Short Story Excerpt: Iridescent Hope
The word chaos took on another meaning and dimension of its own. It became clear the extent the fuel crisis had reached when the familiar danfo buses were a rare sight, as most of them ran on petrol that had become a precious commodity in town. The only form of transportation that was visible that morning was the black and yellow- mammoth-shaped bus that had been given the incomparable name molue.
There was nothing else like it in Lagos, and for many commuters that morning it was a godsend because it ran on diesel. At that point of the fuel crisis, diesel had not fallen into the ranks of what were considered essential but scarce commodities. In the meantime molues were the saving grace for Lagos commuters relying on public transportation. If you were yet to master the art of jumping on a molue in motion, it was a good time to learn. Molue jumping was an art that a fair share of the commuting population in Lagos—old and young, male and female—had mastered to an impeccable tee. Olawunmi tried not to look too astounded as she watched a young mother with her infant strapped diligently to her back run quickly, catch a molue in motion, and hold on for dear life, squeezing herself through the throng of people at the entrance. She braced herself, thinking that if that young woman could do it, there was no reason why she could not.
Well aware that in this crowd could be nestled one or two predatory pickpockets, she held her handbag and her larger tote bag, which contained her decent work shoes and a number of items she would need to freshen up when she got into work. She followed the singsong voice that screamed “CMS! CMS!” and made her first futile attempt to board the molue. It was almost like magic; the crowd of people that had a moment ago been subdued suddenly came to life, and everyone leaped toward the large behemoth of a vehicle. A rotund man with a tie sticking out of his shirt pocket shoved her aside as she tried to retain her equilibrium. Someone else pushed her, and in the middle of this she saw one of the slippers she had on slide off her feet in the opposite direction of the rush. Hopping on one foot, she tried to go after her runaway slipper. As the crowd pushed and shoved her from one side to the other, she did not lose sight of it, and she finally managed to put her one nude foot into the rubbery shoe, catching her breath and looking in the direction of the receding vehicle. Even as the vehicle moved faster, more and more people tried to get into it. One young man reeled forward and jumped on, only to be jettisoned off because he could not hold on tightly enough.
And almost immediately it started; the madness was over, and all that was left was the ebbing of the singsong voice of the conductor of the molue still calling on passengers to board for central Lagos, even when it was obvious that the bus was full to capacity. In its wake the molue had added to litter on the busy street—a pair of matching Dunlop slippers, a baby’s well-used feeding bottle, and several oranges that were now being snatched off the ground by children who seemed to appear from nowhere—reminders of what had just transpired.
‘Iridescent Hope‘ is the fourth story in ‘Terra Cotta Beauty‘ by Jola Naibi