A Story About Nothing
One day, Priye woke up in his house. He had his bath, ate breakfast with his sister, and went to work.
But what sort of story would that be?
This is what really happened.
That Wednesday morning, Priye was feeling slightly disgruntled. For some reason, he was discontent with life in general.
No; he did not want to die. But he did want more.
He wanted more than a job where he had to spend hours and hours counting and staring at other people’s money. He wanted more than having to sit in a bus for hours; sweating like a defrosting Harp bottle and wiping his face with a handkerchief that rapidly got as soaked as the BYC t-shirt right next to his skin. He wanted more than having to inhale generator fumes night after night – and then having his doctor tell him lungs were just as black as that of cigarette smokers. Idiot doctor. It wasn’t his fault – after all he rode home every evening in an air-conditioned Toyota Evil Spirit.
Priye also wanted more than a girlfriend whose only job was reminding him that her biological clock was winding down; that he should do the honorable thing and marry her.
“Honorable thing,” he mumbled. “According to who?”
All that was going through his mind at after four in the morning. Before he had his bath.
By the time he walked out of his compound and towards the bus stop, he was mad enough to charge Aso Rock with his bare hands and spit in the president’s face – if he made it that far. And then, as he came out into the street and remembered there were no okadas to carry him to the bus stop – from where he planned to catch a BRT bus to work, he jumped up and stomped down in frustration.
“God!” he yelled. “Which kain life be dis sef?!”
Hearing no answer he continued to mumble underneath his breath; something about not paying his tithes that month, and started the long walk towards the main road out of his neighborhood.
Twenty-nine minutes later he was on the BRT line, sweating from the running-walk. He looked at his BB screen; 6:12am. Still have time; he surmised, staring at the various faces on the line. Some stared back woodenly, looking like mannequins in a boutique window. Others were chatting animatedly as though they were lined up outside a Tuface or D’Banj show or something, looking excited. Maybe they are living their dreams; he thought to himself. I can’t hate them for that.
He looked around for one of the ticket salesgirls and saw her standing with a fair lady who was obviously buying a bus ticket. The sales girl’s had her back to Priye, so instead he watched the lady doing the buying. She was slim, all arms and legs. But there was something about the way she wore the suit she was wearing that made her look like a fair version of Kelly Rowland. Priye did not like Beyoncé.
The arrival of a bus reminded him that he was yet to buy a ticket. Quickly he looked around, searching for the girl from before. His roving eyes met that of the fair ‘Kelly Rowland’ as she looked at him long and searchingly before slowly dragging her gaze away. Priye felt funny inside and started thinking about speaking to her.
Expecting the line to start moving, he was therefore taken aback when the freshly-arrived bus just drove past the queue and went to park somewhere behind the line. Priye joined his voice to that of other people raised in complaints.
“If you don’t like your job, quit.”
Priye was startled. The voice came from in front of him.
He blinked before realizing that the sales girl was standing a few meters to his left, facing him with a small smile hovering around full lips and trimmed eyebrows raised. He cleared his throat.
“Excuse me?” he asked her.
She nodded and said, “Ticket?”
Priye was confused. The voice wasn’t the same anymore.
In a daze, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. Fumbling, he picked up the first thing his fingers touched and handed it to her. It was his GT Bank ATM card.
Patiently and smiling all the time, she took the wallet from his unresisting fingers, took the ATM card he was still offering, put it back in the wallet and pulled out a five hundred naira note. Moving quickly, she handed him back his wallet, opened the small purse slung around her shoulders, pulled out a ticket and a wad of notes. She rapidly flipped through the wad and sorted out his change – handing him the notes and his ticket.
“Are you okay?” she asked as Priye collected and almost dropped his change. He nodded, slightly embarrassed. The girl looked at him for a bit, that small smile still hanging around her lips – lips full enough to lecture Lagos touts about the finer points of lip-locking – and she walked away, putting her feet down firmly like a man.
Priye found himself staring at her behind – a behind that was neither flat nor fat; but one that was there. It was not one to get your salivating if you liked them there; it wasn’t one to grab your attention, but it was one to hold it once it had it. A behind that was there.
“Excuse…excuse me,” Priye mumbled as though waking up from a trance and left the line abruptly. Apparently the girl had not heard him; she had stopped to sell tickets to another set of people. He tried again.
“Pssss – sorry. Hey! Ticket!” He yelled, drawing several stares from the other people standing on the queue. Priye continued walking, making a beeline towards the girl who had stopped and walking looking at him, arms akimbo. She was still smiling that small smile.
He slowed down as he got nearer, suddenly self-conscious. “Ehn,” he began, as though fishing for words. “Emm…I’d like your num…your number please,” he said, looking at the girl – her mouth to be exact.
The mouth widened slightly in a grin, exposing small neat white teeth.
“Oga banker,” the girl said, “what exactly do you want with me?” she asked Priye, cocking her head to one side.
At that moment Priye thought she was the sexiest thing he had ever seen. And just like that, that image; the image of Tiwa Savage he had in his mind – the image of her bending over that guy in the ‘Love Me’ video; the image he used as his bar for sexy – that image was gone forever.
Replaced by that of a BRT ticket salesgirl fully clothed, standing arms akimbo and smiling at him.
Na wa o.
He came back to the now. “I don’t want anything…not really…at least not yet,” he added hastily. “If you would just give me your number, I would be able to figure out what it is exactly I want – and then get back to you.”
The girl laughed and rolled her eyes. “Okay, na new format be dat one o,” she said, head still cocked to the left of her body. “Not too strong a line – but fresh. Haven’t heard it put like that before,” she finished.
She opened her hand in a silent gesture – and Priye, understanding hurriedly put his BlackBerry in her palm, watching as she rapidly typed in her number – and then handed the phone back to him. He collected the phone and stood there, staring stupidly at the number knowing he was supposed to ask a question but having no idea what it was.
“It’s Tinuke,” she finally said, teeth widened in a grin. “You can save it as Tinuke BRT – in case we’re more than one.”
Priye finally woke up from his daze. “Actually, you’re the first, so Tinuke will do for now.”
She smiled and waved as she walked away, still putting her feet down like a man.
Priye smiled all the way to work, all the way through the Marina traffic and all the way up the steps up the Union Building. He was even smiling when he submitted his resignation letter. He was smiling when he broke up with his I-want-to-marry girlfriend.
He smiles a lot now. Life is good.