I would have sworn that I never ever thought of handkerchiefs, how white some may appear in their packs, starched and folded for passerby. I chose to wear my favourite flat footwear that very hot afternoon, I forgot how my face looked just like every other day, walking care free with my mini side bag swinging along with the rhythm of my left hand. Every junction you stop at here in the East to board any form of vehicle has loud stares and silent women harbouring curses they wish to return at “agboro” men who threw them. I’m always shaken, nonetheless that very day the sun was with me.
I remember that very bus I had boarded. Aba never used to have it, it looks way smaller than the normal buses almost like a refined “keke napep” only that it had more seating. I would every now and then wipe my sweaty forehead with my handkerchief, tighten my face to avoid being questioned unnecessarily. It’s almost like the way we ladies get through to our various destinations. “Bia! nwa owu spray ka igbara n’ishi gia?” (come! this lady, is it spray that you had used on your head?), the nosy conductor who had been making jest of every passenger he had dropped off asked boldly. I was mute, looked out the window and shoved my black eyes into thin air. At that point, the breeze wiped the heat off my forehead, I counted the usual sign posts at heart with much details to their graphics and colours. The conductor continued with really demeaning talks, thinking I wasn’t a native speaker. He began mocking the average millennial lady and proceeded to how the colour I had dyed on my hair holds my sense of reasoning. Most of the men in the bus laughed, old women giggled, I was still mute.
After a brief silence, the conductor knocked hard with his thickened black knuckles at the side of the bus signalling the driver to halt for a pick up. “Do you have 500 naira change?” the salty looking passenger asked before hopping in. Hurriedly, the conductor let down one of the side seats in the bus for him to seat without any affirmative response. The young early-thirties-looking man managed to squeeze into the bone wrecking space of the four seater row. The conductor continued his condescending statements about passengers as the bus rocked and rolled. “Conductor biko nyem change m” (conductor please hand me my change), I had asked with a firm voice looking straight at his face. I was dropping off in less than a minute and I had let him know. He shockingly went on to rant about how girls of nowadays disguise to be what they are not, how an Igbo girl can deceive people into looking foreign, how Aba is empty of its natives as he squeezed the change into my sweaty palms. I was still mute.
“Kpo kpo!” my weak knuckles had signalled the driver to stop. He ignored and kept driving slowly to test my patience probably. Everyone in the bus began clamouring at the conductor who heard me say “K’opuo” (let me drop off) not long before knocking the poor bus for both the driver and conductor to let me out. The silence in the bus felt like a standing ovation, the men on my row made way politely for me to get through. The conductor switched his tone to saying sweet things to me that you wouldn’t believe he was the one raining curses on people a minute before then. I laughed in my head, I took my time to feel the rage of not understanding people, those who curse and praise you on the same note.
There was no lesson learnt from that bus. I only thanked God for my white handkerchief, it remained white even with all that heat. I smiled throughout the whole day.
Dyna Ekwueme Copyright, 2018.
Picture gotten from- Medium corporation