By the time I was old enough to be shipped off to University, I had heard the phrases, ‘Don’t follow bad friends’, ‘Remember the son of whom you are’ and ‘Make us proud’ in so many variants that the entire concept played like a broken record on loop in the back of my mind.
So, yes like every African child, I was raised right and definitely never set out to be a fagbo-fagbo, but life was chuckling in the corner of the room with the playbook of my entire existence. This is why my first spiritual experience with the Mary Jane is not one I will ever forget in a hurry.
The year is 2012, just a few days before the Easter break. I had my bags packed and ready to go, only to realise I was a couple hundred nairas short of having breakfast, which to me was a non-negotiable religious obligation. So I did the only logical thing any first year Nigerian student would do; call up a friend who probably had free food to epp.
My friend Yinka is not the most literal person in the world. He was a sleepy-eyed kid I had been in the same class with for nearly a semester but barely ever saw in class except for important CA tests, he sometimes even took initiative not to attend. Yet by some miracle he’d get higher test scores than I could ever dream of even on the courses where I had both complete notes and 101% attendance.
He constantly reeked of a choking cologne with a thick wooden musk, always had cooked food stocked in a blackened pot somewhere in his locker and for some reason always carried extra Tom-Tom sweets to spare. Naturally the Sherlock Holmes in me should have pieced the puzzle together, but as a naive post-secondary school boy who still thought getting good grades and joining bad gang were not mutually exclusive events, I never figured him for a smoker, talk more of a full blown stoner, but boy was I wrong.
Yinka was not in his room that morning when I went to look for him. My calls to his number returned with ‘busy’ prompts so I left him a text saying I was in his room looking for food. Deji, his roommate who opened the door for me was a mutual friend to us both so we bantered briefly about girls and football until a short phone conversation turned his face blank and he excused himself to go out, leaving me alone in their room. I sat impatiently for a few minutes while casually scanning the room for any signs my friend had already cooked that morning. After a few minutes of more waiting and hearing my empty stomach sing in notes even Beyoncé would never hit, I took the liberty to search Yinka’s open locker for food, knowing he probably wouldn’t mind.
A pot of boiled porridge beans with chopped ripe plantain sat in the lowest drawer and I didn’t think twice before reaching for a plate and spoon to dig in. I helped myself to a second serving, then a third one, slowly gorging myself to a comfortable fill until I felt the satisfaction in the depth of my soul. Still, Yinka was not back. I waited for a couple more minutes before texting him about the food I just ate and the reason for the locker invasion. I exited the room and headed to the bus park to embark on the journey where God revealed himself to me.
The first inkling I had that things were changing in my body began with a series of time lapses just as we pulled into the inter-state road. Spaces in between seconds felt like small eternities and for some reason my eyelids went full Chinese, refusing to stay fully open.
The wind blowing at my face as we sped through the freeway felt like weightless punches and suddenly I noticed the music playing in my headphones had more detailed notes, vocals and instruments.
A breath of fear that I may be losing my mind creeped into my head, but I still had lucidity enough to dismiss it. Only admitting to myself that though the feeling was unfamiliar, it didn’t mean my brain was melting even though that was the only way to describe how the rest of my body felt (this by the way, was after considering the possibility that I may be unlocking super powers I didn’t know I had before).
But I thy no.
Soon I found myself softly chuckling for no reason to the amusement of other passengers in the bus. But all was well and good until my phone started ringing. The caller ID said ‘Yinka My Guy’ and it sent shrills of confusion and panic through me.
I had been confident Yinka would be cool with me having some his food (okay, a lot of it) without his express permission earlier, but now I was riddled with the paranoia that I may have angered my friend by nearly emptying his pot of beans. Such unimaginable greed. My God.
Amidst this fear that I may have disgraced my family, I let the first call ring out. Only my phone soon began vibrating again. This second call had barely hit the third ring when I noticed something beyond shocking; my legs had vanished from under the bus row seats.
Instinctively, I let out a death scream. The driver pulled the 14-seater bus off the road to an abrupt stop at the edge of the thick forest groves. I had full attention of my fellow travelers now.
“Wetin happen?” The bus driver yelled back with bloodshot wide-eyes.
“My legs are gone” I replied with trembling lips.
“Ehn?” The man seated next to me who had been sleeping for most of the journey asked with a bemused glare at my face.
“My legs” I repeated, trying to find composure. ” I had them when I entered the bus, now I can’t see them again. Please help me?”
“Ah-an? Are you mad?” The bus driver responded sarcastically amidst chattering by other passengers who looked just as confused as I was that my long skinny legs had vanished.
“Oya, no waste our time make we dey go, this one don craze” I hear someone say.
“Let me come down, I’m going back to the park to find my legs”. I was struggling with my teary eyes and the brewing panic within me that my legs may be gone forever.
“Oga driver dey go, na only God sabi wetin this one don shack” I hear another voice say, noting the approval of other passengers as they nodded in agreement.
I couldn’t believe the passengers were not seeing the logic of my problem. My legs were missing for fuck sake!
Where’s is the fucking empathy? I sat there for a brief moment with semi-clarity until the bright idea to simply ask to ease my bladder popped in my head. The bus driver stared at me knowingly in the eye for a quarter of a minute before coming around to pull the sliding passenger door open for me to wiggle my way out of the bus.
Once I hit the ground, I walked a short distance towards the low forest shrubbery listening to other cars wheezing by on the express and waiting for the bus driver door-slam as he returned to his seat.
This by the way, was the second phase of my ingenious plan to find my legs by crossing to the other side of the road and hitchhiking back to park where I saw them last. Only I catch the driver standing still and staring at me with the same knowing gaze in his eye. He was focused on me with a lazer-gaze like he could see right through me. I suddenly felt naked in his eyes and like the same instinctive urge I felt to scream, suddenly I was bolting along the express, in the opposite direction, back to the park where my legs disappeared.
The words “Catch him, catch him” barely registered at the back of my mind. The next I feel are rough hands grabbing me from underneath. My legs are back again. I’m laughing and crying at the same time as I look at them again. My legs. My beautiful legs. They’re the last thing I see as before I fall head first, blacking out from a hard tackle to the ground by what vaguely looked like a mob.
I find myself awake on the bench of a busy bus park with my head rested on my luggage. A throaty laugh from a distance echoes through the boisterous late afternoon ambien. I sit upright to vaguely recognize the bus driver from earlier sitting at a distance in the midst of his fellow drivers, they’re pointing at me and laughing. My phone gives off a short vibration in my pocket, it’s Yinka.
The text reads: “Yoo, you just ate my pot of beans and really high grade weed. You owe me bastard. LOL.”
Toye lives in Lagos and when he’s not sleeping, he spends most of his free time investigating multinational corporate conspiracies.
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