“I didn’t have to fret so long because the smelly man with the yellow teeth resurfaced and offered to take me there.”
Last week, I travelled cross country. I was alone with no music, a phone with an almost flat battery and two train tickets. That’s right, it wasn’t even a direct journey and the Lord knows how I hate connecting trips. My frustration began when I missed my first train. Back at the ticket booth, the woman behind the counter was undeniably racist – what with her putting up a sign telling she was on break when it was my turn and removing it immediately I left the line. I chose to ignore her, after all there were a couple other cashiers around so I picked up my bags and joined another queue. There was a man standing in front of me and he turned to look. Then he continued to look at me; Staring, moping, with undivided attention. I was beginning to get scared. My mind was playing tricks on me – just recently I completed a novel on rape and not too long ago, I read extensively on the black girl fetish, sexual molestation et al. I’d rephrase that. I was petrified, mortified even.
Then he smiled, revealing the most yellow set of teeth I have seen in a long time. That was enough to jostle me from my wandering thoughts and back into reality. I wasn’t sure whether to smile back so I kept a straight face. He leaned towards me, touched my arm and uttered something in gibberish. Unfortunately, I do not speak the language – gibberish, that is and so I kept mute. Hopefully, he wouldn’t do anything stupid with the train station packed full to capacity. I muttered a quick word of thanks to God under my breath. And then it hit me, the man reeked of alcohol, tobacco and salami. It was definitely salami – or something of pig origin. The fear came back again, what if it wasn’t pig? I struggled to keep my thoughts under control. Finally, it was my turn and the cashier and I went back and forth, bickering about them having to place me on another train, so she put me on an electric train instead. Only problem was I hadn’t the slightest clue on how to go about it!
I didn’t have to fret so long because the smelly man with the yellow teeth resurfaced and offered to take me there. Grateful, I followed him like a lamb to the slaughter but as a confirmed Lagos girl, I kept my distance walking at least 10 feet away from him. You can’t blame me, I stand at just 5 feet 2 inches and I know I can be easily picked up or grabbed. I wasn’t taking any chances. To my shame however, this man I judged by appearance was the one who took me to the ticket office, helped me get a ticket, made sure I understood the time I was billed to leave and waited a complete one hour with me till my train arrived. And when it did, he came back around to my corner, tapped me and walked with me till I got on board. I sat there and I was like Wow! Talk about my faith in humanity being restored!
But even that wasn’t enough to make me think or act differently. Once aboard my next train, I sat alone – thankful and basking in my awesomeness. A few minutes later, a young couple came by claiming I was on one of their seats. Feeling too stuck up to grace them with a response; I pulled out my ticket from my purse and showed them my seat number. They apologised and left, like I had intended them to. Later on that night, they came back full force – kissing, canoodling and leaving me wondering if it was World PDA day or something. Finally, they mustered enough courage to ask me to climb up as they wanted to retire for the night. I did. Minutes later, they asked me down again. Oh this people were so going to hear it! My face was stern and unsmiling. My tone was harsh and I blurted out, “Will you guys just make up your minds already? Do you want the top bunk or this one? I really don’t have time for you guys!” It turned out they only wanted to help me make my bed seeing as my tiny self couldn’t quite handle it. The girl fluffed my pillow and the boy laid my bed. I stood there feeling like a complete jerk but thankfully my mom did a good job in teaching me how to say “Thank you.”
Temitope Ben-Ajepe. Alpha Female. Proudly Nigerian. Voracious Reader. Loves to travel, do her sweet tooth’s bidding and daydream about working for an international media house someday. Till then, she’s working hard as a Pharmacy undergrad, because she can!
30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians from across the world to share their stories and experiences – creating a meeting point where our common humanity is explored.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.