“Oh what a shame; the school bus left just a few minutes ago,” the old gateman said.
“It did?” was my frantic response. I silently hoped I didn’t hear him properly.
“Yes it did. Were you supposed to go with it?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“How sad,” the man said, showing some empathy. I wasn’t surprised at this; I was looking very flustered, and anyone who saw me would surely have empathized with me. I had dashed out of Sunday service and rushed to the school campus to meet up with the school bus which was to leave by 10am. This was just 5 past 10, and the bus had already left.
I feigned a “thank you” smile and turned to leave. I was obviously disappointed.
Not after all the effort I put into going for this excursion…, I thought.
I decided to look at the bright side of things. After all, it was a Sunday and I could still spend the day anyhow I wished. I could visit some old friends; check out some new hangouts; better still, I could stay at home to watch some new movies….
“Oh bother!” I sighed. None of the ideas thrilled me by any means. I guess I was already too disappointed.
I ambled to a bus shelter right outside the university gate and slumped into a seat waiting for nothing in particular. Today being a Sunday, the campus was a shadow of the beehive it normally was during weekdays. It was extremely quiet, and the serenity was just what I needed to readjust my already distorted emotions.
A noise suddenly broke the calm; from a distance approached a commercial motorbike, which most people just preferred to call “bike.” Bikes had become a very popular means of transportation among college folks owing to their daredevil speed and dangerous convenience.
“Hi!” someone called out to me as the motorcycle ground to an abrupt halt just beside the bus shelter. It was a lady, but I couldn’t really make out her face since she was wearing a bowler hat. She obviously was coming from church. She lifted her hat and…oh, it was Tomi; a transfer student who joined us in our sophomore year. She was a tall and simple lady, who looked very reserved but was peppy.
“Hello!” I returned casually, still disappointed I had missed the bus.
One look at my face sent her guessing.
“Don’t tell me the bus has left?”
I nodded and her face fell.
“That’s unfair!” she bellowed after several minutes of silence. “How could they have done that?”
“Beats me,” I replied.
“I thought I could attend church and still make it for the excursion,” she tried to make a case for herself.
“Same here,” was all I could say. I really wasn’t in the mood for tittle-tattle.
When she observed that I wasn’t much of a talking partner, she sat beside me and brought out some fruits from her bag.
“Do you care for some fruits?” she offered me, but I thankfully declined.
I wish I had stayed back in church, I thought to myself. I never once agreed with the timing of the excursion right from the first day I knew about it. How could our lecturer have scheduled an excursion for Sunday morning?
A crushing noise suddenly broke my wandering thoughts and two ladies jumped off a motorbike like they were acting a movie.
More latecomers! I thought when I recognized the ladies. Folusho and Angela hurried towards us looking as agitated as ever. Like us, they must have gone to church too and dashed out, hoping to meet the bus. I thought it would be unfair to break the bad news to them in their agitated state. Eventually, I didn’t have to; Tomi greeted them with it.
“Well, well, well, we seem to be many that missed the bus,” she said.
“What? You mean the bus has gone?” they asked in disbelief.
“Oh yes it has, and it seems only those who chose to go to church first missed it.”
“But it’s just a few minutes past ten,” cried Folusho.
She had every reason to be agitated. We had been sternly warned just a few days earlier that we could jeopardize our final scores for the semester if we missed the trip. Having such a setback was unimaginable, not in our penultimate year, a very critical phase in college. Any hitch in our grades could cost us an extra year.
Folusho and Angela were clearly very upset and didn’t hide it. The two were an unusual bunch who struck their imponderable friendship as freshmen, and after cultivating it for three years, had begun to resemble each other – now, they could pass for twins.
“Yinka, how far do you think Lagadu is from here?” Folusho enquired.
“Ladelu you mean,” I said.
“No you two; the name of the town is Lagelu,” Tomi corrected us.
“Thank you for the short class!” a visibly upset Folusho spat with sarcasm. “So does anyone have an idea how far it is?”
“Why are you asking?” I asked her. “Hope you’re not thinking of going there?” That would be crazy! None of us knew the place; we were just hearing about it for the first time and it seemed very distant from civilization.
“Yinka, considering the odds, do you think going there is a bad idea? I’m not ready to fail just because I missed a silly excursion.”
Folusho had a point; if all we did was make an appearance, at least our lecturer would notice it and we would be on the safe side. There was silence for some minutes. “But we don’t even know where in Lagelu we’re going, and there’s no map,” I tried to make her see the futility of her idea but the lady was resolute.
If she’s going, I’m going too, Angela said.
We all could tell Angela wasn’t feeling well; she looked pale and had been quiet since she arrived with her friend. Nevertheless, she was as resolute as her friend.
