Some weeks would pass when they would both not set eyes on one another. She often wondered where ‘Smiler’ was.
“Where does he even work? Has he been taking another cab? Will I ever see him again?”
He would disappear for two weeks and then re-appear, making her even more curious. She wanted to know more about him, about his appearing and disappearing acts. She was aware that he knew she worked at one of the banks along Ring Road because they both alighted at the same place and she had caught him looking at her while she sashayed into the gate. He however never got to catch her turning back to look at him as he tried to cross to the other side of the road.
He was attractive, yet he was a mystery. She wanted to know more, but it was those times when she willed herself to try get a way to get into a conversation the following week that he would disappear. It took time before she knew he worked shifts.
Tolani was not alone!
Ike would want to talk but quite unlike him, he remained tongue-tied. The effect she had on him was the kind no other female ever had.
“I will make that move tomorrow”
The tomorrow came but she was nowhere to be found at the bus stop. He would then not have a chance because the weeks that followed would have him working either the night or afternoon shifts.
As he made the final decision one day, he got a letter from the Human Resource department that he had been transferred to another end of town. He had two more weeks to resume at the new branch. He was even more determined to at least hear that voice speak, to and with him. He wanted to know her name, he wanted to be more than a co-passenger, he had to find a way to make it happen. How else, if not by making sure they join the same cab on his final morning shift week.
Ike made sure he left home a bit earlier than usual that week. He always alighted at Boluwaji, the stop where Tolani would normally pick a cab. She was nowhere to be found all through that week. There was no way he could trace her to her office because he did not know her department. All his efforts proved abortive.
He smiled sadly as he resumed in his new office, remembering how the pretty girl always made him look forward to his trips to work via the ‘rubbish express’.
“She’s the one that got away”
Tolani had missed seeing ‘Smiler’. She had gone on a well-deserved break, holidaying away from Ibadan while her annual leave lasted. She was determined to speak to him on the day of her resumption. She was pretty sure she would be in the same taxi with him at least three days that week so she was not bothered much when he was not seen throughout that week. She kept believing till Friday, and assumed that he was working the afternoon or night shift. The two weeks lapsed and she still did not see ‘Smiler’.
She had come to know that he worked shifts on one of their trips to work. He was answering a call and telling the person at the other end why they could not see. His voice was music, sweet melodious music.
“Guy no vex biko. Na night I do two weeks ago and last week na afternoon shift. As I dey morning this week, we go fit see and settle everything.”
He was speaking while still smiling in a way that could ward off any form of resistance from anyone. His voice did not sound like that deep baritone of many men, it had a distinct feel to it. A voice that sounded like one that should whisper sweet nothings and scream loud somethings to one.
For all of her beautiful memories, Smiler was nowhere to be found. It struck Tolani that they did not know each other’s names by any chance. Here she was, wanting to know his name and more but where else would she find him except Boluwaji. She smiled, then giggled as she brought herself back to the present.
“Abi Smiler has also gone on leave ni?”
She waited and hoped to see him one day. It did not happen. It never happened but she never stopped thinking about him everyday.
She made it a routine to smile to herself as she took a cab daily till she no longer had the need to join a cab to work, having bought a car of her own. It later became a reflex action for her to regularly look out for him anytime she got to Challenge, hoping against hope, that she would sight him.
Days turned to weeks and months. Life had happened and other things competed for Tolani’s attention. Yet, Smiler was never forgotten.
“Smiler has joined the Canada train jare. We will meet when I get to Canada”
Tolani thought to herself and let out a chuckle that caught the attention of her colleague.
“Never mind my dear. I just remembered something”