When Ms. Good Cheer @OyeSmith tweeted “There r various afflictions like allergies, body aches, bad vision and so on…brethren that affliction of trapped gas? None like it…none!” I immediately marked it as a favourite. Even as I waited for the action to be completed, there was this thing at the back of my mind gnawing away at this declaration, but I had more pressing issues worrying me so I let it feed without dwelling on it. I was struggling with writer’s block and after three days I didn’t seem to be winning.
On Tuesday I went to bed writing about writer’s block, on Wednesday I woke up and again it hit me: “There r various afflictions like allergies, body aches, bad vision and so on…brethren that affliction of trapped gas? None like it…none!”
Something was definitely wrong about this declaration.
It was the year 2000 and I worked on a houseboat offshore. My work cycle was three weeks on and one week off, and it was my week off. As usual, I travelled to Warri to pick up my pay-check before going home to Lagos to see my family.
The bus was full and the driver had settled the park touts, still we were not moving. “What is the reason for this delay?” A voice bellowed two seats to the left of me. He had voiced what most of us were thinking.
“Bros no vex, e get one sistah wey go use latrine, na she we dey wait for. No vex.” The driver explained. After what felt like eternity, but was really maybe thirty seconds, the same voice spoke up. “This is my problem with public transport and transporters, no respect for people’s time! There’s a reason I came out this early to the park and it was not to have to wait for anybody doing whatever wherever. Driver can you get somebody else to complete this bus and move? We have things to do!”
Ok, so I saw his point, but the driver had explained plus it was not really the driver delaying us.
“Na im dey come so,” the driver said, his relief evident as he pointed to a solitary figure hurrying toward the bus.
“Good morring,” she greeted trying to sound cheery and sorry at the same time. “Sorry to wais’ your time.” Her words were met with feeble “good mornings” and a few grunts, but our friend went to town on her.
“See young woman, I have a job interview in Lagos which is why I woke up early this morning. If you knew you wanted to remain in Warri and shit, you should have taken car hire!”
To her credit, she did not utter a single word either in her defence or in further apology.
In Sapele, I bought some kpokpo garri and roasted edible maggots while others bought boiled guinea fowl eggs, kpekere and whatnot. Our friend bought bananas and a bottle of fanta. I remember this because I remembered thinking it was rather early for minerals.
Somewhere between Benin and Ore, the stretch of road was not particularly smooth. It was pitted and potholed, and it was around here that we first perceived it. Sitting by the window of the 14-seater Toyota Hiace bus and not wanting to get involved, I stuck my nose between the small crack in the window I had kept open as the wind was too much if the window was opened wider. I waited for the smell to pass as I was sure someone had cracked something nasty in the bus, and from experience you were better off not reacting too profusely lest suspicion fell on you.
This smell would not go away. “Open de wondow,” someone yelled from the back of the bus, “We don die for hia!”
“In fact, driver abeg park! Wetin be dis nau?”
The driver pulled over on the shoulder of the road and everyone scrambled to get out as if the bus was on fire. I was the second person to hit the dusty asphalt and straight away I emptied a mouthful of saliva in an impressive stream into the bushes away from me. Almost everyone scrambled out of the bus. Sitting there and looking straight ahead through the windscreen was our friend. After some cajoling, lighthearted and even malicious yabbing, he eventually got off the bus and made for the bushes nearby. As he walked his pants bottom stuck to his behind while the legs flapped in the wind. He cut a dejected figure with streaks running down his behind to his pants legs.
After ten minutes and no sign of him we got worried and formed ourselves into search parties. It was a woman who saw him crouching behind a clump of grass. He did not have a change of pants and was too embarassed to show his face, so she gave him the top piece of the two piece wrapper she was tying. He only asked that his briefcase be brought to him as it contained his credentials and some money, then he bade us bye-bye. He was going to return to Warri, there was nothing for him in Lagos anymore.
I had been spending the day with my then girlfriend’s family. We were at her brother’s and after Sunday rice and video games, it was time to go home. Usually I went home with her and stayed till about 7pm before heading home.
On this day, just a few miles from her house, I had this queasiness in my bowel. Without explaining much to her mom, I got out of the car and jumped an okada.
True, her house was five minutes away compared to my place twenty-five minutes away, but what needed to be done was best done in a place where I could scatter body.
I was almost certain the cyclists could smell my desperation because I got ripped off that day, but I did not mind. On the final lap though, I had to do a lot of butt clenching. The cyclists would hit a pothole and I would lift myself off the seat, supporting my entire weight on the muscles of both arms before gently lowering myself back on the seat. I was on an okada with the wind rushing past me yet I was sweating. Beads of sweat had formed on my upper lip and in the furrows of my brow. My vision was tunnelled and my sight was monochromatic – everything was black and white. There was a rushing of blood in my ears.
When I got off the bike, I spent the first few seconds clutching the wall, doubled over, trying hard not to lose concentration. I pushed the gate open and strode purposefully across the compound into the house. As I walked, I shed my clothing. The first to go was my belt, then my shirt, then my inner shirt. By the time I saw Mama, my sandals were gone too. She smiled a knowing smile and let me pass without even a word of greeting.
I saw the toilet door and a spasm passed through me. I bent over double sweating, praying, biting my lower lip and clutching my stomach. I stood like that for a few seconds before I could take another step. I shed my pants then and very slowly inched toward the door. I could not be bothered to shut the door after me let alone lock it. I collapsed onto the porcelain throne and let rip!
As I trumpeted and honked, a wave of relief washed over me. The air got cooler, cool breeze blew gently against my skin, slowly, colour returned to my world and I saw the toilet door hanging open and through it, my trail of clothes. I took a big breath and heaved a deep sigh and closed my eyes. At that moment, everything was alright with the world. Heck, it was a brand new world and I could take on anything.
“There r various afflictions like allergies, body aches, bad vision and so on…brethren that affliction of trapped gas? None like it…none!”
There is one affliction worse than this and I know it because I have suffered it, not once, not twice, in fact more times than I care to remember, it is the affliction of the purga!
PS: Please be sure to let me know what you think. Which is the worse affliction? Señor Trapped Gas or El Purga?