‘Abeokuta-ifo! I’ve told you oh! Enter with your change otherwise you will marry yourselves oh!’ barked the hoarse-voiced conductor in Yoruba; his taut neck pulsating in sequence with his yelling.
He pranced about to and fro, his sagging faded jeans exposing dirty boxers, bloodshot eyes seeking passengers whom his half-empty bus may devour for the afternoon trip.
Kaycee sat at his corner in the bus watching him coerce people into boarding the vehicle. Occasionally he would stop to flirt with a young fair-complexioned banana seller whose tribal marked face was heavily amplified by cheap make-up. She looked uncomfortable in her tight sleeveless blouse and butt-hugging skinny jeans. The spindly stretch-marks and partial discolouration running along her arms was a pointer to the fact that she was never born with that complexion.
The conductor laughed at something she said to him, gave her a generous pat on the backside which exposed a small fraction of her over-bleached butt crack and ran off shouting for more passengers for his bus. She looked at him in mock-anger. But behind the façade it was evident she enjoyed the attention.
Kaycee adjusted himself on his seat which was the row directly behind the driver and the nearest to the window. He looked at the empty seat spaces beside him and hoped people who were slim enough would sit on his row. The old and partially rickety Nissan Urvan bus was actually designed to sit just three people per row but the bus driver and his conductor were intent on breaking the rules by adding the usual extra; typical of any Lagos commercial transporter.
Lord please let a nice person sit beside me!
The silent prayer echoed continually through his head. He knew how the fate of one’s comfort on any trip was sometimes determined by who sat next to you.
A rough looking man dressed in dirty danshiki stopped and looked into the corner where Kaycee sat as if trying to make up his mind on something.
Don’t look here! Don’t even think of sitting here!
The thoughts railed strongly through Kaycee’s mind that he almost spoke it out.
‘God bless you sir! Please sir helep me, I never see food chop since yesterday, God will bless you sir…’
The man was a beggar.
Kaycee sighed in relief, fished his pockets for some change and dropped it for the grateful destitute.
Five minutes later, a morbidly fat woman in heavily faded ankara blouse and wrapper stood looking into the place where he sat, juggling her mind to make a decision.
Aaw No! Father Lord discourage this one oh! Don’t let her…
But before he could finish laying out the prayer in his head she had climbed in.
The bus squeaked on its weakened shock absorbers. She sat down next to Kaycee, her massive butt hitting the worn-out upholstery made him bounce momentarily in his seat.
Kaycee covered his eyes in despair.
Next he found himself covering his nose.
He realised to his horror that the fat woman was responsible for a horrible stench of stale sweat that suddenly invaded the bus.
He looked at other passengers in the bus.
None of them covered their noses. Apparently the stink was angled at him since they didn’t perceive anything; or yet, maybe they were just ignoring it. But how do you ignore a stink this bad?
‘Woman, your extra load in the boot is extra money, I hope you know that!’ the conductor barked rudely in Yoruba through the window on Kaycee’s side showering spittle and sweat across Kaycee’s arm.
‘Two hundred for that small thing?’ the fat woman roared. She spoke according to her size.
‘You call two big full baskets of half-rotten tomatoes small thing?
‘Stop insulting my market jo! I don’t always pay up to that amount! I’m paying hundred naira only.’
‘Oya come down! Go find another ‘mugu’ that will carry your load.’
The fat woman hissed and hurried out of the bus with such speed that rocked the bus more violently on its expired shock absorbers.
Thank you Jesus!
Kaycee heaved a heavy sigh of relief, closed his eyes briefly and took in fresh air to clear his lungs of stink.
The bus buckled slightly again on its shocks as someone climbed in to sit beside him again.
He refused to turn to get a glance at who was now seated beside him. Rather he starred out through his window at the variety of drama taking place within the park. It was better he didn’t get to see the repugnant person who probably had some unwholesome affinity for bad hygiene and reeked of elements of days past.
A draft of Perry Elis perfume caressed his nostrils.
It hadn’t come from outside the bus.
It had come from inside…right next to him.
He was compelled to turn and he came face to face with the scent’s carrier – a casually dressed young lady who had also been trying to look through his window.
‘Oh…sorry!’ Kaycee apologized on realising that his face had almost collided with hers.
‘It’s okay.’ she replied with a smile and a thin yet pleasant voice. She had a round face, slim nose and bright eyes that looked as if she could x-ray your thoughts.
Kaycee turned to face the window again. A smile lit his face. He was most definitely going to enjoy this trip.
Thank you Jesus…again!
She shifted to adjust her sitting position and he felt her curvy hip gently brush the side of his. Despite the fact that she was in jeans and he wore trousers, it sent weird shockwaves tearing through his insides to ignite some sweet hormonal reaction.
The silky armless blouse she wore held her average bosoms in a manner which was amplified by fabric’s naughty design. Each time she raised her hand to brush back a strand of the hair on her head, her smooth-looking slim arms caught the corner of Kaycee’s line of sight. He was still looking out through the window but he wasn’t seeing the park anymore. All he saw from the depth of his subconscious was the pleasant temptation sitting next to him. He wished so badly that he hadn’t been wearing a long-sleeved shirt. The opportunity to feel the caramel colored skin on her arms brushing against his would have been an utmost delight.
Minutes later, the bus was filled up; the driver started the vehicle and eased out of the park.
