It was a very sunny Saturday afternoon. I had just finished having brunch and decided to go do some shopping at Mandillas market. I boarded a bus from Sabo Yaba to Obalende. As I sat in the bus, all I could think of was how unfit the bus was, even for animal transportation. The seats were tattered and in ruins, exposing the metallic frames; the floor was a cake of thick dirt; the air in the bus reeked of exhaust fumes emanating from the rear of the bus. I sat in the front seat, close to the driver who had placed an extra make-shift seat beside his for an extra passenger.
Before he embarked on the journey, he had asked me to use the seat belt. The seat belt was detached at the tip. When I complained to the driver, he asked me to either wrap the strap around my body and hold the tip in place or alight from his bus. I chose the first option because I was in a hurry.
When we got to Obalende, I boarded a rickshaw heading to Mandillas market. I sat at the back of the rickshaw, between two other people – a man to my left and a lady to my right. This was where the best part of my afternoon began.
The man was an elderly man. He shouldn’t be more than sixty years old. He was more of fifty five years old. The lady to my right was young. She looked twenty five. When we got to the traffic light at CMS junction which just turned red, the man spotted another fellow he seemed to recognize walking on the pavement. He screamed the fellow’s name. The fellow turned around, saw the man and ran to our rickshaw.
“Good afternoon, sir,” the fellow greeted.
“Afternoon my dear. How are you?” the man responded.
“Fine sir. We didn’t see you at the club again sir.”
“Ah yes. I left after a while.”
“I hope we will see you again next week?”
“Alright sir. I must be on my way now sir.”
“Alright. Bye bye.”
The fellow departed just as the traffic light turned green. Not long after the fellow left, the lady to my right said, “What club were you guys talking about?”
When I heard that question, I assumed the lady was trying to strike a conversation. The atmosphere in the rickshaw had been quiet and dull before the meeting of the elderly man and the fellow at the CMS traffic light junction. It was only fair that someone livened up the atmosphere. The elderly man appeared not to have heard the lady’s question. He politely asked her to repeat her question.
“The guy you just talked to – what club were you guys talking about?” The lady repeated, a sound of seriousness in her voice.
I tried turning to her to see how serious she was, but I felt doing that would be awkward. So I sat still and tried looking at her with the corner of my eyes. Her face looked serious. She was serious about the question.
“Ikoyi Club,” the man answered.
“Will you take me there?” the lady asked, with that sound of seriousness still in her voice.
“Umm,” the elderly man stuttered, taken a little aback with the lady’s request. “Umm. The Ikoyi Club does not operate on Saturdays. They operate on Fridays.”
At this point, I felt like contributing to the discussion. After all, I was sitting in their middle and I was not a human communication conduit pipe. I had a mouth which functioned. I felt like asking the lady if she was aware she just asked a stranger whom she had just met for the first time that afternoon to take her to a club. But before I could speak, I heard the girl say, “Aww, that is so sad. I want to go to a club today but I don’t know which to go to. I am new here.”
“There are a lot of nice clubs on the Island,” the elderly man said. “Umm, there is Quilox…”
“Where is that?”
“Victoria Island, near the law school.”
“I don’t know it. Any other one? I heard there’s one called Four Points,” the lady said. “Where is that?”
On hearing this question, I inaudibly said to myself “Four Points? Four Points by Sheraton? A club? Odiegwu.”
Maybe there was a club at the Sheraton hotel that I did not know of. Maybe. So I put on my garment of ignorance and gave the lady the benefit of doubt.
The elderly man answered, “oh Four Points? That one is close to the first Lekki toll gate.”
“I don’t know where that is.”
“It is after Mobil,” the elderly man said, breaking the silence.
“Still don’t know where that is.”
“Umm. How do I describe it?” the elderly man said to himself.
As he was thinking of how to describe the place, the lady said, “Don’t worry. I will like to try that Ikoyi Club. When next are you going there? I will like to join you.”
Just like that?
At this point, I felt like screaming “are you frigging kidding me right now? Is the hustle that serious?
The guy riding the rickshaw turned back to catch a glimpse of the lady. It appeared he too was shocked at her hustle game. He kept alternating between focusing on his path and stealing glances at the lady. He kept turning his head.
“I am going there next week Friday,” the elderly man said.
“Let me have you number. I would like to call you to remind you I will be going with you to the club next week,” the lady said, passing her Samsung Galaxy phone to the elderly man to key in his number.
Are you serious?!!!!!! I said to myself in my head.
The elderly man collected the phone and inserted his number. Then he passed it back to the girl. I just sat quietly between them, pretending not to be aware of whatever was happening around me.
“How do I save your name?” the girl asked.
“Just save it as Greg Ikoyi Club.”
“Alright. I am calling you right away so you can have my number too.”
“Okay. Oh, your call just came in. How do I save your name?”
The elderly man brought out his phone. It was a Nokia torchlight phone.
I heard myself speaking inaudibly to myself “An Ikoyi club member using a torchlight phone? This babe has entered one chance.”
“Elizabeth what?” The elderly man asked.
“Just save it as Elizabeth Ajah or Elizabeth Lekki.”
At this point, I heard myself laughing out loud in my head. Elizabeth Ajah or Elizabeth Lekki? An Elizabeth who lived in Ajah or Lekki, yet who did not know where Lekki first tollgate was? I felt like saying to the lady, “my dear, you could not even lie to save your hustling game,” but before I could say that, I heard the elderly man say, “I love that name Elizabeth. It is beautiful just like you.”
The lady smiled. I could see her smile from the corner of my eye.
“I will stop here,” the man said to the rickshaw rider.
The rickshaw rider halted and the elderly man alighted. He paid his fare and that of the lady. I thought he had forgotten I was in the rickshaw with them and also deserved to have my fare paid too, but I remembered it was not I whose number was obtained. It was not I who would accompany the elderly man to Ikoyi Club next week. It was not I whose body and dignity would pay dearly for the fare.
“Thank you,” the lady said. The elderly man smiled and walked away.
As the rickshaw rider took myself and the lady to Mandillas, I could not stop thinking about the elderly man’s wife and children at home and what a reponsible husband and father they thought he was.