It was my first day on the job. At dawn, I was excited to begin a new phase and at dusk, I was ready to quit. It was tasking, and unbearable. Apart from driving all day and facing Lagos traffic, I had to put up with a lot of ill-mannered passengers. Quite frankly, it is sad that people lack basic courtesy. It was tragic to say the least. ‘Man must chop’ so I put up with every bullshit thrown my way.
I was on an ongoing trip from Ikoyi to Lekki which was to be my last of the night. I had picked up two young ladies from Banana Island to drop them at Sao Café. Unlike my other passengers, they weren’t unruly but I wouldn’t say they were quiet. Occasionally, they giggled at each other and I would peek at them through the rear-view mirror. Both girls were very beautiful and thick, wearing crop tops and high waist jeans but the lady with the short hair and glasses stole my attention. She was leagues above me, obviously I had no chance.
After thirty minutes of struggle on the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge, I got to Sao Café and dropped them off. I watched them go into the building admiring their behinds.
“Damn,” I whispered under my breath.
My phone beeped and I was dragged back to reality. My displeasure was written boldly on my face because I had forgotten to put off the app and there was another request. A few seconds of contemplating and I accepted because the pickup location wasn’t far off. I drove off in silence thinking about those girls.
“Damn!” I whispered again. “Why I no go make am?”
I arrived at the pickup location to find the passenger already waiting for me in front of his house. That was a good sign for me: no delay. He greeted me once he entered my car and I greeted back. I took permission from him before starting the trip and he gave me his go ahead. The way he was dressed, he didn’t look like he was going clubbing. He wore a black V-neck shirt, black jeans and a pair of Nike® slippers. I couldn’t tell his age from his appearance but he couldn’t have been more than 30 years. A tall guy he was, approximately 6 foot 5 inches, light skinned with a patchy beard.
“Where to?” I asked, noticing he hadn’t stated his destination in the app.
“V.I,” He replied, with a baritone voice that sent a chill down my spine.
The first two minutes were quiet which was broken by him asking how my day had been. I was going to lie but no one had cared to ask me, so I told him the truth about it being my first day and how stressful it was, after which I noticed a smile at the corner of his lips.
“Nothing comes easy,” He said after. “Even yahoo boys slave all night before they can find their mugu.”
I burst out laughing. I liked him already! He was absolutely right because I could relate. All those nights I spent slaving, I was unfortunate because I didn’t find anyone to scam. I was one of the unlucky ones among my friends. It’s my failure that forced me into the cab job.
“Harsh truth,” I replied.
A moment after, I asked, “What do you do?”
His face had been looking out the window like he was seeing the world for the very first time.
“I’m a writer,” He replied, shyly.
He mentioned his works, nothing I had heard, but he talked about it with so much passion and enthusiasm. There was this sudden urge within me to read his books. He made mention that none of his books had been published physically and that was because of his lack of faith in himself. That was a shock to me because he sounded the exact opposite; he sounded like a man with all the confidence in the world. He was waiting for the right time, he said. He wasn’t looking for the money but the fame, the acknowledgement. He wanted to be among the top rated, best of the best, he said, but he truly felt he was miles away from achieving his dream which was getting TV deals for his books.
“Like game of thrones?” I asked.
“What are your plans? I asked.
“I…I,” He paused. “I don’t know. I genuinely don’t have one. I haven’t thought that far yet. I will cross the bridge when I get there.”
I was bemused. He indeed was a strange fellow.
We approached traffic just before the toll gate which angered me. Luck definitely wasn’t on my side, I could tell. At least, my meter would read and the longer we spent in traffic, the more money I made.
“This is all I believe I have,” He resumed. “There’s literally nothing else I am good at and if I can’t get this right, I am nothing.”
His baritone voice made those sentences a lot scarier. There was a whiff of fear and uncertainty from him, his fists were slightly clenched and the vibes I got off him were unusual, unexplainable.
I was unsure of what to do next, but my dumbass self wouldn’t shut up.
“That doesn’t mean it will be the end of the road for you,” I advised. “Look at me now, not that I have it great, but I have something.”
He was still quiet.
“I dropped out of school due to negligence,” I ashamedly blurted out.
I thought that would get his attention and reveal his face but it didn’t work. I continued either way.
“In my third year in school, I met some young bubbling boys who I envied. I later learned they were G boys and they taught me their trade. From time to time, we made small money, barely anything sustainable in the long run but it drove me to skip classes regularly. Long story short, nothing clicked and I am here now. What I am trying to say is the only roadblock in life is death.”
My hands were cold; I had never told anyone that story before. Suddenly, I was nervous and couldn’t even look at him as I waited for his response. He said nothing afterwards and continued staring out the window.
“Thank you,” He responded a few minutes after. “Who you see right now in your cab is an incomplete man, one filled with doubt, shame and pent up rage, living in an unending loop.”
“A loop?” I asked curiously.
That peaked my interest.
“A cycle,” He replied. “Again and again and again and again.”
Bemused I was again. Duh, I know what a loop is.
“I just need to always see her,” He continued. “I can’t move on.”
He exhaled heavily and returned to being silent. ‘I just need to always see her.’ Is that where we are going to now? I thought to myself. I stole a quick glance at him and at the side mirror in front of him but I still couldn’t see his face. WHO ARE YOU?
The road after the toll gate was free and we were in V.I in no time.
“Where in V.I?” I asked him, politely.
“Did I say V.I initially?” He asked. “I am sorry. I meant to say Ikoyi: Ikoyi road.”
I smiled awkwardly and drove to Ikoyi. Weird guy, I thought.
I looked at him with the corner of my eye. He was a really strange fellow and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the problem was. Was it his deafening silence, his calm but scary baritone voice or his relaxed but conflicted personality? I wasn’t sure but I wanted to get more out of him.
“You said you can’t move on,” I began. “What did you mean?”
“I need to see her every night and make sure she’s alright,” He explained.
He nodded. He talked about how beautiful and glorious she was, how he loved her from heaven to earth and that even death couldn’t separate them. It was creepy and disturbing. I had never been in love so I couldn’t relate but he didn’t stop there. He narrated how they met, how his life changed once they met and all the good things she had done for him. It was quite touching but ‘gay’ at the same time because I didn’t peg him to be the moist type. I shrugged my shoulders. Closest I had been to falling in love was with Chioma. I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘closest to falling in love’ but she was the typical ride or die chick and that was thoroughly pleasing. After taking her for granted for too long, she left when she couldn’t take anymore. I allowed a satisfying grin adore my face as I reminisced.
When we arrived on Ikoyi road, I asked,
“Where are we going?”
“Just keep going,” He replied. “I’ll let you know.”
Fuck you. I was disgruntled. My annoyance doubled when he became authoritative.
“Stop here,” He ordered me.
My blood boiled but my feelings switched up when I looked up. I was alarmed and beyond scared because it was a cemetery.
“Is she… dead?” My voice trembled.
Finally, I got a chance to see his face as he faced me with a beaming smile; He was beautiful. His face was just perfect. The jawline, flawless skin, the mystery in his eyes; I was intrigued.
“Thank you,” He said joyously. “This has been my best trip yet.”
He got out of my car and walked towards the cemetery where I saw him vanish into thin air.