On the eve of my departure from Benin, I bribed our driver to take me to buy suya from a spot on ADP junction by Airport Road. The harmattan haze that hung thick and unyielding in the sky earlier that day mirrored the tension in my cousin Jennifer’s family house and then gave way to torrential rain. Disruptive though it may be, there was often something soothing about the angry sound of Benin rain on windows, louvers, wrought steel roofs and parched earth.
British rain sounded like tantrums or empty threats – dependent on the season. Thai rain on the other hand resembled mischievous laughter; abrupt, unexpected and mildly refreshing. I thought it strange that I could find rain with barbaric tendencies that colluded with potholes to swallow unprepared motorists and their vehicles so soothing, but I did.
Our driver was a placid, semi-literate man named Lucky whose wife and children had perished in a house fire in his village. The tragedy of his name was not lost on me. I admired the quiet contentment he somehow managed to exude. It was a common trait I had been reminded of during my three week break to a home that felt more foreign each time I returned. He shared this peculiarity with others I met plagued with tragedy, poverty, persecution or all three, their sentences often littered with admirations for God or Allah.
“E go quench soon ma” said Lucky over the sound of the now frenetic windshield wipers working in overdrive.
“Oya, fast-fast!” I replied with the feigned authority I assumed when talking to him, the house girl or the gateman. Everyone here knows that excessive kindness could often be mistaken for weakness and leave you vulnerable or open to abuse.
“Yes ma, sorry ma” he said, making me uncomfortable. Only since moving to Scotland to study did the use of ‘ma’ in reference to me by someone old enough to be my parent, strike me as abnormal.
The streets and shops looked different at night. Without the colour of their strategically stacked wares, eager sellers and shrewd shoppers, everything seemed eerily barren. Even the smell was different; stale.
Lucky navigated the uneven, water-logged roads with the dexterity of an extreme motor racer, not stopping for anyone until the unwelcome dancing torchlight of the police hailed us down. My heartbeat sped up to match the wipers. This would be a problem.
©Assumpta Ozua 2016
Sometimes I write flash fiction too…