Dominic covered his hearing with the headphones. Phil Collins blasted his guitars and drums into his brain as he bounced in the bus traversing the rut of the weathered road that linked Enerhen Junction to Effurun Roundabout.
The bus was a tight fit for his girth. He felt pressed as he tried to make room for other passengers to breathe. A young girl eyed his size and frowned. He bowed his shoulders and tucked his stomach, hoping it would make him smaller. The girl only puckered her lips as if she held saliva within, waiting to spit and pushed her buttocks into the seat, her belt digging into Dominic's side. He said nothing.
The bus moved on, on its slow meandering way, as it picked and dropped passengers. Dominic's phone began to ring, pausing the music that kept him company.
Have you heard the news? Chioma asked,her voice tingling with excitement.
What news? What TV or radio station? Dominic asked in reply.
Mumu! You don't listen to radios or watch the television. One day they will sell this country to another country and you won't know until it is too late, she replied.
Dominic laughed. His glasses scrunched up his nose and his eyes glittered. His bellied laugh reverberated through the bus and the girl by his side felt her body respond to the timbre of his laughter. She turned to look at him again and Dominic apologised for laughing too loud.
Be laughing, you hear. You won the College of Arts award for the young artist of the year, young man! Your social media pages are reeling with platitudes, man! She said.
Dominic processed what he had just heard, then he lifted his left hand to pump the air. He placed his closed fist over his mouth, then he burst into tears.
Big man, are you crying? Please tell me you are in your room, alone and not on the bus, whose rusty bucket engine is crying in my ears now? Oga stop crying, one fine babe could be there that was eyeing you before. See as you are falling my hand! Chioma said.
Leave me alone, joor! Bye bye. I am going online now, He replied.
The call ended and Dominic drew in air as if he has never breathed before.
Congratulations, the girl by his side said. I hear you won an award. That's huge! She added, her eyes wide with wonder.
Thank you, Dominic replied, then he turned to look at her.
A beautiful woman was talking to him. He felt his skin flee his flesh. His lips trembled as he tried to smile.
Yeah, I won an award as an artist, he replied, his hand worrying his headphone.
You are a musician? She asked, her eyes suddenly bright with its own light.
No, no, not that artiste. I am a painter. I paint portraits and still life. My works have appeared on different platforms all over the world, he said.
Wow! So you have travelled abroad? She asked, leaning into him.
No, I have not but I will, one day. It is my work that has travelled abroad, He replied.
That's so nice. I love hearing talented people talk...
Please excuse me, Dominic said, cutting her words short, his finger hovering over his phone screen, a small smile on his lips.
Hey baby, Shola said as soon as he picks the call.
Hey babes, you've heard the news? He asked.
Yeah, I have. I just woke up. Dave told me, she replied.
Dave told you? Why will Dave tell you and he is yet to call me? He asked, his brows furrowed with worry.
I don't know, ask him. He is your best friend. I am just your girlfriend. When are you coming over? We are going out to celebrate this thing abi? She asked.
Dominic bit his bottom lips then nodding, he ended the call. He put on his data and began going through his social media. The girl by his side studied him from under her lashes even as she scrolled through her phone. She frowned after a few minutes and turned to him.
My name is Tessy. What is yours? She asked.
Why do you want to know? I don't know you, He replied.
Well I would love to follow you on Instagram and twitter. I love art works and I have friends who would patronise you if I tell them how good you are, she replied.
Oh! I am sorry. My name is Dominic. My Instagram handle is @Dominic_art. I don't have a twitter handle yet, he replied.
Thank you, Tessy replied.
She scrolled through his feed until she saw the competition and what the winner would take home as prize. She felt her body tingle again on seeing the thousands of dollars involved. She smiled, curved her shoulders backwards, raising her busts higher than necessary, her body leaning heavily into Dominic.
Driver, I will stop here, Dominic said.
The bus screeched to a stop. Dominic paid and alighted from the bus. He had barely entered the street when he heard his name in the wind behind him. It was the girl that had sat down beside him. What did she want? He waited for her as she ran to him, her chest a wriggling serpent by her shirt.
She caught up to him and stopped to catch her breath.
I'm sorry but I am sort of lost. You live here right? She asked.
Yes, I do. What is the name of where you are headed? He asked.
Avenue Road, by former Diamond Bank, she replied.
Well you are still on Warri-Sapele Road. You will have to go down then stop at the first roundabout, you can then board a keke going to airport road, Dominic replied.
Gosh, so far and confusing. I need to rest. This sun is too hot. Is your place far from here? Tessy asked.
You want to come to my place? He asked, surprise flitting across his face.
Hey you! Chioma's voice tore through the space and a body wrapped itself around Dominic.
Dominic laughed and hugged her back. They shadow boxed for a few mins, giggling then they clapped hands and both turned to face Tessy. Dominic explained the situation to Chioma. Chioma's laughter was harsh. She swayed, her hands whimpering in front her, to where the fuming Tessy stood.
Darling, do you know what love is? She asked.
Please, I don't know you. I am talking to Dominic, Tessy replied.
Chioma turned to look at Dominic. He stood there, his left shoe digging into the soil. She smiled at him then she turned back to Tessy.
Love is knowing someone long enough to know what is smells like. To know when he is uncomfortable but too polite to say so. Darling, go hustle somewhere else. This one is taken, she said.
By who? By you? Tessy asked, waving her hand up and down in front of Chioma.
Chioma's smile fell. When it came back on her face, it was tinged with sadness
No, there's one whom he loves and it will never be you, she replied and her smile brightened.
Tessy's laughter was like glass breaking as she turned away.
I feel so sad for you. Nothing is worse than being in a hell of your making, she said, tossing her weave and wriggling her waist as she walked away.
What does that mean? What did she mean by that? Dominic asked.
Ignore her! Let's go! Hope you have food at home? She asked, slipping her hands into his own.
Dominic smiled down at her and wondered for the umpteenth time when he will get the guts to ask her out on a date. He sighed and they walked into the street.
How did you know I would go home? He asked.
Well I know you, She replied.
©Osahon Oka, 2020.