Osagie pinned the top-most button of his jacket, whistling to himself in his one-bedroom apartment in Ogba, Lagos, Nigeria.
Moving to the apartment was a major upgrade to the one room he had—up until a month ago—at a face-me-I-face–you in Mushin.
He picked up his helmet from the table. An essential part of his work gear, it was more important than his identification card.
He was a despatch rider, a delivery man. “I deliver dreams to doorsteps,” he muttered to himself as he stepped out of the house. It was the tagline of his company, one he was very proud of.
Four months ago, he was at a point in his life where he was beginning to believe that life was a heartbreak song. If someone had told him, while he was still working at his former company—Mex Delivery Services— that his life would hold so much promise four months down the line, he would have strongly doubted it.
Mex Delivery Service wasn’t all bad from the get-go. After all, they were the only company who would employ a history student who graduated with a second class honors and had been without a job for three years.
Several unpaid salaries and a terrible work condition after, it became obvious that Mex Delivery Services wasn’t going to take him to the place of his dreams. But because it was all he had, he stayed until that Wednesday morning when Mrs. Titi Adigun, a former Manager, called him up and asked if he was open to a job offer at her current place of work.
He didn’t think about it before jumping at the offer. He had the chance to work not just for a multinational but a leader in the industry. It was too juicy an offer to resist, even though the position was still that of a despatch rider.
As he revved his motorcycle to life, with his helmet on his head, the words on his mind as he set out on a Monday morning trip to Victoria Island were lyrics from the Koredo Bello hit song, God Win.
Alex pushed his tie into position and picked up his suitcase. He had a business meeting by nine on the Island, but it was a Monday morning. He was sure he was already running late.
‘Honey I’m off,’ he called out to his sleeping wife, who replied with a grunt.
Alex rolled his eyes as he drew closer to the bed and planted a kiss on his wife’s lips. She had actually grunted, ‘where’s my kiss?’
His six-year-old son, who was on a mid-term break, was still sleeping. Alex walked briskly past his son’s room, his suitcase, clutched in his left hand. He did a mind-map of his route with the attendant traffic.
He powered on the car stereo and turned the dial to Traffic Radio as he steered his black Toyota Camry 2014 model out from the Magodo main gate on to the express road. He stepped on the gas, cruising towards the third mainland bridge as the OAP did a roundup of the traffic report around the bustling city of Lagos.
Dimeji glanced at the clock for the third time in one minute, and it seemed like the time was stuck at twelve ‘o’ clock.
He scanned the room in a searching motion, tapping his feet on the glassy floor tiles and bobbing his head to some unseen music.
It was his girlfriend’s birthday, but his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of the proposal he was about to make.
He had called up every actor in his plan, and everyone seemed set and ready to go. All he had to do was pick up Oge in her office at one o’clock.
He picked up the open velvet ring case on the table and peered at the ring nestled in the padded case. It looked really beautiful, with the glittering diamond rock sitting majestically on a band of stainless silver. He couldn’t wait to fit it into Oge’s finger and then stare into her almond shaped eyes, which he was sure would glimmer with pure joy.
‘Whoooo,’ he exhaled, stretching his limbs out on the chair. It was going to be a nail biting one hour ahead of him. He just couldn’t wait for the action to begin.
Alex smiled as he stepped out of the elevator into the reception area. ‘Thank you,’ he said to the receptionist after signing out his name on the visitors’ register.
Suitcase in hand, he swaggered back to his car with the confidence of a man who had just won a multi-million naira contract. He opened the car boot and placed the suitcase on the mat, replacing the lid as quietly as he could before pressing the key fob to open the doors.
‘Thank you Jesus,’ He breathed, once he was seated comfortably behind the wheels. This was the first job he would be handling outside Nigeria, and he was very excited. His young company was gradually going global.
The third mainland bridge was still relatively free of traffic as cars sped past him, hurrying into the distance, but he was content to just cruise along with a smile on his face. He was on his way to his office. He couldn’t wait to break the news to his wife later in the evening.
His mind played back scenes from the meeting.
Getting a graduate of History would definitely enhance your team. Even though it’s purely academic and has nothing to do with your technical expertise, I strongly advise you include one in your team, as our office in Accra will be looking through every term of the contract. Congratulations Mr. Alex Madu.
The thought came in Mr. Franklyn’s voice. Alex knew none of his staff were graduates of History, but he was sure that getting one would not pose a problem, especially with the swarm of unemployed graduates roaming the streets in search of a job.
‘Damn!’ He hissed, interrupting his thoughts, easing his foot off the gas, and stepping on the brakes. He tapped the hazard button as the car came to a halt, parked close to the curb overlooking the Lagos lagoon.
He had a flat tire.
Osagie manoeuvred his motorcycle through the cars that lined up in traffic on Adeolu Odeku road, turning right at the T-junction into Ahmadu Bello way.
He kept a single view as he made his way towards the third mainland bridge for his last two deliveries of the day, both of which were in Ikeja.
Mondays were usually hectic, but today had not followed in that custom even though he had done almost a dozen drops before lunchtime. Since most of the packages had Victoria Island addresses, the deliveries were fast, save for these last two, with Mainland addresses.
He kept to the right side of the bridge, riding close to the curb and looking ahead of him through the face-shield of the helmet.
He was past the UNILAG water front area when his gaze caught the large red reflective caution sign up ahead, on his side of the road.
He glanced sideways and into his side mirror, prepared to switch lanes to avoid the parked car.
