We had become a community– The Fellowship Of The Last Bus. Every night we sat in silence as the ancient 911 crawled through the capital to the outskirts where our homes were.
Seats were fixed. The slender middle aged nurse sat beside the driver. the nurse’s wife was from the driver’s village so they called themselves ‘In-law’ but watching them laugh and gist in low conspiratorial tones, heads thrown back to savour spontaneous laughter, they could pass for twins.
In the middle were the business women, over dressed in fitting skirts and jackets. They were often on the phone, bellowing at an unseen customer to pay up or be dealt with. Sometimes they called their parents to find out how they were, sometimes they just placed their heads on the seats in front of them and fell asleep.
I sat at the back, last seat on the left, from there I watched the goings-on in the bus or let my eyes wander, through the windows I watched men peddle fruit and cigarettes, women push wheel barrows full of sand, and little children shepherd cows across hills.
Sometimes I wore my ear phones and let music carry me away, but my eyes kept flipping open and I was at the back of the bus again.
Until she came.
She stood at the door for a second and everyone sort of paused. I saw the hesitation in her eyes and I wanted to smile at her or to beckon but I looked out of the window instead and counted tricycles.
“Is anyone beside you?”
I shook my head because no sounds were coming from my mouth. She smelled so good, like she just walked out of a scented shower and her pink toe nails looked coy against her cobalt blue sandals. I could hear my heart beating and I wasn’t sure why. Sweat trickled down my armpit and I felt a little cold inside.
She got off at the next stop and I realised I didn’t know her name so I got off some fifty meters later and took a tricycle to her stop.
We spent forty minutes driving in and out of side streets, but she was gone.
She didn’t show up the next day, or the one after that. We had a few other newbies– a nun, a middle aged man with a large brown enveloped tucked under his arm who had come from Awka to petition against deductions in his pension, a honeymooning couple who snuggled so close together I feared they would fuse. After a week, I stopped looking.
Then she showed up again, and walked to the back. I didn’t wait for her to ask. I moved over and said, “Hi girl, where have you been?”
“Around,” she said, with a cryptic smile on her lips.
“Good to see you here again.”
“Good to know. You’ll see plenty of me from now on. I got a job at MTN. Today was my first day at work.”
And that’s how I met Endie, Ndifreke Isangedighi. I didn’t know this then but we would stay friends for life, through jobs and transfers, through weddings and a divorce. We would quit the last bus community, buy cars and have drivers. But everytime a large corporate bus would drive past me after work hours, I would find myself in the bus again re-learning the simple art of making friends.