He tossed in bed and changed sides. The part of him that never slept immediately started querying the alarm.
“How could it be dawn so soon? Did I not just sleep about two hours ago?”
His mobile had come to life with the alarm function. The light emanating from the five-inch screen lit up his dark room and he gave up on sleep.
Having slept past normal time and getting to work late on a few occasions, Ike had learnt to set three different alarms so as to be spared the ire of his horrible Boss. He had experienced Wilson’s meanness on two different occasions and did not want to have any cause to cross paths with the foul-mouthed Supervisor.
On this particular day, he was at the receiving end of different punishments for arriving exactly fifteen minutes late. Wilson halved his pay for the day before giving him a thorough dressing down in the presence of his subordinates. He indeed wondered why the boss could not cut him some slack seeing as tardiness was never something to be associated with him. To forestall a reoccurrence of that unpalatable situation, he set extra alarms to support that function he used the table clock for, and since then, found it a permanent position on his bedpost.
Working and living in Ibadan, after growing up in the mad house that he called Lagos was a huge experience of relief. The singular fact that he could effectively time his commute from the end of the city where he squatted with his cousin to his place of work in the popular Oluyole Industrial Estate made him prefer Ibadan. He could leave home as late as 6:45 a.m and get to work fifteen minutes before his resumption time of 8 o’clock.
He got up from the bed to start the process of making his regular breakfast – rice and stew. With the food cooking, he quickly filled the big plastic container with water before rushing to take his bath. He had, of course, perfected the art of multitasking so one thing did not disturb the other. Within an hour of waking up, he had forgotten how much he struggled with sleep. The day had started, and he was lucky to have no midweek blues.
He exited the house and made for the junction, walking as fast as he could because every minute counted. If he delayed by a minute, he would not be able to join his favoured cab man. His precision in timing was such that he would join a particular cab which most times ended up conveying a particular set of people to the ever busy Challenge area.
Tolani’s bank job was draining her in all ways. She was unsure whether she had a minute of a day’s twenty-four hours to think of nothing but the job. If it was not one target she had to meet, the perpetual fear that she could get to work and be unable to log into her work computer crept in on her. Sure, that meant only one thing – the end.
She had complained to her parents but all they did was urge her to endure. Whenever she expressed her frustration, her retired civil servant father would smile in return and tell her to ‘soldier on.’
“My darling Omotolani, getting tribal marks always comes with pains and aches. It is when the wound heals that it becomes something to show-off .”
Tolani usually imagined what tribal marks had to do with her condition, although she understood his message. Every day was a tug of war because if there was no reason to shout, her supervisor would create one and eventually end up making a scene. She no longer looked forward to working days and would start counting down to Friday from Wednesday.
To make it worse, her commute from home to work and back was really annoying. She would need to leave home early enough to link the expressway before the mad rush that characterised every business day started. The only bright spot for her on her way to work daily was the drama that was never missing on the different means of transportation she took. Being pretty and petite meant she was mostly the centre of attention. Her form earned her stares and smiles, and she had to become used to it, and even try enjoying it. Her part of the big city also meant she encountered many illiterates and semi-literates while trying to link the expressway. She found their interactions in the taxis entertaining. That alone, and one more reason, encouraged her to anticipate a new day.
All smiles as they approached Boluwaji bus stop on the expressway, Ike alone knew the reason for his state of mind. A set of co-passengers would mostly alight at Academy junction while the cab driver mostly had the next stop in sight. It was at that stop that the passenger with whom he always wanted to ride would join the cab.
Whichever angel was in charge of their itineraries made sure they journeyed together at least three out of the five working days of the week. He mostly chatted away on his phone while she could hardly wait for the cab to speed down the highway to Boluwaji where she joined the cab for another drive to Challenge.
Immediately Tolani joined the cab, her favourite part of the daily commute would start. The mobile phone-loving co-passenger was one she always looked forward to journeying with. A smile always plastered his face as he half focused on his phone and stole glances at her. They got to sit at both ends of the Micra taxi most of the time, he behind the driver and she behind the passenger in front.
He never caught her looking at him; he was always the one gawking at her and getting caught. He would then face his phone and resume smiling, as if gaping and getting caught.
“Can’t he just say hello or something, instead of staring?”
She liked the contours at the edges of his mouth whenever he smiled. She would not mind being engaged in a conversation. She would melt the ice one day if he didn’t make the move. Yes, one day. Soon.
This daughter of Eve looked every inch his ‘spec’. Her petite frame so well accentuated by her feminine features, her skin tone that was neither fair nor dark; and indeed, the way her sing-song voice rendered every other sound cacophonous whenever she wanted to pay the cab driver. He wanted to talk to her; he really wanted to start a conversation but she seemed too distracted by other thoughts.
“The perfect day would come soon. Yes, one day.