A KIA Cerato appeared in front of him as he approached the caution sign, so he steered skillfully to his left and increased his speed to pull past it.
There was plenty of room to make a clean maneuver. The KIA Cerato seemed to be racing backwards as he zoomed past. Just when he thought he was clear, he felt a thump. The right guard of the car had clipped his back tire sending him skidding towards the curb.
The KIA Cerato had made a sharp swerve to the right in a bid to escape a bad portion of the road around the expansion joints of the bridge.
His hands trembled on the steering as he frantically tried to bring the motorcycle under control, but the force of the impact sent him crashing to the ground with the bike peeling out from his grip and smashing against the curb. He was sent spinning past the caution sign. His head landed on the asphalt, just inches away from the broken down vehicle.
His vision blurred.
He stared painfully through his face-shield at the blurred image of the car.
As he faded into a cloud of darkness, he felt a pair of firm hands cradle his neck, and even though he wasn’t sure whether the hands were human or angelic, he couldn’t deny it was a big relief to his aching neck.
He could feel himself drift in and out of consciousness, but for the first time in his life he wasn’t scared of death. The music from the morning played on in his mind, in spite of the encroaching darkness.
… Dem be wan kill my joy but God win
I say anything dem do, na God win o, na God win o, na God win o…
Dimeji winced in frustration as the BRT bus crawled behind the long stretch of cars in front of it on the third mainland bridge.
It was unusual to have this sort of traffic on the bridge at this time. It was not yet rush hour. Still Dimeji was not surprised, after-all, Lagos was a city famous for its traffic.
The silence as he sat next to Oge, with his fingers drumming feverishly on his laps, reminded him of a certain Thursday evening some two years ago—on his way home from work—when he sat close to a bespectacled lady in a BRT bus headed for Berger.
He remembered how he formed and reformed the words in his heart before summoning up the courage to speak to the lady the very moment the bus was at the UNILAG water front area. He remembered the words as they rolled out of his mouth. How could he forget them?
This is the University of Lagos, he had announced to the lady sitting by his side like he had just discovered water in Mars.
What? A bemused expression plastered on her face.
That lady would later become his girlfriend. Here he was, about to propose to her in a BRT bus that he hired to reenact the scene of their first encounter.
A smile crossed his face as these thoughts ran through his mind. ‘This is the University of Lagos,’ he said with a mischievous glint in his eyes as the BRT finally approached the landmark—the UNILAG water front area.
‘What?’ Oge replied instinctively but just before she could continue, her eyes lit up and her face eased into a grin. She’d recalled that moment in time, two years before.
Dimeji smiled back and went down on one knee, clasping Oge’s hands in his.
The gentleman seated in front of them, one of only four passengers in the bus, sprang up from his seat, camera in tow and began to take pictures.
This was his part of the script.
Oge stared on, in jaw dropping amazement as Dimeji pulled out the case, opened it and pushed it out in front of her.
‘It’s beautiful,’ she muttered. Tears running freely down her cheeks.
‘It’s yours if you agree to marry me,’ Dimeji chuckled.
She punched him playfully on his right arm. ‘You’ve not asked me to,’ she replied.
‘My Tinky-Winky, will you marry me?’ Dimeji teased.
‘Yes Laa-Laa,’ Oge answered as she watched her boyfriend slip the ring into her finger.
The remaining three passengers rose up from their seats almost simultaneously and approached the couple who were seated at the back-end of the bus. They were dressed complete in waiting uniforms, with a bow tie to match,.
Oge’s eyes popped open as the waiters set up a mobile table for two with a bottle of red wine to go with it, in the bus. She was blown away.
She leaned forward and closed Dimeji’s lips with a passionate kiss. She was unconcerned by the presence of spectators. The flashing lights of the camera only added passion to the moment.
The BRT bus gathered speed as the traffic thinned out on the bridge, approaching Oworonshoki.
‘Did you see what caused the traffic?’
‘At all,’ Dimeji answered, shaking his head, ‘but I saw what eased the traffic.’
‘What?’ Oge asked, her brows narrowing curiously.
‘That hot kiss you gave me,’ He answered with a big grin on his face.
It’s been a busy day.
Mondays are usually busy, and it’s not a surprise.
Humans rushing to the Island when the day is born and rushing back when the day is going grey.
That is a constant, and I’m used to it.
What intrigues me though is how every day’s traffic has its plot and everyday has its own story.
And sometimes the beauty of the story is the presence of the so many what-ifs in the plot and the dots that many times never gets connected.
What if it was possible to let Alex know that the injured motorcyclist that he ferried in his car to the hospital is a graduate of History?
What if Osagie could see beyond the misfortune of the accident and realize that instead of an end to his life, the bridge is offering him a chance to a better life?
What if Dimeji and Oge could be told that the traffic was caused by a driver who hit a motorcyclist because he was fiddling with his phone? And that bridges don’t cause traffic, humans do.
Everyday I see humans racing to get answers, and many times, these answers are not afar, sometimes, they are just on the other lane.
But what do I know?
I’m just a bridge – the third mainland bridge, and it’s already past my bedtime.
Till we talk again – Goodnight.
Post image by Adedotun Ajibade via Flickr
About the Author:
Aideyan Daniel is a trained engineer turned writer and he currently lives in the city of Lagos. His short story, “Passenger 13E”, is featured in the anthology, “Tales From The Other Side”, and his story arcs have appeared on TNC and NaijaStories. He’s the Platform Manager at AideYarn where he blogs. He can be reached on twitter @Aideyandaniel.