You know you’ve missed the first bus. Mum says you’re always late. You know it’s because you were writing the whole night after that mind thread you had when listening to that new Spoken Poetry artist you came across on SoundCloud.
Mum hasn’t also considered that those taking the first bus are usually in a hurry and not exactly the relaxed folk whose energy you feed into your ink.
You choose a seat at the back — beside the window — just how you like it for the occasional procrastinator glance into nature. You hang outside with Mum. Now that she knows your bus will soon leave, she’s relaxed. She tells you of her day’s schedule. She must go to the market to buy vegetables. She’ll cook with the plantains you’d seen in the car bunk when you took out your single luggage. She’s happy you came — even if it was just for a few days. She wants to say she’ll miss you. You don’t say it either. A long hug does it and she drives away to her long day.
So you climb the bus. You’re grateful you ate breakfast. You’re not going to starve like the previous hundred trips you’d missed your home meal. You happen to be Passenger 57. You remember there was a movie with that iconic number. You can’t recall the plot. You make a mental note to illegally download the flick when you get to your studio in Buea.
The empty vehicle fills up while you scroll through your Instagram feed. Before you get to make a comment on Gary Vee’s post — hoping to be part of the #60secondclub — you notice something at the periphery of your vision. A small voice says you might not be able to write poetry or read your hard back — Behold the Dreamers.The voice tells you to pay attention to your fellow passengers.
58 is a stout, smiley fellow. He tries to make conversation and you let him talk for a bit. As soon as he drifts away to let those at the extreme rear go in, you put your headphones and replay Akotowaa’s Undeath of the Artist. He notices your book and queries the content. Your practice smile works well; he keeps talking. He wonders what Imbolo might have done with her $1,000,000 advance. The voice smiles, almost in foreboding, because 30 seconds later, you duck and adjust your thick rimmed glasses.
54, 55 and 56 are a family. The projectile that missed your cranium is a shoe. 54 is 5 years old. 54 runs this family given her mother’s weary demeanor. You’ll later on find out that their father was packing their luggage and buying the bane of your nose’s existence- Egusi pudding.
They’re a nice bunch, 54, 55 and 56. Nice…compared to 59. She looks 59 as well. But she’s not particularly pleased to be at the aisle. As much as you enjoy your headphones to prevent further conversation with 58, you’d prefer his chatty predisposition to 59’s nagging in a language you recognize. Your practice smile still works. However, you’re worried they’ll figure out that you don’t understand the language.
58 is fluent. It might be Bandjoun. Or Bafang. Or Japanese. Your smile endures.
The horn goes off. Your father calls to find out if you’re still at the station. Your fluent English turns heads around given that your erstwhile French was flawless. 58 has plums this time. You politely decline. 59 started sleeping. 54, 56, and 56 have a small rugby team. You tell yourself that once you start moving, everything will fall in place.
You hear the voice laugh.
The sun hits your window just as you’d predicted. It’s an amalgam of colors and sounds. Pears, Egusi pudding, yams, old mothers, young fathers, motorcycles , cars too old to be allowed to exist, fathers too tired to drive. It’s a spectral display of life in the West Region. A typical 10 am on a Monday morning.
58 picks up his phone to make the first call. He’s loud enough to have been talking with someone in a nearby bus. The rays don’t slow him down. Something is wrong. You understand this from his frantic dance on his seat. You wish you could speak Bafang. Or Bandjoun. Or Japanese.
But you know you want to write.
So, you plug in your headphones and take out your notepad. You have a few lines from yesterday.
Another projectile from 54. She makes sure you see she meant it before she crawls back into her mother’s arms. Your smile is existent. But, fading. You mutter to yourself. You’ll be fine. The voice is silent.
Your mind skips with the car horn and human screams from outside. You’ve forgotten the poem. But, you remember the thread you’d promised to dig in. Something about the boy who couldn’t die and how he found out. You’re still stuck. You take out your headphones — even though the voice had slipped a quiet warning. That’s when it hits you.
The man whose mouth had been moving ever since you got into the bus. He was singing, preaching and narrating in tandem with the music on the speakers. He takes his job seriously.
So did 54 when she started crying. She ignited a revolution for the second time — you gather from 53. That’s when you find out that 17, 23 and a few others had taken part in the baby travel meeting and were enacting the resolutions. Clearly, your writing fell under Any Other Business.
58 seems calm now. He rests his back. You put your headphones in place and focus on the blank lines stuffed to your face on the backpack you can’t let go of. A line comes. You like it. Down. Another. Even better. You make some changes. But you stop yourself from editing. You’re hitting your stride. You know it’s time to create. You don’t bother about editing. You care less about format. Your handwriting doesn’t matter.You stop hearing #Team54. The bus fades. It’s you, the rays, the lines and the flow. You can feel the well pour out.
You know you can’t stay too long in this state. So you write. A line comes. You like it even more. Down. Another. Then, another. The bus’s dance won’t stop you. Everything is a blurry reflection at the edge of your glasses. You feel ze connection. This is it! You know how the boy dies the first time…
That’s when 58 pokes your arm and mouths: “What are you writing?”
Your smile can’t be summoned. He can see that. You can see that he sees that. He sees that you can see that he sees that.
You know you’ve lost it. You know you were unto something that you won’t get. The bus giggles on a well-placed annoying speedbump. The rays aren’t that refreshing anymore. You put Behold The Dreamers and your notebook into your backpack. You get your phone and restart the playlist. It’s Adomaa’s Hollow Spaces. You lean on the window and close your eyes.
You know you’re going to write about this trip.