The tap hissed, coughed and sputtered. Not even a drop of water.
Segun cursed under his breath. There had been a promise that the pipes would be changed and they would have running water that evening.
If that caretaker has spent my money, I will squeeze it out of him like agbalumo seeds!
He grabbed a couple of buckets and headed out to the courtyard to get some from the tap behind the building. The caretaker, who would usually be sitting legs outstretched beside the gate, listening to fuji music on his transistor radio, was conspicuously absent.
He stood, arms folded across his chest, as the bucket filled up slowly.
Today has just been “one kind”, he thought. Trouble with LASTMA. And then danfo driver who dented his front fender, and proceeded to hurl invectives at him, his breath stinking of cheap local gin. Then, the woman with the wrong address who made him tour round Magodo in circles. The hours in the hot sun, queuing for fuel…
This life of a cab driver, sha! God dey!
He still hoped that one day, he would have a lucky break and his degree in Fine Art would bring him a good job with a fat paycheck.
Coming home to an empty house each night was however, the worst part of his day.
Where will I fit a woman into this my kind of life?
He was so lost in thought he didn’t notice the bucket had filled up and the water was spilling over.
“Excuse me, but your, em, bucket is full.”
Her voice brought him back to the present.
“Oh, thank you. I wasn’t looking.”
She gave him a tired smile. Segun set his bucket down and stood aside. When her buckets were full, he offered to carry them for her. She reluctantly agreed, but he could sense she was really glad he did.
As he drifted off to sleep a couple of hours later, her face flashed before his mind’s eye. And he thought her eyes looked sad.
She was in his dreams that night. Again.
The next morning, Segun watched her from his cab as she stood at the junction waiting for a bus. She wore makeup now, the bronze lipstick highlighting her full lips. Her black hair was done up in neat cornrows and held together at the back with a green ribbon. The olive green suit she wore hugged her full figure in all the right places.
He sucked in his breath and closed his eyes, gripping the steering, as if that would stop his mind from doing what it was doing to her curvaceous body.
He opened his eyes just in time to see her get on an okada and zoom off. He wished he had summoned up the courage to drive up to her and offer her a ride instead.
She’s a banker, you’re a cab driver. Brother Sege , face your work.
He bowed his head, closed his eyes and said a quick prayer before easing his car onto the road.
Later that night, he had dropped off his last customer and was heading home. It had been a good day. He had made a neat sum from tips and had stopped at an eatery to buy some rice and ofada stew to go.
As he rounded the bend onto the final stretch of road that led home, he saw what looked like a fight between two young men and a woman. One of the men quickly tucked a black object into the waistband of his jeans and pushed the woman on the floor. Scared off by the full beam of his headlights, they ran off, one of them holding her bag under his arm.
Without thinking, he shifted gears and pursued. Fortunately, there were no side streets for the men to turn into. His front fender caught the right leg of the one holding the woman’s bag. The bag flew out of his hand as he hit the car’s bonnet and slid onto the floor. The second man looked back, but kept on running.
Segun got out of his car, grabbed him by the collar with his left hand. His right fist landed hard on the man’s left jaw before he picked the lady’s bag.
He had left his engine running, so he quickly put the car in reverse and hurried back to where the woman had been.
He spotted her ahead, limping, her arms wrapped tightly around her.
Something about the clothes she wore seemed oddly familiar.
He drove past and stopped a few feet ahead of her. He got out and held the bag out as he walked toward her.
“Madam, I got your bag back. I’m…….”
His voice trailed off and his eyes widened in recognition of tear-stained face. It was her! The woman at the tap last night.
Her eyes lit up with relief as she recognized him. She held out both arms to him, he scooped her up in his arms and placed her gently in the back seat of his car.
She sat there sobbing quietly all the way home.
He carried her to his flat and set her down on the couch and got some water and a towel to clean the cut on her shin. Then he put some ointment on it. He didn’t have any bandages so he tore up the new BYC singlet he was saving for a special occasion and wrapped it round the wound. He rubbed some shea butteron her left cheek, where a large reddish-purple bruise looked like some badly applied blush. He was tempted to brush his lips against her soft, cocoa brown skin.
She shook her head when he offered her his rice and stew, but she took the cold water gladly with the Panadol tablets he gave her.
They sat in silence.
He didn’t know what to say.
She didn’t know how to say what she wanted to say.
After a few minutes, he excused himself and went to clean up. She looked around his flat. It was quite neat… for a bachelor.
A large, smiling photograph of him hung on the wall. She tilted her head, squinting at it. His features were quite…interesting. She liked the way his moustache and beard formed a frame around his lips. Lips that were that shade of brown you get when coffee combines with milk.
Her eyes reluctantly plucked themselves away from the picture, and then they darted back almost immediately.
Was that a dimple? Hm…
She ran her hand gently over a sore spot on her arm where one of the thugs had grabbed her. Segun’s hands in contrast, were strong yet gentle. She had wanted to place his palm on her hurting cheek and leave it there. And the way he had carried her. And the way his furrowed brow looked cute. And the look in his eyes when she caught his gaze….
He came back into the room wearing a clean shirt and knee-length shorts.
She stood up.
“I can carry you back to your flat if your ankle still hurts.”
She limped over to where he stood by the door.
As he moved to open the door and she placed a hand on his forearm.
Their eyes met. There was no need for words.
He pulled her into his arms and she clung to him tightly.
“Thank you for…” she whispered into his chest. Her voice was still shaky from all the crying.
“Shh. It’s okay.”
Her hair smelled of coconut oil. He loved coconuts.
She nuzzled even closer.
He smelled of Dettol Cool soap. And she loved Dettol Cool.