he bushes were running so fast and I secretly wondered if they had suddenly developed legs. However, that was a stupid thought and I brushed it aside as I knew that all plants had their roots in the soil. Then, in sudden comprehension, I realised that it was the bus that was moving fast and not the bushes on the roadside.
I looked around the bus and I saw the yellow-skinned girl stealing glances at me again. I stuck out my tongue at her and she frowned and turned away. I felt so happy that I didn’t mind being a little nasty. I chuckled aloud to myself and my uncle smiled down at me and gave me a pat on the head. I grimaced silently and gritted my teeth. I didn’t like to be petted or touched like that. That was for babies and girls. My father had always told me that I was a man and men are always strong.
I still remember the day my hand got caught in a mousetrap, I had screamed loudly and tears streamed down my face. My mother had come running out of her hut and she freed my hand from the trap. She rubbed some leaves together and squeezed the juice into the wound. My yell of pain had woken my father from his nap and he came outside angrily with a long cane which he used to whip me soundly amidst the entreaties of my mother. When it was all over, my mother silently wiped her eyes with the corner of her wrapper.
She made to pull me up but my father commanded her to leave me alone and that was when I received my first lesson in manhood. My uncle had already fallen asleep and his head kept banging against the window but he only snored on. His mouth was slightly open and a line of spittle was trickling down his chin. I smiled to myself and looked away guiltily. It is rude for a child to make fun of elders.
The Osondu bus went down a hill and I gripped the sides of my seat tightly. I had looked forward to this day for over two weeks and had lost much sleep because of the excitement. I was following my uncle to Lagos because my father wanted me to have the privileges of an urban secondary school education. I looked over at the woman in front of me.
She had been perpetually eating since the start of the journey. Now, she was munching on a second boiled egg. I wrinkled my nose at the smell of the egg. It made me to remember the odorous fart: it was an aftermath product of eating beans. The woman was very fat and her buttocks spilled over the seat because there wasn’t enough room for it. Her arms looked like tubers of yam and her mouth gouged in and out just like when a snake has swallowed a frog.
The man beside her kept glancing hungrily at the woman’s food and he even sometimes licked his dry lips. I was sure he was hungry but the fat woman did not notice this as she stuffed a hunk of bread in her mouth. I concluded the fat woman was wicked because, in our village, it was customary for you to invite people to join you at your meal if they were around when you were eating. I wished I had something to give the hungry-looking man to eat but I had finished eating the plantain chips my uncle had bought for me at the car park.
I looked over at the young man and lady sitting across me and I quickly looked away. However, I wanted to see it again and I furtively looked through the corner of my eyes. His hand was cradled in her lap and she gently ran her fingers over it; lacing their hands together. He brought her hand to his mouth. I was afraid he was going to bite her but he just gently brushed his lips against her hand and she looked into eyes and laughed.
I thought to myself that it was strange that she didn’t brush his hand away. I had often heard my mother telling my elder sister not to allow a man to touch her. I think every mother tells her daughter that, or what would have made Aduke slap me at the moonlight dance that night. The older boys and girls had taken to the dance circle or were sitting around in small groups. So we, the younger boys, took to teasing the girls. I had pulled Aduke’s hair from behind and scampered away.
She came chasing after me and I had run into hiding. When she got close to my hiding place, I had sprung on her from behind and put my hands on her chest to feel the tiny beginnings of her breasts. She had refused to talk to me again. She didn’t even say goodbye to me when I left the village. She just stood on the edge of the crowd of the boys and girls telling me to bring them packets of sweets and biscuits when I come for the holidays.
The bus turned into a white building which had some red paint splattered over it in some places. I first wondered where this was but just then I saw long ropes that were put into the sides of the vehicles and I remembered the picture in my English textbook. Yes, it was a petrol station. I watched the machine as the numbers rolled. I couldn’t wait to relate my experience to Akin and Amodu. I was sure they would both listen with their mouths wide open.
I suddenly woke up and I felt my uncle prodding me up. He told me we were entering Lagos and he didn’t want me to miss the sight. I was angry with myself for having fallen asleep but my anger soon turned to amazement and a little bit of fright as I looked at the tall buildings. Some of the buildings were even built with glass. I asked my uncle how the houses stayed upright without crumbling and he laughed at my naivety. When we got to my uncle’s house, I stopped in fright because his house was also tall like a coconut tree.
I sat down on my box and refused to budge. Although, I had enjoyed climbing trees in the village, this was something different because there were no branches to hold on to. My uncle’s eldest son, Lekan had to half-carry and drag me up into the house where they all collapsed into a fit of laughter over my demonstration. Kate propped herself up on the pillow and looked at me as I lay on the bed with one eye closed and the other peeping at her.
‘What a funny story. It’s so incredulous to think you were once so primitive.’
I smiled to myself as I wistfully thought of the concept of change. It was the transcendence of childhood into adulthood and the plunge from the rural to the urban.
I pulled Kate into my arms and I buried my head in her voluptuous chest and my mind went blank.
RUNNING BUSHES by Ifeoluwa Watson
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