People on a bus

People on a Bus

What does it mean?

To be a mother of 6 unwholesome children?

To sit with arms spread wide on a pointy chair that crawls into your wrapper to your ass?

To have a piece of fishbone stuck to the tail of your wrapper?

How does it feel?

To have lumpy flesh with porous dark skin?

To wrap a scarf as high as a skyscraper over your greying hair?

To hold silver and gold hoops between your ear lobes?

What does it mean?

To hold the phone against your good ear?

To wave your hands in the air and have your trinkets make terrible music?

To threaten to chop Wasiu’s hand if he touches his brother?

How does it feel?

To stare at the girl on a short sleeveless corduroy dress in longing?

To remember firmness and supple skin?

To look down at your body, now a tree trunk full of woodworms?

To be a mother of 6 unwholesome children?


What does it mean?

To be the man of a disheveled home?

To hold polythene full of leftovers between your legs?

To sway from side to side and grip the edge of a rustic bus?

To yell at the driver in a vibrating voice?

How does it feel?

To cough out brownish phlegm into the tired sleeves of your shirt?

To rest your head on the hot window pane?

To watch the exhaust fume snake into the bottom of your pants?

What does it mean?

To wear a striped tie that gently presses around your wrinkled neck?

To stare at the banner with the man half your age asking “do you have a pension plan” in disdain?

To watch the bus conductor's hands fly over your face with a “baba ya money”?

How does it feel?

To reach your hands into the back pocket of your grey chiffon pants and come out empty?

To slap your hands around your body and feel nothing?

To twirl and bend and yell in the realization of your missing wallet

To be a man from a disheveled home?


What does it mean?

To be the boy with no name?

To hang by the open door of a rustic yellow and black moving bus all day?

To hold wads of dirty notes in one hand?

To have dust settle on the inside of your pore?

How does it feel?

To persuade strangers walking or standing by into the slow-moving bus now and again?

To watch the old man's purse slip out of his washed-up pants as he jumps into the bus?

To have the lady with the red lipstick and bad wig slap your wrist away?

What does it mean?

To work with a driver whose eyes move sideways?

To groom your voice to become wide and loud enough to yell at the tax-collecting men at every stop?

To be held by your shirt and dragged from the bus by one of the tax-collecting men?

How does it feel?

To stare at schoolchildren with heavy backpacks with longing and regret?

To be called a conductor for most of the day and a Wasiu at night only?

To fall asleep with open eyes?

To be a boy with no name?


What does it mean?

To be a girl with unattainable dreams?

To stand by the streets and hug your stomach to your chest?

To look at the men with tattered cloth, sitting by the ramp with caution?

To jump on the bus when the one with the scar across his face walks towards you?

How does it feel?

To wear a short corduroy dress with its bulby lightness?

To sit in the bus with the tattered cushioned chair and diesel smell?

To feel your silver anklet with fake tiny diamonds sit cold against your leg?

What does it mean?

To stare at the window and think of the boy you’ve just left with a grin?

To rub your hands around the trinket he left on your hands?

To remember wet bodies and semen-stained thighs?

How does it feel?

To watch the old man's hands gently graze over your open thighs over and over again?

To feel your body coil into itself in protest?

To remember the gateman from when you were eight and no one would believe you?

To be a girl with unattainable dreams?


Waiting for a bus

You stand by the sidewalk


Cars slow down and whistle at you,

You shift around in your compressing skirt and twist the helm of your silk shirt

The soles under your feet grind into your skin

You stretch your neck over the road

Not a single bus in sight.

A man shoots daggers at you as he drives from one side of the pole to the next

You wave at him with a frown

His face folds in confusion

He’s not sure if he knows you

You don’t know him

But he stares like he used to own your body

Or like he knows you’ve got a thick scar in between your asshole

pom, pom!


A bus arrives

A heavy voice calls out

“Yaba, maylan, pamgruufff!”

There’s a scuffle

About 20 of you struggle to get in

“Abeg enta wit yur changi oo, I no get changi

Abeg hol ya changi ooo”

The girl in pantyhose holds up a thousand naira

“Madam abeg comot, I no get changi”

She reverses to the sidewalk

There’s a scuffle

A very brief incident that  wants to happen

“Ah! Jesus!”

“Sister no vex”

“Driver which kain nonsense be that now”

“You no fit wait make I enter”

“Sister no vex

that lady put her hand on that door

so if you close it,


they’ll be shouting

the girl doesn’t know

you yourself don’t know

That’s why I hold the door like that”

Everyone peaks above their phones

Nobody knows what was trying to happen

The driver picks up the brakes

The windows Vibrate

The conductor slides his head in

“Yes, madam ya money there”.


Nobody likes it here

On this street

there’s too much violence 

A blow hits his eyes


The Maruwa owner reports to you as he drives

In a sulk

He fights the tears but they run free anyway 

“I no know say she be soldier,

why I go do that kain thing normally?”

It feels like he’s asking himself 

or you.

You nod.

Your insides tumble flat

You don’t mind his high pitched voice

There are just too many tears struggling to run free at once

You worry that they might be mirroring the lights

blurring his vision

An accident 

Why’s he driving and crying?

Shouldn’t he stop and let them out?

Why did he yell at the lady anyway?

All she said was “oga I no get change”

You don’t want to feel sorry for him

The spring underneath the chair slips into your skirt.

You rub against it.

He starts to sulk again


You duck your head into your big red bag

And curse yourself for not ditching him like the other passengers

You think of home and more violence 

while you race through rows and rows of buildings


He comes to a slow stop

You slide halfway out of his cold leather seat

You pay for the full ride from behind 

He stares at you with teary eyes

“Thank you madam”

You nod

“You sef no do like that next time”

Your mules hit the dirty sidewalk.

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