Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Taxi Driver


“Let’s go to Adanna’s house,” I said, still in my red check shirt and maroon pinafore.

            “Are you going in your school uniform?” my best friend Nkiru asked, smearing Vaseline on harmattan chapped lips and ashen elbows.

            “Yes, let’s go.”

           Outside, with no protection from the harsh sun from above and the heat rising from the baked concrete below, we desperately flagged the first taxi in sight—a rickety car with a cracked windscreen, rusty chassis and a missing side mirror. After haggling over the fare, the driver had a change of mind and agreed to take us to our destination for free.

            “I like students so I dey help dem anytime I fit,” he said, flashing kola-stained teeth at us in the rear view mirror.

            We smiled brightly at him in response, silently praying he would not make any strange detours. It was ten days to Christmas, and scary tales of taxi drivers hypnotizing and abducting passengers for juju were told with alarming frequency. A simple answer to an innocuous question was all it took for the spell to work.  

            “Una don close school?”

            I shook my head. Nkiru nodded hers. The man didn’t seem to bother about which was the right answer, jumping to his next question.

            “Which class you dey?” He was looking at me.

I lifted four fingers, using the other to indicate Nkiru and I were both in primary four.

            “Eeeh.” He seemed genuinely pleased with our scholarly progress and encouraged us. “Try eh. Try.”

            The driver’s attention then turned to the radio. He mumbled a curse in a foreign language whenever a clear signal failed to materialize. Finally, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ boomed through the speakers behind our heads. Satisfied with the sound clarity, he turned his glance back to the rear view mirror.

“I go take another road,” he said sternly.

The smile was gone.