Journey Diary


I always went by bus whenever I wanted to travel to Minna from Kaduna. I’m not an often traveling guy. I travel for at least once a month. Because I’m used to the trend of having this nauseating feeling whenever I drank before the travel – I used to have this phobia of the unseen. It was because the roads were blessed with potholes and other dips.

I sat in between a woman with a baby and a man whose eyes had sunk into their sockets. The woman had this strong scent of cologne worn on her that it turned repulsive.

We had to wait for about 50 minutes before the driver started the engine. Some people in the bus said he’d gone to clear his eyes from alcohol. I prepared to take my permanent position in the tight vehicle – drivers always wanted to make the highest gain possible, stacking people in fours per row and adding an extra row to the statutory three.

Thus the engine started as if it’d been kick-started. Our bodies began to vibrate even before the car started to move. All of a sudden, the driver was out of the car, saying he wanted to urinate.

Then we heard the explosion; inside the cage of the car, we heard the vibration of the rickety metal parts of the car and it was like the clinking of a billion glass cups on cheers. It shook us so badly the
baby beside me began to cry. The woman beside me began to pat her baby to stop crying and seeing it was futile, she stuck the baby’s mouth into her nipple and closed its head inside her blue blouse.

There’d been so many bomb blasts, I must add, by dumb arses who tag themselves as Boko Haram. The driver hopped into the bus and sing to tell us that everything was in order, as if we needed him to know if things were alright. The driver set off.

Soldiers had begun to set up roadblocks and our driver had to follow a different route, which I was unaware of. No one in the bus was thoughtful because they were all heading to Bida. I’m not a good at noticing routes but places strike a mark of recollection in me when I come across them. So the trick I used whenever I wanted to get to Minna without stopping at the Abdulsalam Garage and taking two different taxis – one at the busy Mobil Park and the other to my final destination, Gidan Kwano – had been ruined. The driver was heading to Bida by another route. Traffic jams emerged on the road, and heat too.

The driver began to beat the others with con, swinging us from one side to the other. There was always one woman who complained about the driver’s carelessness. The driver ignored her as if he had his ears plugged with earphones. Later the driver answered her, that was after he’d gotten the car from the jam and he could freely speed: ‘Madam you want stay for that holdup for Five hours?’

It didn’t take long before the driver stopped the car. The sun was at its peak and the heat was unbearable. ‘The fan belt done cut,’ he said. He said it’d cut for a long time and he wanted to drive close to an inhabited place before he could stop. He stopped a man on a bike and they went off. We began to leak out from the car gradually. Some women went into the bush nearby so they could empty their bladders. I saw the woman beside me help her baby excrete and washed her baby buttocks with a sachet of pure water she took from her handbag. We sat on the edge of the road against the cars that sped fast. Sometimes we stood up when it was a big vehicle like a trailer. The man beside me in the bus was beside me now on the road. He struck up a conversation easily.

I stopped a hawker and purchased a hot can of Coke – Adamu refused my offer of one for him. I drank it slowly, allowing myself to enjoy the sweet breeze under the sun. The driver returned with a mechanic who fixed a new fan belt. The journey continued. The driver sped faster than before, perhaps to compensate for the lost time. By night, getting to Minna, I threw up the Coke in my belly.

N Okwudili

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