What can I say about buses? They are not exactly my favourite mode of transport but based on my history, it’s undoubtedly the most interesting and eventful.
I took the bus home this evening and as I was seated at the rear corner, I was hit with waves of memories. Memories of my many strange encounters on a bus. The soft drizzle of the afternoon rain acted as the right medium (it’s usually always music). I leaned my head against the window, my eyes unfocused on the things that drove past, allowing my mind to drift to 2005. I think its 2005.
I don’t feel good. I shift uneasily in my seat, a cold sweat breaks from my forehead.
“Mummy…I need to use the toilet” I whisper.
The look on mother’s face tells me my wish is not going to be granted, not anytime soon.
“Can you hold it?” My stomach answered by churning and making a 1000 somersaults.
“No” I moaned.
I look out the window, how I wish I was on the other side of this air tight bus. Where are we going again? Wrong question.
“How long till we get there?” I asked stiffly, my chest rising and falling.
“Not long okay? Just try okay? Remains like 30 mins. Kai what is this? Sorry” she tried to sooth me.
My present self winces at the memories that shortly followed. Damn you diarrhoea for scarring me with this memory.
Mum did not scold me for what happened. She felt for me and felt for the people on the bus who wanted nothing more than to be miles away from where I was seated. I truly tried, but I couldn’t hold it. As soon as we arrived I scrambled towards the bathroom and cleaned myself. Mum passed me new undies and trousers. I was so embarrassed…I still am. The only difference is i’m the one sharing the story now, not ma.
The bus drove past a bump, my unfocused eyes suddenly became focused on a young teenage boy and girl. I tried to make sense of the scene; it looked like he was trying to hit on her, trying to match her fast pace. She had a tight poker face on, it was either that or she was mad at him and not letting him have it.
My former deduction made me remember a particular incident on the bus. I paid less attention to my surroundings and more on the details of the memory I was trying to summer up.
It was a good day, I had just left the mall where Fatima and I had our lunch date. We ordered our usual; the firecracker meal at our favourite Japanese restaurant Wagamama. I’m yet to befriend one of the chefs; I’ve got to learn that golden recipe.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. I raise my head and found a not so tall, slim Pakistani guy looking back at me. The first and only thing that caught my attention was his leather jacket; it was very nice.
I unplugged the earphones from my ears to learn the reason behind his interruption.
“Hi, I’m sorry to disturb you but I’ve been trying to get your attention since.” Okaayyy…
“I had to come up and say it; you are very pretty ma sha Allah and you dress very well.”
Oh…I gave a timid smile “Thank you” I started to raise my earphones, excluding myself from future conversations, his next words were rushed.
“I’m sorry but where are you from?” He had more to say. Of course.
“Nigeria” I answered.
He gasped. “Isit? You don’t look Nigerian at all. I’ve got a lot of Nigerian friends. Ba wo ni?” He gave a huge grin. I couldn’t hide the shock/impressed look on my face. A little interest picked in.
“It’s unfortunate that my stop is near. I’ve got something important to do, if not I would have stayed back. I would really like to get to know you. You see…I’m struggling with my deen. Its very easy to loose yourself you know? I’ve made so many mistakes, but Allah is the most forgiving inni? I want to start afresh. Be a better muslim. I saw you and the way you’re covered up and still looking very nice (he shakes his head). I need someone like you. Can you help a brother out? Can I please get your number?”
“I’m sorry you can’t ” I said.
He gasped.”Oh my God even better!” I remember that statement catching me seriously off guard, I expected him to press on. “That’s right you shouldn’t give your number to me, but please please collect mine and just ring me. I don’t have what’s app on this phone, I’m about to get a new one that would. He started to call out his number… I’m Musa by the way. What’s your name?”
“Yes hasiya with an h. You know like Firaun’s Asiya?”
He gasped again. Why does he keep doing that?
“You mean Firaun…during prophet Musa’s time?” his eyes glistened.
I couldn’t hold my laugh. I bursted out laughing, the sound caused a few heads to turn. He joined in the laugher cause he knew I understood what he was saying.
“You see I’m Musa, you’re Hasiya. Come on. I’m telling you it’s a sign that we are meant to be, lets make it happen”
The bus pulled over and he slowly started to get off. “Please sister call me..don’t forget!” And the bus pulled away.
I could feel my present self start to smile, he was something. Of course I never called. The athan from my phone went off snapping me out of my reverie. I glanced up to note the people around and my eyes rested on another that was staring right back at me..a feeling of de ja vu settles and I’m instantly thrown into another memory.
