TO SAVE A SOUL:(2)- BY MURTALA ASSAYOUTI

Two other cards passed but I was very concerned with what Yomi had to say and cared less at the ostensible debasement, I realized I could never stay aloft to this boy’s (now man) plight. Did I ever think I would? The thought of Folake entered my mind and a little smile slipped onto my lips and I could not help wondering how it would have been had I remained in her life. “I believed I would see you, see I have!” “I know you have and you have just been lucky. You do not know how dangerous Lagos is. I would never advice anyone who has never been to Lagos before to come alone. How about Mummy? How could she allow you to just come to Lagos like that?” “I am not a small boy anymore, brother Tunde. You know, I have just finished college and I think it is time I do something for myself and for Mummy. I think I owe her that much. She really suffered to see me through school; I have to do all I can for her.” The tone was matured and solemn; I knew suddenly how very much my little Yomi had changed and the guilt could not but surface. I didn’t say anything and returned my attention to the road. I pressed down on the throttle as Dada removed a cigarette from his pocket and proceeded to light it; I wanted to smack him. “Where is Folake, now, Yomi?” “She is at home.” “How come? Has she not got married?” “Yes,” he replied disenchanted, “The marriage did not work out and she’s back at home. We all know that there could be only one person for my sister.” He paused; the low tempo of his breathing was almost audible. I didn’t answer and I felt him turning towards Dada. “Excuse me, Sir. Do you know that smoking is bad for your health and the smoke inhaled by people around is even more risky to health for them? Please, if you can put it off, I would appreciate it” Dada removed the stick from his lips, blew out a smoky cloud and turned glaring eyes at the young man. “Watin be all this oyinbo wey you dey talk? Watin concern me with all the thing wey you dey talk. I no send you and the people wey talk am. If I wan smoke I go smoke; that na my concern. If it kill me, so what? We go die anyway.” “That is okay, but you should also think about us, the people around you who may get hurt by your action.” Dad grunted and returned the stick between his lips, murmuring; “Watin sef? I know consider you reach, if na my eegbo I%20dey take before nko? “It is best you don’t take it, but if you have to, try and do it where other people would not be affected. Because, that is essentially what life is all about, Mr. Dada; other people.” Dada grunted again, clearly not impressed but he turned away, facing the window. I tried to avoid Yomi’s eyes as he returned his attention to me, prying my eyes from the rear glass where it had been glued for some time now observing Yomi. I could not but marvel. He was young, I felt; he had not woken up to the reality of life, to the reality of how very evil man can be. I was like that once, fiery and passionate about the humanity of man. I was seeing then from the eyes of an innocent toddler. Now I knew better. Yet I could not help but feel disturb. Yomi seemed hardly changed, his purity as a child even more manifest as if he was growing younger and purer. It was very hard seeing him as a relentless, callous goal-getter in this world of merciless sharks. Now he wanted to succeed, to accomplish an ambition he was nursing in his innocent mind. How little he knew about the price he had to pay. A yellow black-stripped commercial bus popularly known as ‘danfo’ roared passed me, tearing the atmosphere with its blaring horn as the hanging ‘conductor’ screamed vulgarities at everyone they passed. “Are you mad?” he screamed at a beige-colored Volvo that refused to relinquish the path for the obnoxious driver. I wondered who the mad one was. It was dark now, the sun having disappeared from the sky, leaving a black shadow patched here and there by headlights of the speeding vehicles that garnished the long Third Mainland Bridge. The sea breeze hit me suddenly sending a shiver up my spine but I knew it was more than the soothing ocean air that stuck me. There was something in the air I could not place and the tingling continued all over my body. Dada had returned inside with his smoke, his momentary thoughtfulness seeming gone with the wind. It suddenly made me angry that his crudeness could not reflect the mood of the moment. He held the stick low away from us from us for even in his aggressiveness there was something very convincing in Yomi’s presence, but I was not satisfied. “I will prefer it, Dada, if you put that light out for now.” He was surprised and I could see it in nervous shifting as he turned towards me. I had never asked him to put out his light before, not even in my girlfriends presence. He felt awkward, I could see. “You too, abi. You wan dey tell me nonsense, eh? Because of this … this pikin wey no know nothing.” “This ‘pikin’ happens to be someone very special to me and I prefer you respect his presence.” I responded sternly. Dada knew better than to argue with me when I spoke in that tone. Even with my attention on the road, he knew what consequence could follow if he decided to oppose me, after all he’s share of the booty was still with me and I could be very uncompromising. There was some disgruntled grumblings, but he finally threw the stick away and turned facing out the window arms hanging out the door, obviously discontented with the interior of the car. I looked into my rear mirror trying to get a glimpse of Yomi. He was staring ahead of him in a trance-like faraway look, his conscious seemingly distant. He shifted his eyes towards me, focusing on me through the mirror. He slowly smiled and a slight movement of his head conceded a nod and for the first time in a long time I felt good with myself. I felt a slight sensation on my shoulder; Yomi’s touch was so light that it seemed like a gentle breeze. A tiny whisper-like sound seemed to emit from him. “Thank you …” Then there was chaos. I heard the bang as far away, almost as if it was in a film I was watching, yet it was so close that the vibration of the sound could be heard and felt in the very depth of my soul. It was noise I could never forget, for the next few second will keep running in my mind for the rest of my life. I heard the brassy high-pitched shrilling of brakes and the metallic grating sound of metal scraping on concrete and I realized what had occurred. Instinctively, I stepped on my brakes, but even then I knew it was too late to avoid the swerving yellow mass as it toppled over and came crashing towards us. Even as I tried to veer off I knew I could never avoid the menacing bilious form. There was no prayer in my mind, no remorseful thinking; no silent last-hour vow of repentance, just a panic-stricken “Oh, God!” escaped my lip as we crashed into the roof of the unturned bus. The impact sent me shattering through the windscreen. The last thing I heard was the crunching impact of metal on metal, shattering glass and Dada’s ceaseless screams followed by a horrible shriek that seemed to echo and echo in brutal finality. Then a thought occurred to me as I rammed into solid steel and I tried to turn, but something heavy dropped on me and I could hardly move. There was pain, great agony but I could not scream. Or did I? Suddenly everything seemed so far away; the noise and commotion, I could hardly hear the screams now. Yet the only thought in my mind as the darkness enveloped me was of Yomi. To be continued.

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