My buttocks now stung as the dusty yellow bus wobbled solemnly down the distasteful road that led to the city of Afikpo from Enugu.
My feet were sore as I was uncomfortably positioned between two hefty women that pressed upon me. I couldn’t twist my neck; neither could I adjust my position. During chosen intervals, I did lift a foot and swung the other beneath my seat while stretching the other out front, in these moments my sanity returned and the piercing discomfort I felt momentarily disappeared. I wished the journey to end, the state of the roads in Nigeria isn’t a tale one should tell to another between meals unless you wanted him to choke.
My head also banged from the drinking spree we had the previous night. My friends had gathered to celebrate my unexpected promotion at the firm. The promotion to me, didn’t come unexpected, I had seen it in the director’s eyes, could pick it out from his voice, I sensed it in the several numbers of times he asked for the files under my jurisdiction. I knew promotion was inevitable, I had worked so hard for it.
The yellow bus bumped me again into the woman sitting on my left. I cursed under my breath.
“Drive jiri nwayo, drive cautiously”, said the smallish old lady that sat with the driver at the front.
The driver didn’t seem to have an open ear, he took a sharp swerve to the right into an ancient highway with a thousand potholes, deep enough to swallow a five-year old. Our heads crashed into each other and we all called out in unison.
But the driver’s head was lost in the winds. The road turned out a little fairer with a majority of the potholes at the right side of the road, so the driver stuck to the left and since there weren’t much vehicles on the road, we all felt at ease with it (we all that cared to take notice). The driver accelerated and the engines seemed to roar alongside the winds that slapped our ears. A part of me loved this new move, I wanted to get to Afikpo as quickly as I could, at least to rest my tired bones.
Soon we arrived at a bend, but the left side of the road still prided in dangerous potholes, so the driver stuck to the left. He accelerated, the engines cried, the winds roared. Then we saw it (only few of us actually) in a hasty second: the white minibus, from the left. We did hear tyres screech, our heads knocked our neighbours’ in rapid succession. Then we heard the bash, loud and clear and the sprinkling of very many glasses. I thought it was over already as I braced for the full impact, but the crazy driver was skilled nevertheless, with a few frantic swerves and a consistent throbbing on the brakes, our yellow bus relaxed – on all fours.
We stepped out in shock and thanksgiving. The men amongst us headed to the white minibus, cursing the driver angrily. I went with them too and staring into the white minibus I saw about twelve small school children, still clad in their uniforms.
My brain paused, my head grew light.
And the question came.
“What if he buses collided and the small children (and us as well) died upon the impact.
The realization froze me and I couldn’t hear anything anymore. The chatter of praise to God, criticisms to the driver and calls to loved ones slowly began to die in my ears. I headed back to my seat and began to wonder.
“What would happen if no one feared to die?”
I know I did have great fear for death, being about thirty-five, I believed I would be expected to live longer, dining in wealth and health.
When I was younger, my life was punctuated with crazy dreams and wild imaginations. I was daring, bold and adventurous, I wanted to do a great number of things that did bother my parents. I wanted to go live in the mountains (the sacred one perhaps) as an explorer.
I did enjoy countering the superstitious beliefs of my people back at home. Gods didn’t exist and native doctors were just old lean and frail men that couldn’t summon a mosquito, not to mention a thunder striking god.
I would drink water from the sacred bowls in grandfather’s hut and smash them on the ground. I never feared ghosts, neither do I believed that they exist, I would raid tombs and live in cemeteries to prove this point.
I would swim in the dark stream that separated my village from the other one. My mother had always told me that the stream was never to be swam in for it took over the souls of people and that sometimes, mamiwota drowned children.
I would roll down the rocky Oja hills with my back flat on the ground without a care about bashing my skull on a rock and spilling my brains and blood.
As an adult, I would have done much worse if I had no fear for death.
I would go straight to my governor’s office and spit right at the doorstep, calling him a liar that the devil would be an apprentice to, for deceiving the old women and the old men to vote him into office with prevaricating promises to get all their children back to school for free and giving their graduates government jobs.
I would slap any solider that dared to unlawfully raise hands against a civilian for no concrete reason, I would address them as “saboteurs of democracy”.
I would write heavy truths about the current corrupt practices of the government in power, publishing the names of the politicians that stole money, how much they stole and the foreign banks that these monies were hidden.
I would take as much alcohol as I wanted and never had to fear about a failed liver or any other crazy illness.
The awful screams from other passengers shook me awake from my fantasy. I discovered that we had moved quite far from the scene of our evaded accident area and were very close to the Utu flyover.
Then I saw it, the repugnant sight when the heavy woman by right pointed whilst shrieking loudly.
The long brown bus bent down towards the ditch but quite held from fully falling over by the flyover rails, entirely in ruins. The screams woke me up more, I saw them now, clearer than ever. A huge crowd was forming as the passengers started leaving the bus to see the fatal sight, I left the bus too.
I saw them, a mass of badly bruised bodies and open skulls, gushing intestines from stomachs and the smell of fresh blood. I saw the torn clothes of the corpses and the bloody flesh that hung in bits of the wrecked bus.
I felt my heart cease, the blood rushing to my head and my stomach surging to vomit.
My head grew lighter and I groped my way back into the bus, frantically I began to search through my bag for my HTN medications.
“They said the corpses were coming back from a burial with that bus”, I heard someone say.
“Oh, Jesus!”, another replied.
My eyes shot upon and I had another heart attack.
Mbam Chukwuemeka can be reached through email@example.com