I met her on a bus going out of Yaba. She looked a bit sad coming in but my mom’s advice stopped me from asking what was wrong.
“Don’t talk to strangers,” she used to tell me. Despite the fact that I was 21 and no longer a little child in danger of being kidnapped, I still held highly prized the memory of her dragging me to her side in the market and hushing me.
One hour passed. Then two. Silence reigned between us, unbroken only by the man with a tall stack of N100 books. She bought one and I bought none because I thought she’d paid N1000. Then when she opened her book, when her fingers began to caress the aged spine and the brown paper, my lips loosened and I asked my first question of her tremulously.
“Good morning. How much did you buy that book?”
“Really? I didn’t buy because I thought you paid N1000”
She laughed and the musical sound of someone much used to laughing came forth.
“He’s always sold his books for N100. I should know. I’ve been his customer for at least 7 years.”
Then she turned to go but for some reason, I suddenly became desperate to continue the conversation.
“I just wish there was one more person in this bus with us.”
“Are you in a hurry?”
“Yes. I have a modeling shoot by 11:30 and I hate being late.”
“Well, I know for a fact that people hardly go to Berger this time of day. Your best bet would be to get two buses. One going to either Ketu or Ikeja and you’ll get a bus going to Berger from there.”
“Can you show me, please?”
“You’re not familiar with Lagos?”
“No. No I’m not. This is my second visit here. I’m based in Abuja. And what about you, are you not in a hurry?”
“No. I’m actually not.”
“Oh. Can you show me the way, regardless?”
“Sure. I should probably leave with you too.”
The bus driver saw both of us leaving and questioned us.
“We no fit wait. We don wait almost 1 hour 30 minutes, nobody else don come.”
He nodded his head and we left.
I was reminded that we were in a market by the people thrusting their wares in my face and the boys grabbing at my arm, my shoulder, my hands. I also noticed that most of them never touched her. Just me. She noticed this as well and extended a hand to me. I took the hand and I was reminded of my mother holding me close to herself and leading me through the market.
Several people stopped to talk to her but she kept walking. She answered all of them politely with “Nos” and “thank-yous” and I was in awe at her politeness.
We had to run across the road to get a bus going to Ikeja and this time when she dropped my hand, I extended my hand for hers.
At the other side of the road, I noticed she was sliding her hand out of mine and I dropped it. Once we entered the bus, I realized that the bottle of soda I bought had made me short of N100 of the transport fare. She asked me what was wrong. I told her.
While I was frantically looking for an ATM nearby, her hand resting on my arm paused my search.
“I got you. Don’t worry. I’ll pay your fare.”
And so she did. And then, the painful silence of benefactor and unlikely recipient set in. I thought perhaps she was angry at the additional expense and regretting her decision already. And I resolved to reimburse her at the earliest opportunity.
On the way to Ikeja, it started raining – a torrential downpour that caused people to hurriedly close their windows. The bus quickly became stuffy and the unpleasant body odor of the person seated in front of me permeated the entire bus.
I closed my nose, cursing myself for not packing my scented handkerchief when she opened her red fan and handed it to me.
I did pay her back, short about N50 for the trip. But I always remember the girl with the red fan at Christmas time. She was the perfect illustration of Jesus’ teachings to me.
Author Bio: My name is Obianuju Ayalogu. Nickname: OBJ. Administrator of Tendrils, (website address: http://insearchofperfecthair.wordpress.com), trained legal practitioner, amateur pest, mischievous human being, God lover, aspiring entrepreneur, generally happy person. Nice to meet you.
Would you like to feature your Christmas-themed short story or poem on this blog? Kindly send a mail, attaching your short story to haroldwrites.official @ gmail.com . Each day of December, I shall publish a Christmas-themed short-story. You can write on any genre.