Ways to Die in Lagos: Part II
As I sat in that dank disgusting metal contraption they called a patrol car, I fidgeted with my phone to retrieve the phone number of anyone I could call to save me from this depressing episode. With hands pointing at me in accusation, guns at the ready for any sudden movements and recurrent showers of abuse, I felt like I was in Dante’s Inferno, at the very bottom of things. My phone battery was at 3%, my hairs were all at attention like spiderman’s as this yellow-toothed mongrel egged me on to provide him with a jackpot. The cards of fate were stacked against me, I had been deemed to have an unfortunate day. With an unreliable phone, a rabid police officer and an increasing fear of the uncertainties that surrounded me, I could only mutter these simple words, ‘ God help me.’
I beckoned on America to start the car engine so that I could power my phone before it decided to call it a night, and he did the strangest thing. America expressly said he would be upset with me if my phone went off. Of all the things I heard that hot afternoon, that had to be the most darn thing he said. How could I help it? How could I resuscitate a phone that needed to be charged? I knew Lagos was a place of opportunities and things unfathomable happened here, but this- this was a profound step towards more extraordinary discoveries than the Theory of Relativity. This was Nobel Prize material, Albert Einstein would be blown away. I was astounded by this assertive command. He spoke like one who had seen it happen and if it weren’t for the gloomy circumstances I found myself in, I would’ve asked this sunstruck terrorist with the alias ‘America’ to show me how it could be done. It was then I concluded that America was not so American, he was less of what I imagined.
I tried to speak as calmly as I could, telling him that my phone wouldn’t charge until I plugged it into a power source. All America said was, ‘ Call pesin make you sort yourself out before we carry you go Ikoyi o.” After much mental deliberation, I dialled London’s number. London is the alias we will be giving my dear friend who swooped in to get me out of the claws of America and his bandwagon of societal misfits.
London was not the type to pick calls at the first ring or second or third. A text would’ve been a complete waste of time, so I called as many times as I could. Relief surged through me as I heard his calm and reassuring ‘Hello’. I rattled away my predicament with panic and teary fits in between. “Calm down, calm down, tell me what they’re saying,” he said. I caught myself at this juncture and narrated to him how they accused me of being a murderous lunatic and threatened to throw me in prison while beckoning on him to come. He asked what I was doing with the knife and I explained to him that I didn’t intend to carry around this tool but it had been forgotten in my bag due to a simple case of mindlessness.
This was already an embarrassment for me as our friendship had gotten off to a slow start and this situation was a stain on my record, but hey! Who was counting? “Just calm down, I’ll be on my way soon.” This brought me much relief as I could feel my nerves relax a little, but America was as zealous as ever. America took out his phone and started to take mugshots of me holding my weapon. The height of all embarrassment and abuse! He asked me to face the camera and all I could think of was to ask myself if this was how low I had sunk. I mindlessly looked at the camera lens as he punched the camera icon to take pictures of me. A whole me! Lolo I of Ezigbo.
America and his cohorts were already threatening to leave as the other two potbellied uniformed criminals had shown their bloated faces. They took their positions in the car and wanted to fire up the engine. God intervened as their battery gave way and the engine wouldn’t start. They called for onlookers to help jumpstart their battery and I began to feel the same fear that gripped me hours ago.
Out of panic, I dialled London’s number again to be sure he was on his way. What if he decided I wasn’t worth the stress and flaked on me? He would’ve had every reason to, I wasn’t the girl that warmed his sheets or made him breakfast, why would he sacrifice his Saturday afternoon to sort out my issues? All these thoughts were put to rest as I saw him dash out of a car behind. He wore a pink coloured shirt over Ankara trousers. I knew he had thrown on anything just to get there and I was grateful. He walked over to the police officer and asserted some dominance that I had only seen in some 80s movie. My cheeks flushed in embarrassment as I sat dejected and oppressed in the dirty back seat of the patrol car as he spoke to the officers. From the way he spoke, he belittled their deductions, explaining to officers of the Law what a Swiss knife was and how it was useless in the hands of an ajebutter like me. America began to fume with anger as he realised that his chances to get a settlement grew slimmer by the second as London spoke.
Soon, London only conversed with Congo who was in charge of this daylight circus crew. Congo spoke like one who bore the safety of all men living in that area on his shoulders. This was his effort to justify their actions and seek a settlement, as one who was a man of high standing doing his job for the good of all Uber drivers working in Lekki. After much deliberation, Congo motioned for me to come out of my cell as he spoke in whispers to London. I hoped London wouldn’t give them a dime, partly because I was infuriated by their audacity and because it would be a debt I wasn’t sure I could pay back at the time, even if he didn’t ask. In my favour, he didn’t offer appeasement to the keepers of the Lekki traffic lights and I was glad.
America was nowhere to be seen at this time, he had developed some dislike for my friend London as he would have little or no money for cheap beer and cigarettes that night. America had shown a keen interest in this rare tool so he did what he could do best to appease himself, he kept my Swiss Knife for himself. But I didn’t care, I could get another one off Amazon if I wanted. After what seemed like hours of conversation, Congo motioned for me to come down from the vehicle. I was free. With my arms folded, flushed cheeks and teary eyes, I walked back to my Uber which had been most helpful during the whole ordeal. He wouldn’t leave me there and I was most grateful.
As I sat in the front seat of that Toyota Matrix, a million thoughts ran through my mind. What if London hadn’t come? What if my Uber driver hadn’t stayed? What if they whisked me to where I didn’t know? Three ravenous men with licenses to kill and a petite lass whose only exposure to violence was chopping meat. London and the Uber driver recounted the entire situation and even made jokes about it. I was too stunned to joke, I wouldn’t leave the house for months after this, I said to myself. We were in front of London’s house when I became aware of my surroundings again, I waved London goodbye and we began the trip back to my house.
After I shared my peculiar experience with my sister and we shuddered at the thought of a different outcome, I addressed the thoughts in my head that wouldn’t go away. Where I would’ve been if London hadn’t shown up? What gruesome experiences would follow? They seemed to swallow me and I needed an outlet. What if I shared it with the tight circle that was my WhatsApp contact list? Maybe with the rest of the 7 billion people living in the world as well.