A man in blue walks to the back of his car, both hands locked behind his head in regret. His car is the third in a three-vehicle collision. At the top of the accident, a green SUV revs, tires whirring on the wet asphalt, trying to lose the car lodged into its rear. The man whose car is sandwiched between them looks on with distress. The SUV finally breaks free. The driver looks into his side mirror, shakes his head, and accelerates away. That moment, the intensity of the rain on Third Mainland Bridge increases from mild showers to blinding torrents and the two wet figures beside their broken cars recede into the darkness.
There are cars bumper-to-bumper up the road, red lights flickering through the wet windshield, as far as the eyes can see, past wipers in their synchronised dance. There are two more collisions like the one on the bridge. Horns blare. At the head of the traffic jam, there’s nothing—no broken cars or blocked access. Just an exit from the service lane that drivers are trying to pass through from both sides at once. (Scenario for the start of the Lagos apocalypse: an impatient driver takes a wrong turn.)
Under a makeshift restaurant made of a tent with nylon covering and yellow bulbs hung on metal poles, men and women eat hot instant noddles. Their cars are packed beside the street, starting from the end of the Suya-seller at the junction. The chef, apron around his neck, lifts his head to look at me as I rush past his joint. Under a mango tree at the end of the street where the cars are packed, a man stands wet, fiddling with the leaves. It’s his usual spot, even in the day. He is dressed in singlet and shorts, oblivious to the cold. He communes with the tree, muttering in words not intelligible to me.
A man in a red shirt and brown trousers staggers past the spot where the other man communed with the tree at night. He staggers left; I go right. He goes right; I go left. We repeat the dance as the gap between us shrinks. I escape a body slam by swiveling with a balletic spin. I know the crazy guy: he was not the one talking to the tree.