The old bus crawled along the dirt road towards Masau district. It groaned under the weight of people and livestock. The engine protested, but neither the driver nor the passengers cared. Men, women and children chattered away. Chickens gave occasional clucks. Local music sounded through the ancient speakers at the back of the bus.
He sat in an aisle seat near the front, absent-minded, watching the driver’s sinewy arms grapple with the huge steering wheel.
He dared not turn his head to his left because in that direction sat the cause of his nervousness.
He had turned to look outside the window and there she was, smiling at him. Such radiant beauty! He’d never seen anything like it before though deep down he could sense something familiar in the face. Quickly, he turned away, first to look at the obese old woman in the aisle seat across his, then back at the front of the bus.
There was a loud thump, and his buttocks jolted out of his seat momentarily. The bus driver had tried to manoeuvre past a few boulders and failed. The goats tied up on the roof bleated in surprise. A few angry insults were hurled at the driver, who spat back:
“Be happy that my bus still comes to this part of the country. You ingrates! It is not my fault your government hasn’t repaired this road since Jesus went back to heaven.”
“Shut up,” the fat old woman spoke up. Do you want to kill us, eh?”
He chuckled. The old woman seemed really angry. Her face also looked familiar.
A soft hand touched his shoulder, momentarily paralyzing him. It was her.
“I think a chicken has crawled under the seat and is pecking at my ankles. Could you please move it?”
He managed a grunt before he bent down. Sure enough, a large grey hen was nestled under their seat.
Say something to her, a voice in his head told him. You have nothing to lose. You will probably never see her again after you get off this bus.
Just then it occurred to him that he had no idea where he was going. Panic struck, but only for a few seconds.
All his fear disappeared as he came back up and saw the smiling face and heard her say in a sweet voice, “thank you.”
She was surely the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
That did it. All the courage he needed came to him.
“What is your name? I’m…” He stopped.
For one thing, he could not remember his name. For another, the beautiful face had changed from delight to grief with unfathomable speed.
She opened her mouth, but someone else spoke first.
“What is the matter, my daughter?” The obese 0ld woman asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“It is your son, mama,” the beauty replied, pain in her voice. “He has forgotten who I am again.”
Post image via Manufactoriel
About the Author:
Andrew C. Dakalira lives in Lilongwe, Malawi. His stories have appeared in the first Africa Book Club anthology (Priest, Mosquitoes) and on africanwriter.com (My grandmother, The graveyard). He is a two-time winner of the Africa Book Club monthly short reads competition (Funeral woes, Perseverance).