Tomi and I looked at each other. If Folusho and Angela were going, we had no reason not to go with them.
We all set out for an adventure to Lagelu, feeling much like Christopher Columbus when he set out to discover the new world. I couldn’t help wondering what I was doing leading a merry band of ladies to the unknown.
Our cab wound slowly down the drive that led to the Oru bus park. We were going to board a bus to Ibadan, a major city in Nigeria commonly referred to as “the largest city in West Africa.” We figured that if we went to Ibadan, we would easily get directions to Lagelu from there.
For me, Ibadan wasn’t my choicest place to visit. It was an old and rusty city that must have been the envy of her time. Of course, some new places were springing up in the conurbation, but most of it remained ancient—as ancient as the seven hills on which it sprawled.
Only a few activities were going on at the quiet park since it was a Sunday. It took a long while for our bus to get a maximum load of passengers. The midday sun didn’t help matters; it blazed in all its strength and drenched us in sweat as we waited endlessly in the bus.
Time was slowly ticking away. We were beginning to get desperate. “I hope we don’t get there late and miss the school bus again,” I said, breaking the uneasy silence. We couldn’t afford that since none of us planned for the impromptu trip. In fact, we weren’t sure if all the money we had on us would convey us there.
“I hope so too,” Tomi sighed in response.
As much as we tried to hide it, there was a little panic in our eyes. No one wanted a wasted journey; we didn’t want to expend so much time and effort to eventually gain nothing.
Angela’s health gradually deteriorated and we all pleaded with her to go back, but she remained defiant. No one could blame her; just like us, she was ready to stretch herself to any length for her good grades.
Just then, two motorbikes drove into the park and to our amazement, two more of our colleagues dismounted from them. Biola Adeyinka and another girl, who I didn’t recognize, walked towards the bus.
“Biola!!!” Folusho screamed in disbelief. “You missed the bus too?”
Biola was “Miss Compliant”; she was always one of the earliest to arrive in class and one of the first to submit assignments. She could only have missed the bus for a matter of urgent national security…or otherwise.
“I did some extra Sunday sleeping,” was all she could say.
“Biola!!!” Tomi laughed and shook her head at Biola’s weak defence.
“You should have seen the way I scampered around my room when I woke up to discover it was already past 10.”
“I can imagine,” said Folusho.
“If ‘Miss Compliant’ could miss the bus, then who are we to feel bad?” I said, and everyone had a good laugh.
“You’re not by any chance referring to me, are you?” Biola teased. She was an easy-going person who had a great sense of humour. “Enough of me for now,” she said, pulling her friend forward. “I’d like you all to meet Bidemi Olayinka. She’s a final year student in our department.”
“Hello,” Bidemi said bashfully. We could hardly hear her voice. She obviously didn’t feel comfortable being around so many new faces.
“Hello!!!” we chorused together.
“I didn’t know final year students were supposed to travel with us,” I asked.
Well not really, she replied. This is more like a personal project for me.
“Personal project?” Angela managed to ask. “Exactly what’s happening at Lagelu? All I know is that our lecturer said something about a library.”
“Oh, so you guys don’t know?” asked Bidemi, who was feeling a little more comfortable now. “The Nigeria Literary Carnival is taking place today in Lagelu, at a library in Adeyipo Village…. I can’t remember the name of the library now. But the carnival is going to be very big and it’s actually the first of its kind.”
The other girls and I were stupefied at the amount of information Bidemi had just given us. “Carnival”, “Adeyipo”, “first of its kind”; What!!! We were planning to embark on such a long distance trip without all this information; how smart of us! The delay at the bus park was a blessing in disguise after all.
“So, have you been to Adeyipo before?” Folusho asked Bidemi a while later when the bus had started moving.
“No I haven’t, but some of my friends have,” she said.
“How did they get there?”
She brought out a little piece of paper from her bag with some inscriptions in it.
‘Here,” she said, passing the paper to her. “They gave me this description when I went to see them this morning.”
I unfolded the paper, which read:
FROM THE BUS PARK TO MOLETE; FROM MOLETE TO BUS STOP; FROM BUS STOP TO LAGELU; FROM LAGELU TO ADEYIPO
Apparently, Lagelu was a big town consisting of over 200 villages, and searching for a library in it without proper information would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Thanks to Bidemi’s little map, we found a key to our destination: The little village of Adeyipo.
“But wait, how did you guys intend to ever find the library?” Biola asked abruptly. “You guys are not serious o!” she scoffed. “You wanted to have adventure, abi? I think you’ve seen too many adventure movies for your own good.”
We listened in silence as Biola had a good time at our expense. At least, we were grateful she and Bidemi came just in time.