Thursday, September 16, 2021

CHRONICLES OF A LAGOS COMMUTER 5 – The unforgettable experience…

The energies of Lagos life- creative, malevolent, ambiguous- converge at the bus stops
Teju Cole
A LAGOS COMMUTER

When my alarm beeped at 4:30 am, I groaned, immediately snoozed for an extra 30 mins of shut-eye. Going to work on Saturdays has always been such a thorn in my hide because I would much rather prefer to be at the beach or at home curled up with a new book. But alas, I am all lucked out.

When it was 5:20 and I couldn’t snooze again or as a Lagos commuter, I was bound to get stuck in Lagos traffic and thereby, get to the office late. I groggily stood up performed my morning rituals. I had come all to way to the island to spend some time with my best friend since we hardly had time to see each other often anymore –that is what life and responsibilities would do to any friendship. In the process of getting ready, I had gotten upset over a little altercation that would become infinitesimal and inconsequential in the coming minutes.

I got to the bus stop waiting for a bus going my route; the sky was still quite dark out with only a light shade of bluish hue overcast, chasing the nightcrawlers back into their corners like bats shying away from the approach of daylight.

As I stood waiting, my eye caught on a movement of people across the road. They seemed to be in a dispute but I couldn’t see them clearly in the dim lights of passing cars, they were but dark moving shapes. All of a sudden, a figure stepped forward away from them and edged sluggishly towards the main road, like a deer towards a headlight. The on-coming car swerved and missed him as did other cars coming behind it. I stared perplexed at what was happening, then from my peripheral vision, I saw the other figures gesturing and saying something to him but I couldn’t pick up on the words from across the road – later when I could think it through, I was inclined to believe they were urging him on into something sinister–

The young man; I could see him a little better as the day had begun brightening, shuffled forward once more, and began walking forward despite the coming cars. I could see his chest heaving as he was unclad to the waist, I wondered what could be wrong because it was evident, he was sobbing. The people who had been communicating with him suddenly withdrew into the shadows. He managed to safely cross to the middle of the road and my heart calmed a bit that he was ok, he only had to cross one more lane, so I looked away to see if a bus was coming that I could board –unbeknown to me, my heart calmed too soon.

The scene that ensued was something I never want to experience ever again. As my head swiveled back to check if he had crossed, I watched paralyzed in horror as he stepped dejectedly onto the road and a small compact bus; popularly called “korope” in Lagos, slammed hard into him, throwing him up a little and smacking him hard against the tarred road. I screamed in fear and clutched myself in trepidation. The “korope” seeing what he had done, immediately fled the scene. I watched his legs spasm as I forgot back tears from my eyes and tried to stop the shakes going through my body.

I began to clamor to the people around to help him that he was still breathing but before anyone could move forward to help him, a huge truck charging at high speed, climbed right on him, crushing him and extinguishing the last breath in him, and instantly zoomed off. I could have sworn I heard the crunch of his brain and bones as the fore and hind tires crushed them.

I expelled strings of profanities while also calling unto God in the same sentence which I am sure would have made Him wince, as I wrapped my arms tighter around myself watching his head bashed in, blood seeping out into the stones on the road and his body unmoving less than 20 feet from me. Before long people began gathering and some tried dragging the battered body off the road to avoid other cars crushing it further. I immediately found a bus and hurriedly got in with my heart thumping rapidly, as the scene kept playing in my head and I was reliving it mentally like a disc on repeat. All thoughts of me being upset with my best friend gone from my head.

I thought about the thoughts that could have been running through his mind in those final moments. I thought about the sobs that shook his body as he hunched forward.  I thought about the reluctance in his body language; did it signify that he was forced to do it by the people on the other side –who suddenly disappeared into thin air immediately he was hit. I thought about his family; if he had any. I thought about life after death; was that the end of him? Or would his soul be in limbo? Would he cease to exist in the universe or become one with it? Was he going into the place of fire and brimstone? Or the place with pearly white gates?

Despite all these thoughts, there was one lingering thought; this was going to haunt me for weeks to come.

The Lagos Commuter

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