It was your average boring trip with bushes flashing by on both sides of the road as the bus sped through the worn-out tar of the expressway.
Caramel skin opened her small handbag, brought out a mobile smartphone with its earphones, flicked to the music menu, plugged the earphones to the phone and finally plugged her ears.
Kaycee glued his eyes to the window, watching bushes fly by and hoping to catch a scenario along the road that might be interesting. He lost track of time and felt his eyelids go heavy then slam shut.
He woke up minutes later and straightened his head. He had leaned against the window while drifting off into sleep.
He glanced briefly at her and noticed she was no longer listening to music but was also beginning to drift into sleep.
She was still sitting straight but her eyes were closed and her head was lolling to and fro.
Each gallop the bus went into sent her head lolling further towards his side until Kaycee felt her head resting fully on his shoulder.
A knightly feeling overwhelmed him; he was enjoying her sudden accidental dependency on him even when she wasn’t aware of it.
The bus shuddered as it sailed through more gallops but Caramel Skin’s head stayed firm on his shoulder. She seemed to be drifting deeper and deeper into the sleep. Some strands of her hair fell across her face.
Kaycee stifled the urge to remove them. He wanted to make her more comfortable but didn’t want to spoil the moment by doing something that would wake her.
The scent of her hair cream pervaded his nostrils opening a portal for imaginations of intimacy; his mind conjured romantic pictures like exaggerated scenarios from a Bollywood flick.
‘Bros you dey enjoy oh. See as fine gyal lie down for your body!’
The comment had come from the conductor. Apparently Kaycee was not the only one that had been checking her out.
He didn’t answer but just smiled in acknowledgement. Other passengers didn’t seem to have noticed what was happening; some had dozed off, a couple were doing stuff on their mobile phones while others watched the passing bushes with solemn boredom. Only one of them chuckled at the conductor’s retort.
Then Kaycee heard the snoring.
At first he didn’t take it serious until he felt his shoulder vibrating in sequence with the droning sound.
He looked at the pretty head resting on his shoulder and noticed her mouth had fallen ajar.
The deeper she drifted into sleep, the more her snoring gathered momentum.
And she snored like a beast. It became so loud that Kaycee wondered if she had an amplifier hooked up her mouth somewhere. He just couldn’t believe how a human being so petite in size and looks could let out such amount of noise in the middle of sleep.
She gave a sudden loud snort that startled one of the absent minded passengers.
‘Chei! This one go like sleep die!’ The conductor whispered looking at her in amazement.
Kaycee began to feel a bit uncomfortable. He racked his brain for what he could do to stop her from snoring. He couldn’t think of any. The only remedy he had ever given a snoring person, which in this case had been his obnoxious brother, was a small stinging slap across the face.
That was just out of the question in this situation.
The snoring suddenly changed octave into a harsh combo of snorting-rasping sounds. It was as if she had switched into some enhanced turbo-charged snoring.
Kaycee glared in alarm at her open mouth which refused to close despite a couple of slumber-swallows she did before ‘changing gear’.
Then he felt the wetness on his shoulder.
The first thought that had occurred to him was that she was sweating onto his shoulder but he looked down and saw the large wad of spittle drooling onto his shirt from her open mouth.
He winced in alarm.
She lifted a hand in the middle of slumber, stuck a finger up one of her nostrils scratching her nasal orifice judiciously.
All that feel-good moment of her absolute dependency on him dissipated fast.
The bus suddenly braked abruptly as the driver tried to avoid a series of potholes scattered across the road the moment they came round a bend.
The halting jolted sleeping passengers out of their sleep, including Caramel Skin.
She raised her head, drowsy and mind-numbed as to circumstances around her. She felt the wetness on her cheek, grabbed a hankie from her bag to mop up the spittle. She stopped again on realizing where her head had lay. She saw the wet area on Kaycee’s shirt and hurriedly dug into her bag again to bring out sanitary wipes.
‘I…I’m so…sorry!’ She stammered apologetically as she nervously wiped the spittle off Kaycee’s shoulder.
Her vulnerable and embarrassed state struck a sympathetic chord in Kaycee.
‘It’s okay’ he said trying to stop her but she insisted on cleaning the mess she had made.
‘Please let me. I shouldn’t have fallen asleep like that…I’m so sorry’
‘Don’t be. You even look like you needed the sleep.’
She stopped cleaning and threw the wipe in a bin attached behind the driver’s seat.
‘But why didn’t you wake me?’
‘Because you looked cute in your sleep?’
It was meant to be a compliment but it sounded like a question.
She blushed vividly and smiled.
‘You’re welcome!’ Kaycee replied to her non-verbal expression.
She leaned forward towards him
‘Eerrm..Did I snore a lot?’
Her face became livid again, this time with embarrassment.
‘And you even picked your nose.’
She gasped and gave him a look of despair.
‘But you still looked very cute.’
She blinked rapidly suddenly flushed with mixed emotions.
Kaycee realized that he had judged her too quickly through the incident. Despite her good looks, she was bound to have certain flaws. After all, he too had his own snags – like farting several times in his sleep.
‘My name’s Kaycee.’ He said offering a handshake.
She took his hand gratefully.
‘I’m Tina’ She replied, a warm smile lighting up on her face, ‘and I’m very pleased to meet you.’