I was tired, really tired. I wasn’t surprised since it was five am. I’d managed almost three hours sleep but knew that I was still going to pay for it later in the day. As it was I had no choice but to get up and get ready for work. With a groan I dragged myself out of bed and entered the bathroom.
My reflection showed an alert, impeccably made up facade. I was thankful for this since it indicated that the make-up course (and pricey fees!) had NOT been in vain. Bringing out that amount of money a few months earlier had proved challenging, but today (unlike some other days) it was worthwhile. I also managed to down a cup of tea before my mad dash out of the house. Thankfully it wasn’t raining and I prayed that the clouds would hold their peace and let me arrive at work nice and dry. The night guard was sitting at his usual spot and we exchanged our customary morning pleasantries as I walked briskly to the bus-stop.
I didn’t see the usual suspects (the two smartly dressed women that waited for their staff bus and the dressed down back-pack carrying chap that was picked up by the betting booth) that had become familiar faces at that time. I checked my wristwatch only to discover that I was slightly behind schedule, thus the usual comfort I derived from them was denied me. I didn’t even know their names but the fact that we met regularly at the same spot (every work day) for the past three weeks made the early hours bearable and less lonesome.
Without further delay, I jumped into the next bus that was going my way. Immediately I sat down I knew something was grossly amiss. All the passengers were men and the instance I got in another two followed, the conductor trailed behind and shut the door. I wasn’t given breathing space before my head was viciously grabbed from behind and held in a vice made of a very muscular forearm. Whilst I was still processing this, I also felt something digging into my side and my handbag was roughly dragged off my shoulder. From a distance I heard someone whispering, ‘don’t shout because nobody can hear or help you.’
I had trouble breathing and became light headed. I tried swallowing at intervals and was breathing fast through my nose. Fear was threatening to overwhelm me as I knew I was trapped in a dreaded ‘one chance’ bus. ‘Is this the only money you have, a big girl like you only has five thousand naira in her bag?!’ the disgruntled question was spat at me. Unable to answer and finding it increasingly difficult to breathe I tried not to panic. With my teeth I clamped down on the arm holding my head. I was only able to do this because the hold was now somewhat loose, but I was still unable to get out of it.
The string of curses that flowed was promptly followed by a stunning blow to the back of my head. The blow left me reeling but able to breathe freely. Greedily I gulped air into my lungs and painfully rotated my neck. Sobbing loudly I pleaded for my life. ‘Please, don’t kill me. That’s all the money I have. Abeg oga, I take God beg you. Please don’t kill me.’ I found myself repeating over and over again. ‘My friend will you shut up!’ the statement was followed by a prodding in my side with the object I now knew to be a firearm.
It took me a while to realise that the bus was stationary and the man behind had stopped cursing. ‘Na God save you, yeye girl! Take your bag and get out!’ My bag was thrust into my arms and I was practically shoved out. The man on the edge caught my arm and quietly advised, ‘make sure you don’t enter another danfo, we have four buses operating in the area so make you shine your eye well, well!’ thrusting me aside, the bus screeched off. My ordeal was over as abruptly as it had started…