MADAM DRIVER

Bose knew she was the talk of the town. She knew her name was mentioned in a thousand places in the town of Tetlow where she lived. People uttered different things about her. While few heralded her for depriving herself of any manly manipulation and for living her life for herself and not for some man out there, others poured vitriol on her. The latter group called her a shame to womanhood, a disgrace to her parents, a blemish to the society, and a good for nothing lady who was not married because she didn’t possess the attributes required to win a man’s heart, or probably because she knew she had no womb. Maybe, who knows, the series of abortions she had as a teen. What a slut! Bose knew all of this, but it did not in any way change the woman she had developed into. She knew better than to live her life trying to impress people around her. She took to doing the things her conventional society considered abnormal for a woman. She wore a nice fade haircut, a long bleached necklace whose pendant was a cross, deprived her ears of earrings, wore outsized shirts upon saggy jeans, tied a multicoloured bandana around her right wrist, and strutted. Most times, a baseball cap was left askew on her head. She owned a mini bus which she harnessed for commercial transport. This earned her the sobriquet Madam Driver. She was no different from the other commercial drivers. They were rough, she was rough too. They yelled vulgarly at unyielding passengers, she was better at that. They wrangled amongst themselves whenever there was a hit or even a scratch on their vehicles; Bose pioneered a lot of brawls, even when there was no need to.
Bose had a disturbing childhood. She lost her mother to an undisclosed illness when she was just five, and had to endure living through hell with a father who was nothing but vicious. He would leave home very early and return inebriated. In such moods, he’d hit her whenever she delayed in opening the front door for him. He’d shout brusquely at her whenever she asked for some money to buy foodstuffs. He would heap vituperations on her whenever she sat idle, even if she had discharged her chores. Bose soon learnt how to defend herself against her father’s brutality. She learnt to shout back at him and at some point when she discovered she would die if she didn’t make good use of her hands, she found the gall to fight him, making sure she scuffed heartlessly at his body. Once, during one of their countless affrays, Bose had dug her teeth deep into his neck. Her teeth remained there for some minutes not minding the red trickles that seeped from the cut. Theirs was a quintessence of the cat and dog relationship. Bose concluded that all men were animals, like her father. Not even the fact that Mr. Nduka, the next door neighbour was different and that she often overheard his wife narrating how sweet her husband was, could change her mind. It did not also matter that her friend Agnes believed she’d get married to an angel for a husband and had refused to yield when Bose tried to convince her that no man was an angel. As far as she was concerned, all men were fiendish. Bose believed that it was a barren idea trying to impress men. “If men are like this, then why should I try to impress them?” she would often ask people who dared to question her persona. According to Bose, these people were blind; people who thought men were humans. Aside her manly disposition, one of the things that made her popular in town was the sticker at the back of her bus. It read in Igbo, Umunwoke di njo which translates loosely to ‘men are bad’. She didn’t care if the occupants in the car behind her in traffic debated over that sticker, obviously stating how foolish she was to paste such on her vehicle. Even though people complained that she was bitterly congruent to misandry, she remained unfaltering in her belief, and her animosity towards menfolk renewed every morning. Bose had escaped from home when she was sixteen after stealing some money from her father’s drawer. With that money, she was able to start a small buka where she sold delectable dishes, before she acquired a mini bus. Most of her customers at the buka were drudgers who worked on building sites around, and civil servants who sneaked out in between office hours to refuel themselves. Bose would serve them their meals and watch them as they ate. Sometimes she would sit with them and join in their conversations about the stupidity of Nigerian leaders, and about how Nigeria was not getting healed soon. Sometimes their discussions would border on the essence of men in the society. On one of these discussions, Bose had threatened to beat up a man for speaking ill about women. The man had been yelling about how women were not adding any value to the society. “I’ll keep saying it that women are not of any value in this Nigeria. They are only good at spreading their legs not minding who goes in, and bearing children!” The other men listened raptly, only corroborating his remarks with nods and hmms and ehs. He went on and on, mentioning names of women that had misused the opportunities given to them to impact their societies positively. “That woman is a thief!” he would scream. “Look at how she embezzled money! Nigeria’s money! Women are no good at all! When they are yet to get married, they pretend to be nice. The moment ring enters their fingers, fiam, they start misbehaving!”
Bose was shocked by his brazenness. She had never seen any man talk so condescendingly about women in the manner which he did. Does this idiot not have a mother? A wife? Or a daughter? Bose thought. At that moment, she felt an enormous contempt towards the man. She felt the urge to squeeze his neck, until he realized how really important women were to the society. She stood up and walked menacingly towards him. The other men gaped as she pointed bullyingly at him. “If you don’t watch your mouth eh, I will beat hell and heaven out of you!”
The man had simply walked out of the buka without talking further.
