A Method to Madness
A thank you note to the guy on the bus.
Coasting around the streets of Port Harcourt, it wasn’t uncommon to see certain people covered in dirt, their hair extended in clumps and what is left of their clothes hanging loosely on their bodies.
They would sometimes sit by the roadsides talking, their words spiralling into thin air which many tried carefully to avoid. Other times they would walk, to a destination only them knew and shared.
Most times they go ignored. It was unfortunate, whatever could have happened. Maybe it was from the village. “I heard one woman ran mad after she confessed to her sins, all the evil things she did”. “Did you hear she even changed back into a cat?” “That was before the pastor’s fire prayers”.
I’m standing by the roadside in Gbagada, Lagos and there is no confession needed for me or anyone really to become a mad person. You see, whereas cases of madness were reserved and looked upon as an infliction for only a select number of people in a society, madness here was free and embraced by all, albeit unconsciously and sometimes unwillingly.
It was strategic, this method to madness – the way it subtly presented itself as a suggestion, until it became no longer an option.
Whether it was in trying to get home in time; you thought you should give way to all those precarious yellow buses because “sorry” will not repair your car and you didn’t have police officers on your roll, but the madness overcame today and even the yellow buses thought you were a yellow bus.
Or whether it was buying okrika at the market; there was a friend of yours whose beat-down prices where unbeatable. But madness came today, and even you surprised yourself.
I always wondered how I would manage if it ever came to a point where I had to race others for a seat on a bus.
Another bus almost always came by a few minutes later, but today, more that thirty-five minutes had gone by and there was no bus.
To an untrained eye, it would seem like the increasing number of people waiting were perfectly normal but even I knew that madness had descended on everyone at the bus stop.
Everyone including me.
Noises come filtering back into my ears and I’m able to make out words like “e don full” and “dey go”.
I’m inside the bus. The only one of two ladies that made it into the fourteen seater carrying sixteen, the bus conductor included. There is an extra man on the row in front making them five instead of four and he is begging those shouting. that he be let down or their fares would be paid incomplete.
As the wind rips through my hair, I recall what happened a few minutes ago like it happened in another dimension. That someone stretched out his hand to help me up in the sea of bodies and didn’t say anything after, or ask for a thank you.