Sometime last year, in August precisely; I was in Owerri, the capital of the heartland…the clean & green land. Before then, It’s had been like 6-7 months since I had gone that way and nothing much seemed to had changed. The air still smelt the same, people still rushed up and down Douglas Street…buying, selling, hawking, loading, others; minding their business but unlike the 6-7 months before then, the rain fell nearly nonstop, abating only when the weather man goes for tea break which was like one hour tops, and that was if we were lucky…and also, the go slow is killing.
I was caught up in traffic…again…so I jumped out of the bus I was in, walked down a little, the rain then had reduced to a drizzle. I walked for like 5mins…I was going to control; a weird name for a bus stop…before it started to drizzle again, so I hopped into a Keke Napep…about the same time a girl did too…There was still go slow…No, a hold-up.
I wasn’t that wet while the girl wasn’t at all…she had umbrella to match…While I was wondering when the road would clear up a bit or what in Mike Jones’ name was causing the hold-up, a call came into the girls phone…MC Hammer’s “can’t touch this” was her ringtone…she let it ring for a while before answering it and when she did, she barked into it before ending the call.
For the whole of ten minutes or so, nothing changed, we were still stuck in traffic and the drizzle was picking up, then I stole a look…well more than one…at her without her knowing. Affirmed, she was a hot…bootyful/boobriful/beautiful…girl, and all of a sudden some crazy lights started going off in my head. The Keke Napep transformed in my mind into a romantic horse-driven cart with the driver as our rider. The blinds were pulled because of the rain making it somewhat dark and romantic and to top it, the rain was starting to build a serenading sound on the roof of the Keke Napep; it just couldn’t get any more romantic.
I have never really been one to take up chances, I am more of the type that would let things go and say: well, it wasn’t meant for me, then regret it later, but something in me knew I didn’t want to let this one pass me up. I opened my mouth to say something…anything…and then the Keke Napep guy sighed out loudly and started complaining about how bad the traffic was and how terrible government was. He took all of five minutes or so to rant but when we…I and the girl… didn’t say anything to encourage him to go on, he kept quiet.
His keeping quiet was my cue…the one I was supposed to follow and start delivering the punch-lines that was going to leave her fascinated that there were still sensible guys who really knew how to lead and carry on with a good conversation with a girl…so I closed my eyes and took in two quick shallow breathes…the deep ones I knew to leave for later just in case she blew me off…I looked at her and she had her head angled to the left, resting with her eyes closed. At that moment she couldn’t have looked any more beautiful, no doubt I knew I was in love; it was that simple. I knew I had to advance and make a move, but then, just as if the Keke Napep understood me and wanted to work against me, it reared to life. The traffic seemed to have eased up and the Keke Napep started moving again, when I turned back to her, she had opened her eyes and thus I had lost focus again.
I had to recoup…I tried to gather my train of thought but the Keke Napep breaking and starting because of the way the traffic moved wasn’t helping. All I needed was a word, a statement, the first word or statement…whatever it was…that was going to come out of my mouth. I was getting it, I knew I should just settle for something simple, not asking her where she was going or paying an unnecessary compliment to her…that one wasn’t going to work I told myself, I decided I was just going to say hi, when my phone rang and once again broke my train of thought. It couldn’t have been more annoying that it was some idiotic boy calling me…idiotic because it was a boy calling me and the call was unnecessary, but mostly because it was a boy.
While the Keke Napep moved and stopped continuously, the rain continued its business. I tried not to show I was venting from my call and with time I calmed down. Never before in my entire life had I seen a good reason to vent and here I was trying to think of an enigmatic approach to introduce myself.
I was going to start with “hi” as I had earlier planned but unlike earlier, when I didn’t know what to say after “hi” or how I was going to react if she didn’t say anything… not even “hello” or a “hi” back… now I was sure. I was going to say hi to her and wait a few seconds for her reply. If she replied, it would mean a great start but if she didn’t I decided I wasn’t going to panic, I was simply going to tell her “statistics” and when she turned to look at me…that is if she wasn’t looking at me already after responding to my “hi”…I would smile.
I was pretty sure she was gong to ask me what I meant by “statistics” or simply ask “what?”…or at least she was going to put up the “what are you saying” look and when she did I wasn’t going to spare her. I was going to start by telling her that “Nigerian has a population of one hundred and fifty-five million” and when she would be wondering why I would be telling her or reminding her whatever the case may be, I wouldn’t skip a beat but go ahead to tell her that “Imo state has a population of five million, and Owerri, its capital has a population of over a million”.
At this point, I knew I was going to get her transfixed, maybe wondering if I was okay but still wondering what else I was going to say. Then, I was going to surprise her by saying that “some report has it that there is an estimate of nine hundred and forty-four Keke Napep’s in Owerri since the advent of the “no okada policy” and while she would be ruminating on it, I was going to bother about the Keke Napep guy listening in on my introduction and wanting to add anything or counter me. By this time, I was sure I must have caught her interest fully as she would want to know the point I was trying to make.
While putting a big smile on…my brightest…I was going to tell her that “now that we are riding alone and together on this Keke Napep, we were riding with… I tried to multiply the number of Keke Napep’s I had said existed by four people each, but the maths felt complex, so I quickly pushed the thought away before it hooked me and slowed me down…a whole lot of people, and the chances of us ever meeting again in Owerri or better still riding together and alone in any Keke Napep was one in a three quarters of five million chances, and I wouldn’t want to pass up this chance, so let me introduce myself…I’m Kc”
I was smiling to myself already, I knew it was going to work; all I had to do was say “hi”. I looked straight, because I couldn’t afford to look at her and in my least shaky voice, I managed an audible “hi” and she said “hello”.
I smiled a broad smile, I tried not to tear up as I turned to look at her and tell her “statistics” but she was holding her phone to her ear and was repeatedly saying “hello, hello…I can’t hear u”
My heart was beating very fast, the adrenaline in my system was very high while she was busy talking to someone…it had to be another idiot…all these useless people that didn’t know the right time to call, but I knew all hope wasn’t lost, all I had to do was wait for her to be through with her call. I was going to wait for her to say “bye-bye” or “take care” or “later” or “alright bye”. I was listening in on her conversation, I didn’t understand it, but I listened all the same and started sensing when she was rounding up.
Just as she said bye, and I was saying hi…about to say hi…she said “I would stop here”…the worst four words ever. I watched her pay the Keke Napep guy and leave with her umbrella and all I could say was “hi”. The Keke Napep guy turned to me and asked me “what?”…I can’t repeat what I told him, but I walked under the rain the rest of the way…thank God, Control wasn’t far off from there.