It’s really dark and cold tonight, I check the time; a few minutes to 9. I heave a sigh and slum at the back seat of the bus. Lovely, there aren’t many people in the bus. I had just left uncle Yaks place, such a wonderful man, May Allah bless him.
I can feel someone watching me. I raise my head from the last text I just sent Modibbo, and meet the eyes of the young man that was making me feel uncomfortable. His brooding eyes, dark hair and piercing looks told me he was an Arab.
He stood rigid by the side of the door. Wait Is he staring into space or staring at me? I squint my eyes to get a more focused look on his eyes to detect life or lack thereof, then I saw his mouth twitch before curving into a little smile. I inhale sharply and felt the hairs on my body stand. He’s been watching…no studying me.
I swallow hard and avert my eyes quickly. I fumble with my phone and about ten seconds later, I look back up. Thank God, he wasn’t looking my way but he was talking to two older women that were wearing hijabs..one had to be his mum, the other an aunt maybe. He was what 21?
He looked up quickly and caught me watching. Thank God for melanin else I would have been flushed red. Why is he looking at me like that? It became a game then. A staring competition. Not long after I remembered the ayat. Astagfurlah. ‘Tell the believing men and women to lower their gaze’ (24:30-3). There’s so much power in eye contact.
He makes me uncomfortable, I felt completely stripped in his eyes. Such intensity I’ve never seen before. Ya Allah I can’t stay on this bus any longer, I sound crazy but I really can’t, not if he keeps looking at me that way. He’s not even hiding it, he wants me to know that he’s staring. He wants me to squirm in my seat. It doesn’t help that I’m directly facing him.
He raised his hands to cover his mouth. He was concealing something, a smug smile? He’s totally enjoying this. 4 more stops I told my self. The annoying part is whenever I look away, I found myself looking right back at him, an involuntary action. I could feel my heart beat everywhere…ears, chest. The air suddenly became warmer.
They were speaking Arabic and each time he gave a reply to something the women asked, his eyes remained fixed on me. That’s it. I press the red button to alert the driver I’m getting off at the next stop. I’m familiar with this environment, it’s no problem I’ld walk the rest of my journey home. I’ve been assaulted enough by his eyes.
Akhi what is it? As I picked up my bag, it dawned on me that I would have to move close and stand right in front of him. I looked at everything but at him as I slowly made my way down the narrow isle. As I got closer to him, I felt my inner self smile, I was right. He was Arab. The strong oud gave it away, I stopped right in front of him. It’s going to be very obvious if I take a last look at him; I’m short and would have to raise my head and eyes to meet his gaze, but I really wanted to see the last look on his face. I raised my eyes a little and wished I had not cause I saw something I hadn’t expected…sadness.
Who was this person? The driver stepped hard on the brakes and caused me to loose balance. He moved just in time and stopped me from falling, his reflexes sharp. The sudden contact caused my whole body to go cold. I mumbled a thank you and threw myself out, it wasn’t until I was out I realised I had been holding my breath.
I inhaled deeply, allowing the cold air to fill my lungs. I started forward not looking sideways or back. Few seconds later, the bus passed by and I caught his last look and watched his smile and the bus fade from sight.
Madness. That’s all that was, madness. It felt like a scene from a movie. I arrived home feeling intrigued, annoyed and soaked (all thanks to the bipolar london weather). Annoyed because I had to walk the rest of the 15 minutes back home simply because of a guy that had eyes that possessed vacuum like powers. He would have swallowed me back there.
I can’t tell you all the crazy things that has happened but I will recount the very last and most recent. It happened earlier this month In Nigeria, when I travelled to Abuja to attend a cousins wedding. We were on our way back to Lagos and as we arrived at the airport, finished checking in and all, every passenger including myself got onto the shuttle bus that would take you to the plane.
The bus pulled by the side of the plane and everyone started to descend from it. I was wearing an ankara dress; a flow-y one and as I was climbing down, this man that was much bigger than I was, mistakenly stepped on my dress at the very moment I stepped down…tearing the dress completely.
I felt the rip go straight up my thighs on both sides, my front and back. 3 of my fists could fit through each gap. It wasn’t funny. There were men there, I could feel the breeze in places I should not be feeling breeze. I wanted the ground to swallow me.
I was having a serious wardrobe crisis. I had to use the scarf I had draped around my body to cover the gashes, but because the scarf itself was transparent it did very little to cover me. I positioned my hand luggage to cover my front, Mum was my rear guard. I just thank God I had change of clothes because as soon as I got on the plane, I dashed for the back to undress. One of the air hostess had the curtains drawn for me at the back, understanding my situation.She waited on the other side standing guard till I was done. It was a crazy day..
Buses…the only thing I can say is that i’ve got an unusual tie with them.