“The rest of you should either shut your mouths if you don’t have anything better to discuss or you walk out of here!” she glowered at the other men. Quietly, they finished up their foods, paid and left the buka. One would have expected them not to return to Bose’s buka again, but they came the next day, and the days after, until they became very amenable to her. “Madam Bose, this your soup sweet o!” one of the men would yell after dunking a well moulded morsel of fufu into the plate of egusi soup and throwing it without hesitation into his mouth. Bose became so familiar with most of her customers that she knew just the right soup and the right quantity each of them needed to be served. “Madam Bose, you know my usual na!” they would say while Bose would stand behind the wooden counter, serving hot soup or jollof rice into ceramic plates, the clinking sounds of the metallic spoon against the aluminum pots raising the hope of a quick delivery. It was while she ran this buka that she met Lawrence. He was a grade eight civil servant working at the Ministry of Land Resources. Lawrence was brawny, dark and close to ugly. He had bumps festooning his lower jaw that resulted from poor shaving practices. Lawrence, of all the men that patronized Bose, had the temerity to make a pass at her. She had simply laughed when he first made his intentions known to her. “They never tell you?” she had asked him mockingly. “Me and man no de waka!”
Lawrence was aware that Bose was a single lady who considered it atrocious to be with a man. He was almost sure that she would turn down his proposal, but just as he had told his friend who previously discouraged him from making such futile moves, there was no harm in trying. What Bose didn’t know was that there lay to her refusal a huge harm. She had embarrassed Lawrence severely the second time he talked to her about it, shouting madly that his head was not complete. “Who you think say you be wey I go just open my leg for you. You de craze?” Even when the other men tried to mollify her with soothing words- Madam Bose the gingerwoman! Calm down Bose, this guy never hear your tori, Bose yelled the more. “I don tell all of una for this town, man cannot be in my life. Me and man no get business. Any man wey come here again tok say e wan chop my apple next time, I go break him head!!”
Lawrence had left the buka that day fed with enormous shame. Not long after Bose’s tiff with Lawrence, she employed a young girl to look after her buka while she launched fully into the road with her mini bus. This wasn’t surprising as it should be considering that she was obviously the only female public transporter in the town. Therefore her epithet moved from Madam Bose to Madam Driver. Madam driver became well known for her reckless driving which got her incriminated in a lot of accidents, though these were never major accidents. There were a lot of other things that she did too. She had knowingly bashed her bus into another driver’s bus because he refused to move out of her way. She had beaten up another driver’s conductor mercilessly because he had called her a whore who didn’t know she was a woman. She had spat on a traffic warden who stopped her because she wanted to let a Lexus car pass. Madam driver was not just the right driver to mess up with. Even the agberos at the bus parks stood in awe of her and so rather than yell at her whenever she did not meet up with her dues, they’d shower her with encomiums. Madam driver remained exuberant amongst her colleagues as long as they gave her what she wanted. Amongst her passengers, she was neutral. She smiled with those who smiled at her, and frowned at those who frowned at her. She bellowed at those who pestered her for their balance. She would be on the road from morning until evening when she’d park in front of her buka just in time to acknowledge the praises of her customers.
“Madam Driver!!” they would extol. “The one and only danfo driver!!”
Bose would smile smugly and wave at them like some politician would do. They would keep hailing her even as she narrated her escapades to them. Bose was the woman! What Bose did not realize early enough was that her demeanour had somehow touched the tiger’s tail. When Bose kept saying that she’d end her life the day any man touched her, no one believed her. They kept saying, Bose is tough, we know. She can fight men and beat them up, we know. But about killing herself because a man touched her, that’s not possible. But not until her body was found dangling from her ceiling and a suicide note that read; Madam Driver was raped. Madam Driver has gone to buy a new life. I will come back – that people knew she had meant every word she spoke.
That fateful Wednesday morning, she had as usual stopped at the buka and given instructions to her sales girl. Her customers hadn’t arrived yet. She plunged into the road hoping for a better day ahead. “Irete Irete Irete!” she was heard screaming as passengers boarded her bus. Maybe if Madam Driver had discerned that deciding to ferry passengers to Irete would end her life, she’d have probably taken another route- probably Wetheral, Dick Tiger Street, World Bank or even the busier Douglas. But like they say; death bugles. She proceeded on her fourth trip to Irete after changing her mind to visit the buka and see how things were faring. As usual, she shouted on top of her voice, clamouring for passengers. “This way, Irete. One chance!” Few minutes later a young man she recognized as Lawrence- the one she had embarrassed sometime at her buka for making passes at her strolled towards her. Three sturdy men were with him.
”Madam Driver!” he chanted somewhat excitedly, like one who had seen an old friend after so many years. The manner with which he greeted suggested an elaborate burial of the hatchet. But what Bose didn’t realize was that the hatchet was yet to be obliterated.
“Ah Lawrence,” Bose hadn’t reciprocated the excitement. “You de go Irete?” she immediately asked, cutting short his excitement.
