You were sitting at the back seat of a bus headed for Orile from Yaba, the tiny ear buds blaring Karashika by Falz d bad guy into your ears from your phone and the bus seemed to swerve in rhythm with the song. Because the city is Lagos, you do not allow yourself to get immersed in the music because that would be stupid folly. You nod to the music and watch the road, the driver and your fellow passengers, especially the passengers so that you don’t cry over your phone or money at the end of the trip.
Just before Barracks bus stop, your senses tingle. They are the same senses that living in Lagos all your life have honed to perfection, how to see people going about their normal activities and still know that danger looms, how to interpret the sounds of silence and how to identify tear gas from a mile away and most importantly, how not to run at the shouts of thief… Even if you are the thief.
The stillness of the air, the scattered clusters of people who were all focused at a particular point in the middle of the bridge. Thoughts raced in your head, an accident? KAI officers arresting a hawker or police officers arresting anyone they like. You looked up and followed their gaze and you saw him, the earbuds seemed to fall from your ears.
He seemed tall, he was also dark-skinned- the colour of dark chocolate. He seemed fit but not hard muscled and he was also as naked as the day he was born. He stood at the culvert with his hands covering his groin as his eyes scanned the crowd like a child looking for its mother. His hair was cut low, his skin glowed with health and you knew he was not your regular Lagos lunatic, it was his eyes that haunted you, the confusion in them struck your heart like fresh whips.
The ragged sounds that fill your ear now are not the hip-hop beats of Karashika but the rhythm of your own breathing as you struggle not to cry. The young woman beside you begins to tell his story and the wetness on your cheek as she speaks tells you that you have lost that battle for control.
His story is familiar, it is of polygamy and jealousy. Just like countless of Nollywood films you have seen and the folktales you learnt at your mother’s feet and from the many African stories collections that your father had bought for you. His mother is dead now, killed by the agony of watching a son go through temporary insanity again and again. You see, he would strip himself of every garment, walk for great distances without a stitch and suddenly- like Adam; realise that he was naked.
The man on your left had grunted at each point of the telling of the story, you know his type- the alpha male who had an opinion on everything and his point of view was the only one that was relevant. Unfortunately he is familiar, he is that uncle who knows more about your life’s journey than you do, that brother that thinks you less because you have two X chromosomes and a vagina. The father that wouldn’t send you to university because you are female.
He tells you both how the boy’s condition was a result of allowing women inherit property and your jaw fell open. He continues by telling you how in “Igboland” where women do not inherit anything, a situation like the young man’s would not occur. It is because Yorubas allow women inherit land that the women would resort to diabolical means to get their brothers’ birthright. You want to tell him that the Supreme Court has allowed Igbo women inherit their father’s lands and houses. That he probably didn’t have a bicycle tyre to leave for his children and so shouldn’t speak about inheritance. But you keep quiet and cringe because if you spoke to him, you would burst into tears and he would think he had subdued you by the force of his incomprehensible logic.
He ranted about women for the remainder of the trip, until the lady on your right came down and until you came down too, he probably ranted until he got home. As you walk home, you are thinking of two tragedies, the first being a result of forces no one can understand and the other, the failure of a man and his tribe to think of women as human beings.