She stood in line outside a Nigerian bank in Lagos, heads-up, moving side by side, a black leather purse firm on her right palm. She was the forty-ninth persons in the line of about fifty that trailed from the ATM all the way past the blue canopy that shades people from the sun. She didn't hear the hawkers who trolled in the middle of traffic and pushed handkerchief, plantain chips, table water and minerals at the drivers and passengers faces. Or the aboki man laying flat on a granite at the back of a tipper. Or the okada man with a cracked helmet on. She didn't wipe the sweat on her face with an handkerchief or kick the coke bottle lying close to her left leg. When a woman walked briskly towards her and tapped her on the shoulder and asked, "are you the last on the queue". She stared at her for a while, not knowing the actual response to give, before she shook her head and said, " No".
The atmosphere was filled with sonorous beat as a group of young people dressed in white and blue uniform marched across the road. It pulsate her heart, made it even more difficult to keep her mind blank, which Mr Oladunni had said few hours ago was what she would have to do. He had refused to give her any more note because she needed to recall the mode of operation of the ATM machine and password of the ATM card. It was easy for him to say that, as though she knew how to go about keeping her mind blank, as though it was in her power, as though she invited those images of her friend Temiloluwa's muscled, k-leg running towards her, the dust on her black shoes so lethargic she wanted to spank her about dragging her legs on the floor. As they both compete to handling over their church handbills to passersby. On sunny Sundays, after the grace.
The woman behind her tapped her again. She grimaced and turned around. "Look at what that useless agbero is doing there," the woman said.
She turned to look across the road, moving her neck slowly. A small crowd had gathered. An agbero raising his fist towards a danfo conductor, his raddled slightly torn shirt swung as the air blew. Blows were raining, the danfo conductor uppercut landed on the flat nose of the agbero, or his front stained teeth, she wasn't sure because the agbero's hand was raised as if to guide the blow. She saw blood dripping from the agbero's hand and two set of teeth fall beneath his palms.
"See how the people are watching closely, without helping or showing any sympathy on the agbero " the woman behind her said. "Lagosians have become too used to minding their own business when it comes to matter of this kind".
She said nothing. She was persistent with her friendliness, unlike the man in front of her who had said earlier, "someone is actually behind me oo" and now ignored her. Making her the 50th person on the queue of fifty-one now. Perharps he was wondering why she kept so muted and not contributing to the conversation going on in the line. Because they had all got up early-those who had hardly taken breakfast at all-to get to the ATM machine before noon; because they were all afraid the ATM might run out of cash and not dispense, or have network issues, and they may have to come back four days after. Thursday and Friday is a public holiday. And the bank might decide they aren't going to load money inside the ATM. Men and women in flip flops gathered around a newspaper vendor and aired their opinions on the fuel scarcity of the nation.
"Look at his mouth, all that bleeding. The blow cut his front teeth". The woman behind her said.
She didn't look because she knew the blood would be red, like a fresh palm oil, she dipped on her grandpa's idol head. Each time she look closely into its bulgy eyes. Before surrending her life to Christ that cold Wednesday morning when she got touched by the word of God coming out from the woman preaching in a danfo. She took to work that day. Instead she looked up Balogun close, a sloppy street with rickety parked cars. There were children flying kites, muscled young men pushing wheelbarrow stacked with bunch of plantain and baskets of tomatoes. Veepee tank hung on roofs. Megaphone blared across the street. There were the buka where grown men gobbled ewa agoyin with agege bread. A lady sitting under an umbrella emblemed with a green butterfly and a chalk written sign board that read buy your recharge card here.
Two days ago, she had also queued inside the bank, with other pool of people that have come to make complaints, or enquiring. Before getting in, the electronic tinted glass door has refused to let her in. She wasn't carrying any metal objects though. Is just one of those days the bank's door mal functioned due to the number of people flocking in and out. That day, she had skipped her morning devotion to settle the dispute among her neighbour and the PHCN personnel.
"I don't know why they can't load money into the five ATM". "Just two is working and if we want to make a disposit, even though we do queue, we have four to five person to attend to us," the woman behind her was saying. She wished she would shut up. It was her talking that made it harder to keep her mind blank, free from grandpa's idol. She looked across the road again, she could see the smile on the danfo conductor face. The smile of a hard core guy who could knock down any other agbero that pass his boundary. His shoulders was high up as that of the man that humiliated the bank cashier who retorted to people who aren't on the line two days ago.
"Why are you answering those that aren't on the queue, do you think am a fool?". His voice echoed across the banking hall. "You must be very stupid, I have been standing here for close to two hours now and you keep answering those that aren't on the line just because of the chicken change they wrap between your palm". The cashier couldn't utter a word, as the man promised is going to slap his face if he says anything. People were trying to calm the man down when a young lady who will barely be in her early twenties asked for a pen from a man leaning against the painted wall, eyes clued to the flat screen TV tuned to CNN.
"Only one is now dispensing" the man in front of her said. "Do you care for some apples", the woman in line behind her said, offering her nylon of five unwashed apples. She had not noticed her buy them.
She smiled and shook her head. " Thank you".
"Take one, you know an apple per day keeps the doctor away".
She looked at her properly now, for the first time. The woman thick hurriedly scrawed eyebrow locked on hers.
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