Most of the conversations in this piece were originally said in Igbo language. The words written here are not the exact words of the speakers.
I walked briskly, not minding the large bag I bore, nor the large stones that littered Okezie Street. I raised my head, peering ahead to see if any tricycle rider had resumed work for the day. The haze of the morning and my short-sightedness made this task a difficult one. As I made my way down the street, I saw a tricycle, with its rider standing by its side.
“Park, Park, Park” the tricycle rider called out to me. I raised my hand, indicating I was going that way.
I sat in front, alongside the rider of the tricycle. Three female passengers had already taken the back seats. As he started the engine, I quickly put on the radio in my phone and tuned to 104.1 (Love fm Umuahia), to listen to Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s message. I didn’t listen for long as the conversation going on in the tricycle would not let me. The conversation got heated by the second.
“Oga, I will alight at Mosque junction” a woman said from the back seat.
Turning slightly to look at her, the tricycle rider said “I am not taking that route this morning”.
“Please, pull over so I can get down and enter another going that direction”
“Hope you know you are going to pay me?”
“What will I be paying you for?” she asked. The stress she placed on the word ‘you’ did not go unnoticed.
“Does this look like free transport to you?” the tricycle rider asked in a raised voice.
“Are you not the one who just told me you are not going my way?” the woman asked. The loudness of her voice matched the tricycle rider’s raised voice. “Let me go down, please. What is your problem this man?”
“Oh, you want to know my problem?” he chuckled. “When you were about entering, why didn’t you tell me you would alight at Mosque junction, so I would tell you if I was taking that route or not. You simply entered, and now talking rubbish about going down without paying me. This early morning, you want to wish me ill luck.”
“What if I just entered, eh? Now I have told you, what stops you from taking that route? Moreover, I told you before we went far.”
“I do not go through that route. Woman, pay me my money and go down peacefully”
“I will do no such thing. If you want peace, you had better let me go down now”
“Suit yourself” he said in a tone of finality. “Getting out of this tricycle without paying me is possible only if you will jump out as its moving”
“Stop this and let me go off. Don’t let me show you something in this Aba oh! It seems you have not seen trouble before”
“Hehehehehehe” he laughed loudly. “I guess I am a small child who has not seen trouble before. Stupid woman”
“You are the stupid one” she said. Their words turned vile after this; words not worthy of repetition. Cursing soon followed suit. The woman doing more of the cursing. The audacity in her voice gave me goose bumps. I was sure the other passengers must have felt it too. We all remained silent, unable to intervene in the feud.
The tricycle rider soon got to the junction that really defined the different routes. “Here’s your money. Let me go down” the woman said, as she stretched a fifty naira note to the tricycle rider. “When I get down, look at my face very well. Also, remember to mark today’s date, because you will live to remember me and this day.”
We had barely moved few blocks after she got down when the tricycle rider sighted a police van approaching from the other direction. I do not know what his reasons were, but he instantly tried to reverse, and the unexpected happened. He lost control and the tricycle fell on its right side. We were all on the floor unable to move with the tricycle covering us. We remained in same position until help came our way. When I stood up, I took a look at both hands that now had minor bruises on them, especially my right hand that had felt the impact of the fall. My trouser was also torn by the side and though I had not checked, I knew I had a bruise on my right knee too.
“That woman must be a witch. There was something strange about her” one of the ladies who had occupied the back seat said.
“Yes oh. Witch. Black angel. See how she has ruined my dress” the other responded as she straightened her torn dress. “See now, trouble this man could have avoided”
The police officers by this time had approached the scene. They allowed the tricycle rider to say he was sorry before they led him to their van, while one of them started the engine of the tricycle.
I really do not know how it all played out eventually. Still, I had this feeling that the scenes that would follow would forever be perched in the memory of the tricycle rider. There was something strange about that woman that made me feel that way.
I chose to walk the rest of the journey to the Park. Milverton Park. A bus was waiting there for me. A bus heading to Lagos.