Toronto – November 2015
Dolapo’s taxi sped along the streets of Toronto and she watched as the city passed by from her back seat window view. It was a cold November day and the sun had taken the day off. At six degrees, it was cold enough to be called chilly but not freezing.
She cupped her mouth, blew on her palms and rubbed them together for warmth. Cold as she was, the small shiver that ran through her had nothing to do with the weather. She tried to shake her anxiety as she mentally ran through practice questions for the Business Analyst position she was on her way downtown to interview for. This wasn’t her first rodeo and she had been in a similar role before she’d resigned and moved to Toronto a month ago.
Thoughts of having left her life back home made her question herself for what seemed like the hundredth time since her big move.
“I hope you know what the heck you’re doing Dee. Moving here was a big deal. Like it-affects-the-rest-of-my-life kinda big deal.”
Dolapo could see Dee, her Inner Self roll her eyes and recline indolently on a couch as she popped a crisp salty potato chip into her mouth. Dee looked both exasperated and amused at being asked the same question for the umpteenth time.
“Stop being so dramatic, Dolapo. It’s not such a big deal, it’s only a new life in a new country. How hard can it be, really?”
“Easy for you to say.” Dolapo mumbled under her breath.
The taxi driver caught her eye in the rear view mirror and asked in a thick accent.
“Did you say something madam?”
Dolapo having watched many a Bollywood movies surmised he was originally from India. “No, nothing. Thanks” She smiled. He returned her smile and turned his focus back to navigating the city. He certainly wasn’t a chatty one and she was grateful for that.
The taxi rolled to a stop at a red light and her mind wandered off to another taxi ride in Lagos some months back. Just before she abruptly made the decision to move…..
It was a typical afternoon in Lagos, the sun high in the sky and the blistering heat just at about thirty one degrees. The air conditioning in the taxi she was riding put up a halfhearted attempt at cooling the car but Dolapo soon gave up on it and rolled down the window to let in some breeze. Ugh. Big help, she’d sardonically thought as warm breeze and dust blew in, lightly caressing her face and settling on her glossed up lips. She really should have gone with the matte lipstick, she’d fleetingly thought.
As the taxi pulled to a stop at a red light, two teenage boys rushed towards them brandishing makeshift windshield wipers made of foam glued to a piece of rod and plastic bottles with punctured caps so they could spray soapy water from the bottle. They took positions on both sides of the taxi, preparing to wash the windshield. The taxi driver flicked a lever, making the wiper swish back and forth, a signal to the boys that their service was not required. Taking the hint, the boys lowered their tools and proceeded to the driver’s window.
“Oga abeg, anything for your boys?” One of the boys pleaded with the driver in pidgin English.
In context, the whole exchange was never about service. The boys were street beggars. They both wore brown shorts and rubber slippers. One wore an orange t-shirt with inscriptions on the front that were too faded to make out. The other boy wore a plain brown singlet.
“Oga, we never chop today o” the boy in the brown singlet added.
The driver ignored them.
“Oga, abeg now, find something for your boys. God go bless you” the boy in the orange shirt pleaded again.
The taxi driver said nothing still. He started the ignition as the light turned green and geared to move.
The boy in the brown singlet took offense at being ignored and his face took on an insolent sneer.
“Oga, you’re too selfish, ah!”.
The boy then smeared the windshield with his wiper, leaving behind a soapy mess before scuttling off with his companion. The taxi driver just shook his head and flicked the wiper lever to clear the mess as he drove away.
“Stupid boys.” He mumbled with a long suffering sigh of someone who’d had one too many of such encounters.
Indeed, it was such a typical day, reminiscent of the steady and regular rhythm of her life. But that was before her rhythm was broken and her life became an unfamiliar song that threatened to drown out her sanity.
“We’re here.” the taxi driver announced, jerking Dolapo out of her thoughts and snapping her back to reality. Dolapo smiled her thanks, slung her bag over her shoulder and stepped out of the car. The frigid November air hit her face, making her shiver despite the black coat she had on. She hurried into the tall reflective building that housed the consulting firm she was headed to for the interview.