The cars were slower today. The wind felt thicker. A haggard woman rambled by the road side. A destitute child dawdled past picking dirt as she walked. The gold merchants: all Hausa, the other traders and the men constantly clawing at, grabbing, pushing, sweet-talking and nagging, hoping you would follow them into their stalls were even rarer by this time. But you could still feel their shadows. It was weekend, towards night in the weekend. As if that matters.
A man with a cat on his shoulders walked towards me, a rope locked around its neck and clipped to his belt amongst other loose clothing, garbage jewelry and flashy metals that did not rhyme with the shiny jargon of his unkempt hair, the metallic waste of his skin nor with the dust and smear permanently rubbed in like on a mechanic after a tedious job with engine oil.
The cat sat still on his shoulders. Its penetrating fluid eyes stared vacantly, as if to cement the obvious state of permanent insanity, total loss of balance, infernal damnation. Animal lost in space... I wondered whether the cat too was mad. If even cats and the lesser creatures could be mad? If they weren't all already in one permanent untouchable state of madness? But no one uttered a word. Instead we avoided contact of any kind, while throwing the curious spiting gaze.
A beggar resting on his crutches with the stump that once housed the missing limb. He motioned for some change 'Allah would bless you.' He said and I escaped to the left.
It was two bus stops away from the hospital when I stopped for a few items. The woman trader I finally settled for shouted at me 'Trouble maker!' She yelled simply because I asked for a bigger polythene bag. When the Keke, – Commercial Tricycle stopped me at Airport Road. A woman came rushing at me stumping her finely covered feet, her skirt rising helplessly with the imploring motions of her hands 'Please brother! Help me! My Atm card!... Ojuelegba! Oh my dear child! My son! God will bless you!'
She was a Lagosian in dread of the night. She was stranded. It could be anyone. I could have helped, but I hurried off to the other side of the road as others shifted. Again, she could be any of those all over the cities who played this stranded game for a living; Grown up men and women scattered by the road sides, hunting with misty eyes_ sharing excuses. I too have borne this label before: Fraud! Mental! Goal-Less! Fraud! When I was misplaced somewhere in Portharcourt before my 16th birthday.
A beggar here. Another beggar there and I passed them all today. They sprawled and took their various twisted forms in the crowd, lifting bowls up to those who cared to give, to robbers and nuisance. I stood in the queue for the next Keke. No one wanted the front seat as usual so I got my chance rather easily. When night comes people would be willing to sit on the car roof even if those inside were struggling not to slip out.
The Keke stopped short of the usual last bus stop and everyone got down not willing to argue. I was glad to hold on to my last 50 naira change from the 2500 naira I set out with this morning. Glad Guilty. Guilty Glad.