, thief, give me back my toy”. Nobody cared to know who was screaming. A flock of people rushed forward, many of them apprentice drivers and touts at the bus stop. The other boy ran away at the sight of the mob. The people chased after the little boy who ran. Before phlegm could leave the nostril to settle on the ground the running boy was in flames. Nuka dropped his jaw in surprise. He had not been to Port Harcourt for four hours and someone was dead, a little boy. He clutched himself and struggled to rise to his feet, and then his eyes went to the wounded woman again.
The woman was still in her position unbothered of the sun or the prospective rainfall. Nuka avoided the sight of her injury but something else caught his attention. Aside her eyes which was beautiful and looked like a cat’s, two fat flies flew majestically from the meal of the sour wound towards Nuka. When he saw the visitors he made an attempt to move or run. If he ran a jobless person could scream ‘thief’ and he would be dead. He gradually watched the flies landed on his bread. They stuck there like they had arrived home. Nuka thought of throwing the bread away, but he recalled he would have nothing to eat in a while until he could find another wallet, either his own or someone else’s. Nuka chased the flies away from his meal, pinched the portion which had the prints of the bloody flies and chewed. He had just arrived Port Harcourt where food was to be treasured and taken seriously until he became a major.