Lagos on a Sunday morning was what I suspected other cities, sleepier metropolises, would be on a bustling day. There wasn’t the usual crush of pedestrians plying the sidewalks, and the roads weren’t encumbered with motorists impatient to get to their destinations and yet unable to make good on their haste. There were not a lot of passengers waiting at the bus stops, and as such, the minimal number of commercial buses in the traffic hurtled down the roads, only pausing for very brief stops.
The bus conveying me soon got to Oshodi, and the passengers alighted, some of them staying put when the conductor began yodeling, “Cele-Ilasa-Mile Toooo! Cele-Ilasa-Mile Toooo!”
I was headed for Mile Two, but I had had enough of the rickety heap the driver, himself as aged as his vehicle, was powering. In spite of the day, Oshodi was quite astir with activity, unwilling to succumb to the unhurriedness of Sunday, like a young mother reluctant to let go of her only child on his first play-date. The area didn’t have its characteristic horde of people and traffic, but there was still enough chaos and the day was warm enough to make me wish I was spending the day back home, in the comfort of my bedroom.
I soon located and got into another bus, a newer-looking vehicle with a younger man behind the wheel. Both driver and conductor were puffy-eyed, coarse-voiced and in good spirits, as though still riding the high from a very good last night.
Where are you now? Jaja pinged me the moment I got settled inside the bus.
Me: At Oshodi. Just entered Mile Two bus.
Jaja: Good. Remember, when you get to Mile Two, you look for Abule-Ado bus, and drop at the Abule-Ado junction.
Me: Abule-Ado? I thought you said you stay in Satellite Town.
Jaja: They’re all in the same area, on different sides of Badagry expressway.
I contemplated his message, staring at my phone and trying to decide if the tiny flutter I’d just felt in my chest cavity was the budding feeling of unease or the reminiscent flicker of desire. Before my mind could gain purchase of it however, the flutter was gone, and I was adjusting on my seat so another passenger could sit.
I’d been listening to music from my phone on the drive from Ojuelegba to Oshodi. So I re-plugged my ear with the earpiece, revisited my playlist and settled an uninterested stare on the view beyond the window that soon began to speed past us as the driver engaged his gear and began the drive to Mile Two.
Despite the frequent stops we made along the way, because of the light traffic on the road, it was about ten minutes later when the conductor began shouting, “Mile Two, come down! Orile! Orile!”
I stepped down to the side of the road. The temperature had gotten warmer, and I snapped on my sunglasses against the nascent glare of the sun, before hurrying away from the highway, where we’d been offloaded, to the service lane where there was a number of buses idling and a clamour of destinations.
It wasn’t very long before I found the vehicle I wanted. The bus was half-filled, and immediately after I slid in, the passengers started a din of complaints.
“Driver, go nau! Shebi you go still see passenger for road…!”
“I dey go church o, I don late sef…!”
“Abeg, carry us comot hia, driver…!”
Buckling under the racket, the driver signaled his conductor back into the bus, and we were soon on our way. Beyond Festac (where Adebola lives), I was unfamiliar with this part of Lagos; I hadn’t even been to Satellite Town before. I leaned toward the passenger next to me, a young man nattily dressed in a suit and holding a bible and fabric-bound iPad.
“Excuse me, please…”
He turned to me.
“Um, I’m going to Abule-Ado” – I faltered over the pronunciation, not sure if I got it right – “and I’m wondering if –”
“Oh, Abule-Ado,” he interrupted. (I got it wrong) “I’m passing there. Don’t worry, let me tell the conductor.” He arched his head at the bulky, shabbily-clad man who was already collecting his fare, and fired off a short flurry of Yoruba, “Conductor, won fe sokale ni Abule-Ado.” He gestured at me.
The conductor looked at him, looked at me, and growled his acquiescence.
That matter taken care of, I turned back to my phone, and typed a message to Jaja: We just left Mile Two, now heading to your side.
Five seconds later, he replied: You entered Abule-Ado bus, right?
Me: Yes. By the way, what’s your number?
Me: You don’t expect me to rely on pinging you when I get to the junction, do you? What if the data network there is not favourable?
Jaja: Ok. And he pinged his number to me.
I copied the digits to my call list and dialed the number briefly. The connection must have been made before I cut the call, because he pinged me: Lol, you dey flash me ni?
