I work. I suppose you know that already. Of all the many nerve racking things that come with working, commuting to work is the absolute worst for me. I’d go on and on telling you how depressing it is, but that’s unnecessary. It ain’t my flow.
You know the Yin yang theory? In my oh-so-dark-depression every morning, there’s this little shimmering light that makes all the difference. Brings some strange sorta peace in a very weird way. It has come to be the best part of my mornings.
I do it every morning. Have conversations with myself. About them.
From the moment I’m dropped off and I walk the rest of the journey to work, there are specific people I expect to see. I’ve seen them everyday since I started taking that route. I’ve watched them. I know them. But they don’t know me.
I do not know their names but I’ve named them in my mind and I wonder about them.
I walk pass tons of people everyday, but these 7, I look out for. They have come to be my light in all the dark.
There’s the first woman. I call her Iya Titi, for no reason in particular. It just fits. She’s there every morning. As early as 6 a.m. She faces me as I get out of the car. She sells fruits, as the seasons come. It was mango once before, and then tangerines, bananas at some point too. It’s agbalumo now. I bought a few from her some days ago, just because. She looked up and smiled at me and said thank you, I smiled back and walked off with agbalumos in my bag and a name for her. We’re friends now, if only by a smile.
Next up are the two beggars who sit in the path I thread by with laminated A4 papers around their necks. I’ve never stopped to read what they have on, neither have I stopped to drop a few bucks. I’m not mean, I just wonder about them. How long would they sit out to beg, what amount of money would make a difference to them. What do they want out of life? Even I cannot fathom what it might be.
I walk just a few steps more before I start to hear the clinging sound from afar off. It’s where the next two are. I think they’re sisters. In my mind they are. The elder one fries puff puff, the younger one hits a fork on an iron tray to get the attention of passersby. They’re there everyday too. We don’t smile at each other – yet – but it’s satisfying seeing them support each other in the early hours of the morning, trying to make ends meet as people swarm by to face their daily businesses.
I walk only a little more, and then I’m on the street that leads to the back gate of the estate my office is. I take a bike from this street. There are tons and tons of bike men who chant “Sister come” when I get here, but I never budge. I have a chosen one. He’s the sixth. He wears a thin faded blue shirt everyday and has a fixed sad smile. He’s old and I have no name for him. I take no other bike when I do not see him, I’m always early anyway, so I have enough time to spare. I do not want my N50 to go into anybody else’s pocket. I want it to be in his alone. And he knows it. When I get there and he isn’t there, immediately he’s back, he comes to me and says good morning, with that fixed sad smile, only a little wider. I give him the brightest smile I’ve got and say “Good morning, sir”. And then, I get on the bike and we zoom off in the ambiance of our silence and peaceful friendship. On random days, I want to pay him N100 instead of N50, just because, but I wonder how he’d react. I wonder if he’d be excited or if he’d feel insulted. I wonder about him. Every single time.
The seventh person is a lot like me. She’s a young girl. She lives within the estate. She’s always leaving for work when I’m walking the last mile to my office. I envy that. She’s very pretty We pass by each other without a word but we give each other a placid stare. I know when she’s happy and when she’s down. I know when she had a good night rest and when it was frustrating. Yesterday, after we passed by, I turned around to look at her again and she had done the exact same thing. We smiled and turned around. I planned to ask for her name today
I’m glummer than usual today. My little lights weren’t there today.
Iya Titi wasn’t on the bridge today chanting “buy your fruits, fresh fresh fruits”. The beggars weren’t on the street. I didn’t hear the clank of the fork on the tray from afar off. I got there and saw the elder sister alone struggling to fry the puff puff, get people’s attention and sell them all at once. I stood out for almost thirty minutes, my bike man never came. And when I walked in, she didn’t pass. I couldn’t ask for her name.
I walked by looking worried, wondering where they all went and what could have happened to them. I saw too many people look at me like something was amiss.
I walked on, finding my path in the dark wondering if my lights would be back to light up the way tomorrow.