“Look at this woman.” He held up a red box that had the picture of a blond-haired Caucasian woman holding one hand to her head and the other to her stomach. PAIN was written below the picture in bold yellow letters.
“Every time she sees her monthly visitor, her life becomes miserable. She shouts at everyone at her work place, finds it difficult to go out and her boyfriend avoids her.” He smiled at that last detail, revealing a gap-tooth that seemed out of place on his balding, oblong head. His joke was lost on the passengers of the bus.
“One day, she met someone who introduced her to this powerful drug and suddenly—” he turned the package to reveal the image of a woman flashing a made-for-camera smile “—she stopped having pain and did not fear her monthly visitor again”.
The woman on the back of the box was black.
I didn’t call out his bullshit because I was tired. He continued his sales pitch and I placed my head on the bare steel backrest covered in parts with tattered leather and loose foam. Stench of sweat hit my nose and I jerked my head back up. Oshodi buses are not built for pleasure. Each part—bare seats, leaky roofs, loose doors, wooden-framed mirrors held with cellotape as side mirrors—is reduced to what is needed for the fifty naira trip to Isolo.
“Just pay fifty naira and your pain will disappear.” He said, and waved the drug in the air, almost thrusting it in the face of a man who sat in the first row of the bus.
A lady beside me called, “Oga, abeg give me two and bring change.” She was dressed in a lilac shirt covered with black blazers. Her face had brown and pink smudges, remnants of what must have been pristine make-up when she set forth at dawn. I wondered: what kind of pain will make a woman like her patronize a man who calls menstruation monthly visitor?
More passengers ordered for the drug. He started to grin, impressed by the apparent success of his hustle. I was repulsed.
“That is him. That is the man.” A woman accompanied by two burly men crossed the road and headed towards our bus. The sales man took one look at the approaching group, dropped his goods and ran, kicking his skinny legs like a headless chicken fleeing its slaughterers.
The men gave chase. The woman paused and stuck her head into our bus.
“I’m just sorry for those of you buying drug from that criminal. My daughter is in the hospital because of what I bought from him.” She made cluck-cluck sounds with her palate, shook her head, hissed and joined the men in pursuit. They wove between buses in the park like a discovery video of a pack of lions chasing a deer, creating a spectacle for the drivers, conductors and passengers waiting in the sweltering sun.
The lady beside me looked at the sachets she bought, turned them over, squinted at the descriptions written in smudged blue ink and tucked the drugs into her purse.
Featured image via flickr by Nick M