Me: Puhleeze! I don’t flash. I’m too big for that.
He replied with a laugh emoji.
A few minutes later, after a quick word of thanks to the bible-and-iPad-toting fellow passenger, I disembarked at the hardscrabble environment that was Abule-Ado junction. The potholes gaped on the tarred roads, and the waysides were majorly ruts of drying mud. I gingerly stepped under the shade of a tree, before calling Jaja.
“How far, are you there yet?” The voice was smooth, slightly uncultured, and sounded like the speaker had more practice speaking pidgin than English.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to meet this guy.
“Yes, I’m here,” I said crisply.
“Oh, good, good. Oya, shey bike dey there?” he said, lapsing into vernacular. “Enter one, tell am make him carry you go –”
“Wait a minute, I’m not coming to your house straightaway, I hope you know that,” I cut in, my tone starched with my mounting irritation.
He paused a beat before saying, “Of course, it’s not my house you’re coming to.”
“Yes, because we agreed to meet at a fast-food first.” I dabbed at the perspiration dewing my forehead. When had it gotten so hot?
“Ehn, yes now, I know.”
“So, why are you telling me to enter a bike to God knows where?”
“So you can come to the fast-food that is close to where I am.”
I swept a look around, taking in the bustle of the junction. There had to be eateries right here; why did I have to journey any further to another? I was starting to get disgruntled. A bead of sweat rolled down my spine, and the back of my clothes began to dampen with the perspiration on my back.
“Are you there?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” I snapped, not meaning to. “Nawa o, this is not what I bargained for. All this waka…”
“Sorry, baby, no vex, you hear,” he cajoled. “It’s just one bike ride, finish. I’ll be at the junction where the okada man will drop you, waiting for you.”
“You better,” I growled. “Oya tell me how to get there.”
He rattled off the directions, which I relayed to the bike-man I gestured to me. The fare was quickly settled, and I climbed on behind him. As he vroomed off, that flutter fanned out inside my chest again, this time with enough strength to cause my heartbeat to pick up a faster tattoo. Before I could dwell on the feeling, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I maneuvered it out and glanced at the screen. It was Eddie calling.
“Hello, Dee,” he began immediately I picked the call, “are you –”
“Eddie, please, can I call you back?” I shouted into the phone through the roar of the wind whipping past my face. “I’m on a bike now. I’ll call you back soon.” Then I disconnected the call.
Two minutes later, the motorcycle’s engine started giving off a spluttering noise that caused the bike-man to pull up to the roadside. He muttered a cussword in Yoruba as the two of us alighted from his vehicle.
“Oga, e be like say my fuel don finish o.”
I arched an imperious brow at him. “Don’t tell me you expect me to wait for you to go and buy fuel.”
“No, no, no be so. That junction wey you dey go sef, we don almost reach am. Na dia e dey.” He pointed down the road. “That place wey mallam shop dey…”
I squinted into the distance. The ramshackle shed he was pointing at was a reasonable walking distance. The trek would give me time to call back and chat with Eddie, before meeting Jaja. So I paid the bike-man, and started forward.
“Babe, where you dey go that you were on a bike?” Eddie began the moment he answered my call. “Don’t tell me you’re not at home! Just don’t tell me that.”
My mind clicked. “Oh no, Eddie,” I groaned. “We were supposed to see at my place this morning.”
“Unbelievable!” he burst out crossly. “So you forgot. I’ve already finished dressing sef. Wherever you are, better trot your ass back to your house.”
Eddie returned from Abuja yesterday evening, and we’d scheduled to hang out at my place so I could catch him up on all the gist concerning Operation ‘Fuck Doctor Ebiowei Up’.
“Oh Ed darling –”
“You only whip out the darling when you know you’ve really messed up.”
“Yes, I have,” I admitted with a chuckle. “I’m nowhere near my house at the moment.”
“You went to see kporo, didn’t you?”
I laughed. “I went to see a human being, Edidiong. And his name is Jaja.”
“Whatever. He’s a new catch?”
“Where did you guys get acquainted from?”
“And you’re going to see him at his place? Are you frigging kidding me, Declan!”
“No o, not at his place.” That flutter was starting to gain some velocity in my chest cavity. “Just at a fast-food –”
“And how far or near is this fast-food from his place?” he fired, like a drill sergeant.
