Short Story: IN THE CITY by Foluwaso Adebobuyi

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You see them in the morning.

Lately, you have been watching and listening, actively, collating the fleeting encounters in your head. Conjuring history from facial expressions, aggregating wordless interactions and moods into snapshots, pictures of lives in motion.

You have always noticed and wondered, the frustration barely concealed, the anger, the restrained fury. You have seen eruptions too many times, outbursts emanating from otherwise minor infractions. You have wondered if it is whitlow of the mind, requiring only a little touch to let loose the pain.

Every morning, on this short commute, the catalogue is growing in your head. Sometimes funny, often sad, but always interesting. You watch and ponder, this vagary of lives in motion.

There is the woman, dressed like she is going to bed, body parts concealed in a seductive manner. You imagine her in the privacy of her room, ready for nocturnal activities. She is herding five kids to school. The youngest is wailing, snot dripping, hair unkept. You are really not sure he is the youngest. They all look alike, scrawny, like they are fed intermittently, just enough to keep them alive. She is dragging and pushing, a slap here, a knock there, erratic shouts to keep this procession moving.

You wonder about the kid’s performance in school. It appears school is somewhere they have to go, not for any specific objective, but because they are expected to, in the natural order of things.

You see the yellow bus, broken down, passengers spilled out. They have surrounded the bus driver, or is it the conductor, you really cannot tell. Controlled chaos, they are agitated, demanding for their money in a way that betrays limited supply of cash.

You wonder how this small crowd fitted into the bus, maybe some passersby decided to join in, now that the scramble for a refund has turned into a shouting match. You wonder how the driver is able to identify genuine passengers in the event that your postulation is playing out. Some are visibly sad, perhaps tired of it all, others are angry, justifiably so. The next bus-stop is at least a few kilometers away.

There is the woman by the junction, her entire make-shift kitchen precariously balanced on planks, right there on the open drain. It is a thriving business, as far as you can tell. Her client base is mixed, students, artisans, commercial motorcyclists and those of the indeterminable category.

The food must be cheap, that is your only explanation, seeing that her customers do not care about the filthiness, especially the ever present non-paying customers, the flies. You have once seen an unruly student topple the bowl of fried fish and you have watched in shock as she deftly picked each piece of fish, blowing and brushing, with a rag that is as dirty as the floor. Nobody seems to notice nor mind.

There is the jogger. In your head, you have labelled him the ‘air boxer’. That is what he does, he jogs and simultaneously throw punches at an imaginary foe. You have wondered about his ambition. Is he training for a competition? You have ruled this out, he is all bones and muscles. Unless there is a category below feather-weight, you cannot imagine him in any competition.

You have concluded he does this to convince himself he is doing something, he must hold on to this hope, however futile, that something will come out of this motion without movement. You see him often, but you have closed his page in your head, there is nothing more to add.

There is your favorite, the plantain hawker. She is pretty, in that earthy, unadorned manner. The artful way she balances the tray on her head, filled with ripe and sometimes unripe plantain, her arms swinging to the imaginary beat of a marching band, up, down, up, down.

Her sonorous voice rings out from deep within her flat belly, sounding like it has an inbuilt amplifier. She chants her sales pitch, like the opening notes of a love song, the same verse, over and over – e’ro ge’de, e din do-do!

Maybe it’s her voice, or her gait, every time you see or hear her, you think of Ilorin, a city in western Nigeria. You wonder if she is married, if she has kids. You wonder what she believes in. Does she set goals? Does she have a growth plan for her business? You wonder if she operates a budget. How does she pay her rent? Does she send money back home? In the catalogue in your head, home is close to Ilorin, maybe Eyenkorin or Bode Saadu.

There is the group by the newspaper stand, as you join the main road leading to your destination. You have their common phrases in your catalogue now – We beat you silly last night. Our coach is the best. Wait until we buy this or that person. You wonder about this investment of time and energy. This escape, because in your mind it is an escape, they own by inference, they claim by association, they rejoice and argue, analyze and postulate on something that brings no tangible value to them.

This city, that you never thought you could live in, is a beacon of hope, an illusion preserved in tireless optimism. You have wondered about the life-span of hope. The frustration is real, the anger tangible. You feel it every morning, hovering over the landscape, ready to descend unexpectedly.

You see them in the morning, propelled by hope.

Hope like a mirage, an unspoken expectation, an inner conviction, that this may be the day that changes everything.

About Foluwaso Adebobuyi: Booklover| Book Club Member | Godlover| Leader|

Twitter:@afoluwaso

 

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