Love at First Drive – Eberechukwu Ihezie

I glanced at the girl sitting next to me as she chattered away. She loves talking, that one. The swishing wind blew up her short skirt to reveal her soft, smooth thighs. Just last night, my fingers gripped those thighs hard, digging into them. “I can stay for one more night, you know” she’d whined in a drawn out, performative sexy voice as she packed to leave this
morning. “I know you want to but sweetie, you know you can’t. I have to be in Port harcourt, remember?” I’d said, sleekly detaching myself. I liked her but not enough. “But I can stay at your place till you get back. I wanna stay”, she cooed in a voice she thinks is sexy enough to make me change my mind. Now, sitting inside my car as I drive to the park, she chattered on nonstop. My mind drifted in and out, barely listening to what she’s saying. “You call me occasionally, okay? To check up on me?” The girl continued. “But I’ll be driving. I don’t make calls while driving” I tried to deflect again. She turned around slowly to face me, her eyes beginning to emit little balls of rage. “You promised to drop me off yourself over the phone, yet you couldn’t. And I let you without any complaints.

The least you could do is to check up on me as I go back. At least, pretend that you care. I am going back to Owerri, which if I remember correctly, is significantly farther than PH. If you leave as soon as you drop me off, you’ll be in PH in a few hours. Then, you’ll have plenty of time to call me because you’ll no longer be on the road, right?” she slowly emphasised on the last word, making sure I knew there was no room for any objection. I laughed and shrugged. “Sure thing, sweetie.” I acquiesced knowing right away I was going to delete her number the second I get the chance. Women like that frightened me – their penchant for being in control, dictating every move of the people around them is far too terrifying for me to engage with. The fact that they think it’s cute, sweet and what men want makes it even more frightening.
I rounded the corner and drove a little farther, pulling into the park slowly. Touts rounded the car, hitting softly on the windows and asking for our destination. I know that they’ll jump all over her bags the minute they leave the car trunk. Dealing with them always exhaust me. The buses parked all over made it incredibly hard for me to ease into the park, so I stopped at the entrance. I sat back, waiting for her to leave the car and wave me goodbye but she turned around to face me again, flashing me one of her rage balls. I sighed and eased out of the car.

Opening the trunk, I pulled out her bags and walked her down to the ticket office while fighting off desperate touts threatening to pull the bags from me. I stood beside a bus, waiting while she bought the ticket. Then we proceeded to the assigned bus. “I really have to go. Safe journey” I said, trying to extricate myself finally. “What if something happens here when you leave? You know these touts are vicious. What if they try to extort me and I need someone to fight for me?” I rolled my eyes so hard, I knew it’d hurt her. “Nobody is going to extort you. You are not even carrying that much. Look, thank you for dropping by and safe journey. That’s the much I can do for you. I really need to be on my way back to PH right now” I stood my ground. She flung her hair back. “I really thought you’d be different. But I was wrong. You’re just like the rest of them, an asshole.” She threw decorum into the air, injecting her words with poison. “I am an asshole because I refuse to stick around here, doing nothing, simply waiting for your bus to move. This bus is not even half full and I have to stay and wait for it to be filled and then wait for them to park the loads before leaving for PH when you are fully aware that I have an important business meeting to get to and I’m the asshole?” I tried stopping myself from fuming so bad. She shrugged and folded her hands across her chest, resolutely.

I calmed down. “You know what? It’s nothing. I can wait. I’ll wait. Why don’t you go find your seat?” I said. She squealed happily. “Thank you.” She cooed. I sighed and leaned on the bus to wait, impatiently. Occasionally, she leaned out of the window to talk to me. I listened without hearing. That was when I saw her. She was running behind a tout, screaming out her voice in a beautifully cadenced Igbo. “I’ve been here since morning. I’ve been waiting here since morning. Since 7am. The first bus I bought the ticket left hours ago. You people kept on shifting me from one bus to another after collecting 2k for my load and now you want to shift me again. Am I going to sleep here? I am not going again, give me my money, let me find another bus” she yelled.