“To be honest, I’m not sure –”
“Look at this guy o,” he cut in exasperatedly. “How can you be this foolish and be my friend at the same time?”
That stung, but before I could react to his censure, he said, “Do you at least have his picture?”
“Yes,” I said woodenly. I’d stopped walking, and stood there on the untarred road, silently vacillating between indignation at Eddie and chagrin at myself.
“Well, send it to me on BBM, now-now,” he instructed.
“Stay on the line.” I navigated away from the call screen to my Blackberry Messenger. Moments later, I’d messengered Jaja’s photo to Eddie. I watched the chat screen until the ‘R’ sign was highlighted against the file, indicating that he’d seen the photo.
Three seconds later, he gasped into my ear. “Declan, you need to turn around now and get the fuck out of there!”
“Why? What’s the problem?”
“Are you asking me this silly question while in the lair of this dragon?” he snapped.
In spite of myself, I chuckled. “I haven’t even got to our meeting point.” My heart was beating faster now. “Tell me, what’s the deal with him?”
“Remember that blogpost I told you guys I’m working on, that exposé on kito wearers in Lagos, which I introduced on my site when I asked my gay readers to send me their stories and experiences, and pictures of their assaulters, if they had any…”
A chill descended on my heart, and the hold I had on my phone turned clammy with sweat. “Jaja is one of them, the kito guys?”
“He is,” Eddie replied. “In fact, he is one of the ring leaders in the environs of Satellite Town and –”
“Abule-Ado,” I finished in a flat tone.
There was a pause before Eddie said, “You are in Abule-Ado, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I husked. “Yes, I am.”
“Have you gotten to wherever your meeting point is?”
“No. But I can see him.” I’d been looking ahead of me while speaking to Eddie, and had seen, standing at the junction, waiting, the guy I recognized from his photos to be Jaja. He was tall, slimly built, with sinewy arms he was proudly showing off in the wife-beater he was wearing. His hair was an unruly mass of artfully-uncombed coiffure which had become a signature bad-boy look, and beneath it, his face was just as pleasant looking as it was in his pictures.
He had spotted me too, and was gesturing me toward him.
“Get away from there right now, Declan,” Eddie warned through the phone.
“Yes, right away,” I said, and then clicked off.
Then I stood there and glared at the distant figure. He was still waving me forward. A bike-man was speeding toward me. I lifted my hand to wave him to a stop, while dialing Jaja’s number. The bike-man pulled up beside me as Jaja answered my call.
“Ah-ah, baby, what’s up?” He sounded puzzled. “I’m the one waving at you now –”
“Go to hell, Jaja,” I hissed.
“You heard me. Go to hell. That’s the place fit for people like you.” I disconnected, climbed on the bike and asked to be taken to the main road junction.
During the ride, the tremors came over me. I began to shake as the realization of the enormity of how close I’d come to getting violated surged through my mind. I simply could not believe it. Goosebumps raced over my skin, and the hands I lifted to clasp around me were icy.
Count your blessings, Declan. And sometime during the count, buy Eddie a drink.
I clicked open my BBM to chew Jaja out some more. However, I didn’t find him on my active chats. A quick search of my friend list didn’t produce him either. He’d vanished from my phone, deleted his vile self from my contact list. The bastard!
I was both angry and relieved by the time I was dropped at the main road junction. I desperately wanted to get away from here, maybe have another bath when I get home, and wash off this entire near-kito experience like last night’s bad breath.
I was so consumed by my furious thoughts that I didn’t hear him calling my name.
A horn tooted.
I remained standing by the road, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could dart across the road to the other side.
An engine growled loudly as a car pulled up beside me with an abruptness that startled me out of my preoccupation. In an instant, as I jumped away from the car and caught a glimpse of the masculine face behind the wheel, I suffered the panicked thought that Jaja had come after me.
Then I recognized the face, and my heart began to beat fast with a different rhythm – the onrush of forgotten passions. I gaped at him as he grinned at me from inside the car. He hadn’t changed; it wasn’t as though so much time had passed since I last saw him. The Mohawk, the high cheekbones, the pouty lips, the allure in his gaze – he was still ever so handsome.
“Hello, Declan,” he murmured. “Long time no see.”
“Hello, Bryson,” I greeted back. “Long time indeed.”
Written by Pink Panther