BROTHER BUSHMEAT AND PASTOR PILFERER.
I sat up and looked out the window and saw Alex walking towards me. At that point, my heart was racing; it would have given Usain Bolt a run for his money. Alex was a couple of en steps away and the Lagosian in me kicked in “Aisha! What are you waiting for? Come on, lock the doors!” This was no American movie, I wasn’t about to stare at what I was afraid of till it came and caught me. My eyes were still fixed on Alex walking towards the car as I reached towards the driver’s seat and locked all the doors . I felt some form of security when I leaned back in my seat. Alex got to my side of the car and tapped the window wanting to talk to me; I didn’t even look his way. He made to open the door but it wouldn’t budge. “Aisha, good. You’re finally awake. Open the door.” or at least I think that was what he said. “Alex, where are we and what are we doing here?” He looked at me like he suspected I was sleep talking “What do you mean? Weren’t you the one complaining about hunger? I couldn’t find a restaurant anywhere but I saw this bushmeat stall and managed to convince the man to roast some so you wouldn’t die in my car.” It was at that point I looked around. We were packed by the roadside and the bushes were on just one side, the animal I had seen was just one of the few others arranged in front of the shack to attract people to buy and the red cloth and cutlass were probably from the last hunt. It was then it dawned on me that my sleep and hunger combined were even more delusory than the alcohol I was always so proud to admit I didn’t take.
Alex was still at the window waiting for me to come out of the car. I opened the door and came out to him looking at me probably wondering if I was the one manifesting. I was too embarrassed to say anything and I definitely was not about to say “Oh, I thought you had brought me to a ritualist.” So I kept mum and followed him towards the stall that had nothing but firewood and a shaky looking stool. When I got there, the man roasting the meat begrudgingly offered me a seat. There was just one so Alex stood. The man looked at me, still frowning and said “See, I nor dey roast meat for people for hia oh. This firewood suppose to be for me to roast for only me one this night but this your friend no gree me rest if I nor roast for una. So una go pay for my firewood.” After hearing Brother Bushmeat’s (I never found out his real name, so Brother Bushmeat will have to do.) complaints I felt really bad. I had been lambasting Alex in my head even before I got into the car and he had been nothing but a gentle man since the beginning of the journey. He had even convinced Brother Bushmeat to roast meat just so I could have something to eat. I looked up at him and he was seriously studying the roasting of the meat. I was secretly happy I was taking the journey with him in the end.
When the meat was finally ready, Alex in his chivalrous manner paid Brother Bushmeat who smiled from ear to ear. He didn’t seem very upset about his firewood once the crisp naira notes were in his hands. We went back to the car to continue our journey. We still had about ten hours to go. It was nearing 5:00 pm when we got back on the road. It was obvious from the lack of taste in the meat that Brother Bushmeat was no Masterchef. There was no flavor within miles of the food but I was too hungry to be picky. After I’d eaten a bit and my body had returned to its normal state, I realized I hadn’t said a word to Alex since we got back into the car and decided to break the silence. “Thanks for convincing the man to roast the meat. Hunger and I aren’t very good friends.” He smiled and looked away from the road long enough to say “How does it taste?”
I didn’t want to complain so I said “Oh, it’s nice”. Which wasn’t such a stretch from the truth, I mean at least it wasn’t raw. He knew better though “Ahh, Aisha so you still tell these your’ nice- nice’ lies?” I burst out laughing because a memory had just crept into my head. Back in high school, it was on one of those days when the teachers had gone on a rampage and were forcing everyone to find another person to cut their hair. Yewande, one of those shakara girls had found her hair at the mercy of some Js3 boy who had never handled a clipper in his life. When he was done with his first and hopefully last haircut, her head had more slopes than the hills at Udi. I had gotten that ‘nice-nice’ nickname after Yewande had come to ask me how her hair looked and so as not to hurt her feelings, I shrouded my answer in grammar and said “ It’s in a class of its own Yewande. You know your things are always special.” Somehow, that made her feel better sha. Alex and everyone else who heard me say it called me liar and accused me of forming ‘nice-nice’ and so the name stuck.
We laughed and gossiped about Yewande and all the shakara girls in our class back then and the journey was going quite well until we drove past a pastor who was stranded and trying to stop anyone willing to use their ‘church mind’ and pick him up. We could only tell he was a pastor because he wore his clerical collar. Once again, my nice-nice gland started to produce whatever it was it produced that made me overly compassionate. “Alex, stop let’s pick the pastor now.” He looked at me like he thought he didn’t hear me correctly. ”Wait, are you serious? And you say I act like I’m not Nigerian?” He went on to talk about how he couldn’t pick a random stranger from the road and how we were already behind schedule and some other things that went into one ear and came out the other. For some reason, I really wanted to give this ‘pastor’ a ride so I went full on five- time debate champion on him.”Turn back and pickthe man now. See how desperate he looks…..Support something that will actually make a difference instead of old buildings….Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you?” Just to shut me up I suppose, he made a violent U-turn and drove backwards and gave the man who wore the clerical collar a lift. Once again, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
This pastor made us go about twenty minutes off our route, as if it wasn’t bad enough that Alex was hoping against hope that Sheila, or whatever it was he named his GPS in his car, was not directing us to Congo. I could tell he didn’t find it funny that we were carrying a stranger or going off the route but I was in full Matthew 10:41 mode; whispering to that him he was doing a good thing and he would get his prophet’s reward. The only reason I only got the stink eye was probably because he didn’t want the pastor to hear him go off on me. We finally dropped him off at one kind of market off some dusty untarred road and found our way back to the road. The moment he alighted, I started again “You see. Doesn’t it feel good to have done something nice eh? Wouldn’t you be happy if someone did that to you?” He knew I was right but in usual male egotistical style he just said under his breath. “Yeah, yeah. This one time you were right.”
We had driven over an hour, gisting and laughing and I’d just about forgotten about my fear of Alex’s insanity when my eyes wandered to the fuel indicator light. “Alex, the tank is about to be empty oh.” He looked down at the dashboard and noticed the sign showing the tank was nearing empty. There was a fuel station in the distance. He asked me to reach into the pouch behind my seat and pull out seven thousand naira from the envelope. I dipped my hand into the pouch and felt around for an envelope. “There’s nothing there.” He looked at me and asked me to check the pouch behind the driver’s seat. Still nothing. At that moment, I remembered my bag was on the floor behind Alex’s seat. I frantically searched it for my purse. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. Pastor had cleaned us out!