The sternly built tout ignored her, lifting heavy bags onto his shoulders. She blocked his way. “Give me back my money now, oga oginikwanu. Nyeghachim ego m kam si ebe a puo” she yelled into his face. The guy dropped the bags. “See eh, since you want to show that you are a strong, stubborn Aba girl, come and collect your money now” he said coolly. “On top my own money kwa? Thunder will fire me and you here now. You want to chop my 2k just like that? Try it” she started screaming again.

It was the vehemence in her. The pure, undiluted fire in her. Something about the way she was fighting a man she’s aware will beat her up without any qualms. Yet, she kept on persisting. “There’s no other bus going to Nsukka in Aba. This is the only park going that place so even if you collect your money, you’ll still find your way back here and I promise you, if I ever see your face here, you won’t make that trip. I’ll personally make sure of it” “When you are not the owner of the park? Who are you to make that kind of assurance? Ogbeni go and sit down joor. Nigerians and yeye talk, give them small power and they think they’re on top of the world. You don’t know what real power looks like? Ihere anaghi eme gi. You’re not ashamed that you are here threatening nonsense. Since you want to be powerful, don’t you know the way to Aso Rock? That’s where real power resides” she retorted. I burst out in laughter. She was feisty. And that was what I loved instantly about her.

She was small in stature with a curly wig on her head and a make-up free face. Small pimples scattered across her face. I wanted to get to know her. What is her name? Where is she from? What is she studying in school? What is her life dream? Who is she? Suddenly, I had an idea. The girl leaning from the bus window was forgotten as I plotted. I ignored her cries for me as I walked over to the tout. I spoke to him like a man. He listened, because men listen to men especially when it’s regarding women. I watched him walk over to the girl and hand her money over. She was a little surprised at the sudden change of heart. She glanced over at me briefly before pocketing her money into the back of her Jeans. Her bags were too heavy to carry, yet she managed. She hoisted them all out to the entrance of the park, still fuming.

The other girl still screamed my name as I walked out to my car. The angry girl was still standing by the roadside, waiting furiously as I drove up to her. “Hello, my name is Chidi Ezegbunam. I saw what happened back there. Do you need a ride? I am on my way to Nsukka myself. I can drop you off” I offered, hoping she’d accept my offer. “Look, I am not in the mode. Please be on your way” she snapped at me. I climbed out of the car, walked around till I was facing her. “I know you don’t know me, and you have no reason to trust a stranger, but I can really help you. It’s not a big deal. You have to be in school today, and I am on my way there. Which hostel are you staying in? I can drop you right there. See, you don’t have to be scared. I saw how vicious you were back there, so I am scared of you. I know you’ll bite my head off if I misbehave so trust me, I won’t” I added the last part to calm her down. She looked at her with those angry eyes and I knew she’d accept my offer. “Listen Mr. Man, I know that you spoke to that idiot for me. You made him return my money, I’m grateful and angry at the same time. This stupidity is incomprehensible. Men never listen to women until some other man – some superhero – jumps in to save us. For once, I’d like a man to listen to me. I don’t want you saving me. It’s stupid.” “I know. It sucks” I agreed. Her mind excited me. I wanted to listen to all her rage.

“What? Are you a lecturer?” she asked, hefting one of the bags to my trunk. I pumped my fist into the air victoriously, dragging the rest of her bags down to the trunk. “No, I’m just going down there for some academic business.” She glanced at me briefly as if deciding what kind of a serial killer I am. I shivered under her intense gaze silently, letting her decide whatever her mind could make of me. Eventually, she entered the car. “I’m Lillian by the way. Final year English and literary studies” she said, fastening her seatbelt. We’ve been married for twenty-five years and at every anniversary, we retell the story of the long drive down to Nsukka and how we both fell in love with each other on our way down there. “So, you missed your important business meeting for her? Aww that is so romantic” people always said whenever they hear our story. I’d laugh and correct their wrong impression. “Urmm…there never was a business meeting. It was a lie I told the other girl to get her to move out of my house. But I did drive all the way to Nsukka, a town I’ve never been to just to get to know her. It is the most worthwhile drive I’ve ever undertaken in my life. One I’d gladly do all over again” I said. “It was love at first drive” she loves to say. It really was.

Eberechukwu Ihezie is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She’s also a screenwriter, ghostwriter and content creator. Most of her publications can be found online and on Instagram via her handle:@ihezie_ebere.