“Yes,” Lawrence answered. “My friends are with me also,” he pointed to the three men. “We would like a drop”
“Drop to Irete?”
“Yes,”
“Drop na two thousand naira”
“No problem,” Lawrence said quickly and climbed into the bus. His companions seemed as though they were dumb. They followed suit and soon, Bose eased the bus into motion, waving frantically to the other drivers and agberos who dared not pursue her for park dues. It didn’t for a minute cross Bose’s mind to wonder why Lawrence hadn’t bargained the fare. Most Nigerians bargained. Even if the price was one naira, they’d bargain to pay a kobo. Maybe if she had considered this; Lawrence’s willingness to pay two thousand naira for a drop to a nearby Irete- her life wouldn’t have been messed with. It happened some minutes after they had passed the roadblock where Bose had inveigled the scraggy police man into letting her pass without paying the customary fifty naira to policemen at roadblocks. The man who sat beside Bose pointed to a lonely road by the right. “Turn right, this way,” he said. Bose turned into the road and maintained her reckless driving. She did not mind that the road was potholed or that the rough driving could damage her sump. She sped on, to her doom, splashing brown water on the shrubs that flanked the road. She had just driven for ten minutes when the man beside her asked her to stop the car.
“You wan piss?” she asked the man. Anybody would have thought the same thing- that he wanted to relieve his bladder. There was no building in sight and so they hadn’t gotten to their destination, Bose thought.
“Get down,” the man ordered Bose. The latter was taken aback. She turned to Lawrence. “Where una de go?”
Lawrence smiled lopsidedly and opened the door. His cohorts got down also and paced around. Lawrence walked round and opened Bose’s door. “Get down,” he said almost in the same manner as his friend. Bose sat still, staring at Lawrence. “Lawrence, make u no use me play o!” She tried shouting.
“Madam Driver, I don’t want to repeat myself,” Lawrence said grimly.
Bose struggled to close her door but Lawrence held on tightly to it. The other men took positions that enabled them to push her out of the car. When Bose tried to kick at them, a gun was produced. It was Lawrence. He held the gun to her face and the smile had disappeared. “Listen to me Madam Driver,” he started like a preacher about to delve into a lengthy sermon. “Nobody de use me play. Did you think I would easily forget how you humiliated me in your buka that day?” he said and paused, probably in expectation of her response. When he got none, he continued. “Me! A whole me! Lawrence the great! Do you know how many women want to have me? I came to you and you embarrassed me! Wetin you carry sef?”
Bose could feel his wrath. It was thick and garroting and enveloped her. While Lawrence went on and on about how demeaning she had made him feel, and about how he was going to make her pay dearly for his wounded pride, Bose’s mind calculated ways of escaping. There was a gun but was it real? A toy gun, maybe. Just to scare her. She had fought men in the past but could she really defend herself against four men with a gun? What did Lawrence want to do with her? She got her answer some minutes later; when one of the men produced a thick rope from the bag he hung and the others joined him in tying her hands and legs. Bose struggled hard and spat into their faces. They men ignored her and tied her up. Then Lawrence stood over her, slowly crouched low until he was atop her like a lid over a pot. He let his breath caress her face and the lopsided smile returned. “Don’t you like me on you?” he asked but Bose spat into his face.
“I thought she was iron lady,” one of the men taunted.
“Lawrence, we need to shift grounds,” another man said. “We might get caught here”
“You’re right,” Lawrence said and lifted his slim body from her. “Let’s take her to where I will enjoy her very well,” he added and smacked his lips amorously.
“Lawrence, you be animal! Na God go punish you! Lawrence, I go kill you. Me, Madam Driver, Bose herself, I will kill you. I will destroy you Lawrence!” Bose kept screaming as they men carried her into the bush. She thought of many things at that moment. She thought of her father and his brashness, of her strong belief in the animalism of men and how Lawrence had joined the league of men that proved that. Bose knew she was at the border between life and death. She knew what Lawrence was about to do and there was no way she could live with such life. She knew what was to come after this. Lawrence followed closely behind, laughing in reply to her curses. When they felt they had gotten a safe distance away from the road, they dropped her on the ground. Lawrence was quick. He pulled down her trousers letting it stop at her ankles. Then he pulled down her blue panties. “It’s not even attractive,” he said laughing raucously. “After all your gra gra” The other men laughed too. Lawrence unbuckled his belt and went down immediately. Bose knew even before he probed inside her that it was over. Her life was taken away. Lawrence was responsible for that. Her suicide note was written before she got home, even before Lawrence had ejaculated, nodding his head like an agama lizard, and even before he was generous enough to let the other men take turns. Bose was dead the moment Lawrence pulled down her panties, and so she didn’t struggle to keep her womanhood. Dead people don’t struggle. They lie still, oblivious of whatever happens around them.

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