Last bike to Clarksville

Last year, I was on my way to a meeting in Yaba. I made it as far as Ikeja Along before getting stuck in traffic. I was going to be late so I hopped down and ran to a bank of motorbikes.

An okada man agreed to take me to Oshodi. I climbed onto the back of the bike expecting him to start it, but he just stood to the side and shouted, “Oshodi, one chance, one more yansh.”

Huh, what does he mean by one chance? I’m already here.

Unless? No…. no way.

But the people I see doubling up on bikes always look so happy. Two people who were strangers minutes ago, chatting it up the entire ride, getting into playful arguments and tapping the okada man in to mediate. “Abeg tell am Barca no fit win.” Sometimes you have a third person sitting between the handlebars, eyes squinty from the wind whipping, alternating between chipping in to the argument and grinning like there is nothing else in the world he would rather be doing.

I reasoned then that if I insisted on special treatment, I would always keep asking for special treatment, so I decided to go along with it.

I start to rethink my decision when a man approached another bike and refused to ride with anyone else offering instead to pay for “both” seats. But I have a problem with changing my mind in public. I am convinced that thieves and kidnappers target people based on how uncertain they look in public. When I’m out, I try to look as confident as possible. I would take a taxi to a wrong destination rather than admit to the taxi driver that my plans have changed and I no longer have to go there. After he drops me, I would pretend to look through my bag until he leaves then I’ll get another cab to take me back to my original location.

I went over the mechanics of the ride in my head, who would go in the middle and who would go at the back. I’m tiny so I would likely get stuck in the middle, the meat in the motorcycle sandwich. Will my new best friend lean over whispering into my ear to start a conversation? Would he grip my waist with his thighs to steady himself, rubbing my back saying, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay’ if I pretend I dont understand him? Could a bomb go off right here killing all of us and saving the day?

I was so engrossed in thought, I didn’t notice a shadow looming over me until a large woman tapped my shoulder indicating she wanted to get on.

She straddled the motorcycle sitting behind me and each of her breasts rested on a separate shoulder.
The okada man started up the bike. “Abeg, dress forward small.”

I said, “Uh-oh” as she scooched closer, then I blacked out.

Or I thought I blacked out. I was enveloped in a cocoon of warm flesh. My hearing went and I couldn’t see a thing. I tried to wiggle my head to the side, but nothing happened.

I had no sense of the motorcycle’s motion. I imagined I could hear the rumble of traffic, a murmur in the background like waves in a seashell.

I’ve heard of these sensory deprivation chambers where you’re suspended in goo and lose all sense of self. You could hold your hand in front of your face and would be unable to see it.
It was like that. Minus the availability of air and the relative safety.

And the freedom of motion.
And an avenue of escape like knocking on the walls of the chamber for the operator to let me out.

The motorcycle entered a pothole and jostled her, I came up for air like a drowning man before I was sucked back under.
At some point during the ride, I think she took a phone call. Her voice came to me in that dark place as an omnidirectional rumbling transmitted as vibrations directly into my body.
“I DEY ON TOP OKADA. MAKE I CALL YOU BACK.”

When the bike stopped at Oshodi, she got down and the sun hit me as I was spilled out into a harsh world. Dizzy and disoriented, I staggered around in circles then I walked out into the middle of the road.

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