Remi sat in the bus, in silence, marvelling at just how familiar she had gotten with the route. She recalled the first day she had plied that route and how long it had taken to master everything she had come to know. Thinking about it left her distinctly baffled, awed even, from her outspoken attitude, which sometimes verged on over-confidence, to her new-found positive out look to life.
For a long time, she had been an acute introvert who barely looked into the eyes of others; speaking to them was impossible, of course. This new-fanged confidence she knew, she had learnt, and it had been learnt the hard way. Sitting in the bus, Remi realized she was no longer afraid, of what people might say about her, of not meeting family expectations. Even more surprising, she was no longer afraid of herself.
Fear was clearly gone as she replayed her encounter with the woman at the bursary office the previous day. At the time Remi arrived the office, the workers had not resumed duty for the day and an impossibly long queue had been formed, starting at the office door. Everyone looked determined to accomplish their mission in the office that day and it dawned on her that a long, hard, desperate fight lay in wait. The workers finally made their way into the office at roughly 10am, not minding that official office hours began by 8am. Even as most people made passing comments about the laziness and incompetence of most government workers, their presence was accomplished by relieve for those on the queue. Out of the blues, a woman began to shout as she paved her way through the crowd, “make una commot for road make person see road pass” and this was replied by a chorused “sorry ma!”
She continues in a nagging tone, “this early morning, una no go allow person enter office drink water drop cup before you start to dey worry person life”
With vehemence, she hissed and then marched into the office, with an air of assumed importance. With that, the day began in full.
At 12 noon, it was announced that the workers were embarking on a short break, thus would not attend to anyone else, in the meantime. Remi was thankful for the rare gift of patience that day; she hoped to stay calm despite any provocations. It was not until about 2:30pm, by which time Remi was next in line, then the woman attending to the crowd declared that she was too tired and would resume the following day. Remi would have taken this lightly, if only she had not been standing in queue over the last two days. This time,the fiery feeling she had tried all day to keep within was impossible to restrain any longer. She walked up to the woman, all the while trying her best to phrase her message in as polite a manner as possible.
“Excuse me, ma. Please can you attend to me today? I wouldn’t be able to come here again tomorrow,” she said calmly.
Surprised by such efforentry, the woman replied, “because you are who? I said I’m tired and I’ll continue tomorrow and if you can’t make it tomorrow, how is that my problem? All these people on the line are they not standing and waiting too?”
Seeing she had sparked the woman’s ego, Remi sort to plead, “I’m sorry ma. I didn’t mean it that way. Is just that I have to travel tomorrow and I’ve been coming here for the past two days. I don’t see myself coming back here tomorrow. Please!”
“That is not my business, next time come earlier,” the woman replied coldly.
“But ma, I came early,” Remi replied in confusion.
The woman gave Remi an impatient look, “I said earlier. Now leave my office, we’re locking up”
Out of frustration, Remi did the first thing that came to her mind. She grabbed the closest chair, sat down and acted as though she were deaf.
Perplexed, the woman clapped her hands and gave a short laugh, “See me see trouble o! This girl, don’t you understand English? I want to close now. It’s almost 3pm, you are wasting my time”
“Madam, I didn’t plan to waste your time but I’m not leaving here without been cleared” Remi replied sternly.
“You think you’re stubborn eh! Relax! By the time I lock you in here you would know I’m serious,” said the woman as she picked up her bag to leave.
Remi remained in the chair, “at least I would be the first person you will attend to tomorrow”
“Do you think I’m playing here?” The woman asked in disgust.
“No Ma! I know you are serious and so am I,” Remi replied as she tried to keep a stiff face outward but inside she was literally praying that God touches the woman’s heart.
Then a man who seemed to be one of her colleagues passed by and asked what the matter was. The woman’s eyes rolled up and down, in distaste, at Remi while she explained the challenge to the man.
Fortunantly, the man approached Remi to hear her side too. After Remi poured out her heart to the man, seeing the desperation in her eyes, he then turned to the woman to plead on her behalf. It took a lot of conviction before the woman listened to his plead. He even had to promise her lunch the next day. The woman, burning angrily, but a little pacified, proceeded to her seat to attend to Remi.
“See, I’m just attending to you because I don’t want to see your face again tomorrow. Give me your form. I hope it’s signed,” the woman said dryly.
With a sense of relieve, Remi replied, “yes it is, Ma. Thank you so much”
With the experience fresh in her mind, Remi watched the hills and thick forestry through the window of the bus. They all seem to have one thing in common, surviving. Through the harsh weather and environment, they stand tall, unshaken through the seasons. Remi, still thinking about all the battles she had lost in the past simply because she couldn’t stand up for what she believed in, silently wished she had been as strong as the trees and stood firmer than the hills. Then she recalled her friend, Chika’s crystal clear words, “Life doesn’t give us what we wish for but only gives us what we demand from it.”
At the time, those words made little sense; now, they seemed bathed in abundant wisdom. Maybe if she had demanded more from life she would have had more than she has now, just maybe! And if she had fought for the “todays” then there would be less to fight in the “tomorrows” and maybe, just maybe, all tomorrows would have been “today”, Remi thought.
Written by: Jennifer Chioma Amadi
” IT CAN ONLY GET BETTER”