I’m just a human being who gets terrible motion sickness but despite that still loves travelling, that day I was supposed to leave Rivers state to Owerri and then back to Port-Harcourt city. Unfortunately, I left Rivers state late due to some loose ends I had forgotten to tie up the previous day, by the time I got to Owerri, it was already past 5pm, I almost didn’t go to PHC that day but I was determined so I rushed to the park. By then it was already 5.45pm and for some reason I was beginning to feel fear tugging at my heart. I had never started a journey that late.
At the park there were plenty agbero’s, and when they saw me they all rushed to my side buzzing like a swarm of bees, one tugged at my handbag while the other tried to grab my small box, somehow I managed to break free and head to the nearest Sienna car, the agbero in charge of the car told me it had just one seat left.
‘Perfect’, I replied, happily. I had forgotten the stories about all them ‘one chance’ vehicles, all I wanted to do was get into the vehicle and just be on my way.
The ‘one chance’ remaining was the front seat beside the driver, somebody was already sitting there so I was to sit in between them. Without a break in my stride, I assessed him, cute guy…really cute, then I assessed myself, I had been on the road all day, my hair was ruffled, no stitch of make up on my face and to my dismay, there was a faint musky smell of perspiration coming from my body and then my face fell. As I approached, he came down from the car to make space for me to get in.
‘Good evening’, I said sweetly, as soon as he joined me.
‘Gu…good ev-evening’, he replied.
He was really cute, dark, full bodied and bespectacled, I wasn’t into bespectacled dudes but he was really cute so I didn’t mind. He had a goatee-so full and stroke worthy, his stutter was also cute and endearing, reminding me of a very Dear friend.
On the plus side, his perfume was strong enough to obscure the smell of perspiration I was so sure I had brought in. On a hunch, I decided to take a look at the other passengers and my heart skipped a beat, behind us were two rows of seat, each sitting three people, so there were five guys and just one girl behind plus I and the cute guy beside me.
The guys looked like faces from all those kidnapper stories we always hear, rough looking and each sporting a goatee, the girl looked like what my warped imagination always pictured their female accomplices to look like-she wore a bright yellow jacket and a pink camisole, her sunshades were tucked into the upper band of the camisole and when our eyes met there had been something menacing about her eyes or maybe it was all in my head. My eyes darted from one person to another trying to accommodate the dark interior of the car then back to the hottie behind me and then it clicked-‘I don really enter one chance’.
I was still trying to decide whether to get down from the car when the driver got in and shut the door, he was just normal but he looked different from the ideal image of a driver, he was fair, wore an impeccably starched white shirt and I glimpsed a white chieftaincy bead on his right wrist. Just before he drove off, an agbero came to his side, ‘Eze-elect anything for your boy?’ he wheezed in his cigarette cracked voice.
‘I will see you later’, the driver replied with a patronizing smile and then our journey began.
I have never been this scared in my life, it was 6.10pm when our journey started. The Owerri-PHC road was really bad, even during the day it wasn’t safe, just the thought of passing through it by this time of the day especially with the scary looking passengers filled me with dread.
A few minutes after we moved, the cute guy answered a call, a seemingly neutral call but I eavesdropped, trying to read meanings into his every reply and was very relieved to deduce that it was just a conversation between guys agreeing to hang out with friends that night.
From behind, another phone rang and I turned to look at the person, he looked unkempt with bloodshot eyes, his shirt was faded and as he picked the call, his voice was guttural and unpleasant, he spoke a strange kind of Igbo and the only words I could make out were bags and something about dealing with the person. Just as that call ended, his phone rang again and this time he spoke Hausa, my eavesdropping abilities were of no use here because all I could hear was something about ‘inyarinya and zo’, after his call I became paranoid and hyper vigilant, he had mentioned ‘inyarinya- young girl’ and ‘zo-come’ more than twice, for all I knew they could have been talking about me, maybe he was telling them he was bringing a girl…
I prayed almost throughout the journey, after I had prayed my normal pre-journey prayers and much more, I felt a need to pray more so I turned to a prayer I had learnt a long time ago. I was told it was for a lot of things but one could say it when in trouble, ‘Jesus I love you, all I have is thine, yours I am yours I want to be, do with me whatever you will’ and for the entire journey, I prayed it over and over again.
The paranoia was so intense that I sat slightly inclined forward because I had imagined that the lady who was sitting behind me suddenly covered my face with a chloroform soaked rag or something and I passed out, the imagination was so vivid that I decided to sit inclined away from her.
Each time I looked at the driver, I got the creepies- he was too put together to be a real commercial driver, the fear intensified with each second that passed till my internal organs decided to mutiny against me, my heart moved to my mouth while my stomach occupied the space it left, with every jolt or every road bump, my heart threatened to jump out of my mouth, soon I began to feel the stirrings of what I call ‘traveler’s diarrhea’ , now not only was I praying for safety, I was also praying against stomach upset slash diarrhea and also trying to hold the nausea that came with my motion sickness at bay-the palavar tie gele knack Louboutin for leg.
Then we got to one place-Umu apu, the road was so bad that we had to use a bush path. From the countless stories I have heard, robbers plague that area like kilode and as if to worsen the situation, a passenger called out to the driver that he wanted to ease himself.
In the middle of nowhere? By that time?
I waited for the driver to protest but without a word, he stopped the car and the guy came out. As each second passed, my nerves were drawn so taut that I could feel them almost snapping, the man was spending so much time…maybe he had decided to masturbate in addition to urinating…or maybe that was just a ploy for his co-criminals to jump out of the bush and…?
Sharp sharp I switched from the first prayer to Psalm 23, by the time he got back, I had said psalm 23 so many times that I could almost say it backwards. The Umu-apu road was so dark and scary that I kept picturing people jumping out of the bush.
I said to myself, ‘if we drove past this area without any issue then it was safe to release all the breath I had held back’, my only consolation was that for every three poles we passed, there was a police check point but could that really keep the marauders away…in Naija?
The journey continued and by the time we got to Omagwa, two of the scary guys alighted then we continued, my fear decreased but when the driver suggested that we go through a short cut in order to avoid the traffic ahead all my fear came rushing back, the road he was suggesting was pitch black, there were no street lights illuminating the way, but the road we were on was lit by illuminated bill boards and some road side shops.
‘No oh…No’, I yelled. ‘Let’s follow this road please’.
We continued and true to his words, the traffic was terrible but I was glad that we were on that road.
The rest of the journey was disappointingly uneventful, and as I got to my destination, I wondered if the journey was even worth all the Paranoia, in the first place.