Paranoia

by Favour Ogbue

There had been a lot of cases of armed robbery and extortion in and around my neighbourhood lately. Everyone was treading softly and taking precautionary measures. These days as early as 6 p.m., every mother on the street, like a mother hen, had all her chicks safely within her nest. Even the late night keepers that entertained us with their drunken voices at midnight had sobered up. My street was usually dead quiet these days; could I blame them?

Dad had asked me to quit my job because I closed at 7 p.m. daily. He said that he was going to pay me whatever I was earning, but everyone knew better than to believe my father in money-related matters. You might ask if I didn’t value my life, but I asked, what was the essence of a life that stayed at home, being the maid and getting bored because of a tertiary institution’s strike that had been running for months? I’d rather walk the length and breadth of Bay axis in the name of work and get some cash for my expenses!

Nevertheless, I had my own precautionary measures which were: the martial arts movies in my tablet, the pepper spray in my handbag, the mean look on my face and the ghetto slang I had learnt whenever I board a commercial vehicle (very necessary!). Oh! I almost forgot the last one: running. Running early in the morning to work instead of riding in mum’s car was my own way of making sure that my legs were fit for whatever may come my way.

So, yesterday’s evening, I was quite exhausted. I boarded a tricycle at the junction close to my workplace; it was quarter past seven O’ clock. The two other passengers in the vehicle alighted before me, and I was left alone with the driver. The alley that led into the street where we lived was looming with darkness even though there were a few weak bulbs mounted there – an attempt made by the old security men to light up the area. The air became cooler and a gentle breeze brushed my face.

All of a sudden, the driver swerved to the right and caused the wheels to make a screeching sound. I screamed and almost immediately reminded myself that I ought to take control of the situation. I asked the driver the reason he had swerved off the road and into the bush. The only reply I got was a wicked grin on his ugly face like the Devil’s. I instinctively grabbed his neck from behind without thinking, and screamed at him to turn back. While he struggled for breath, my other hand was working furiously through the contents of my bag in search of the pepper spray. This loosened my grip and he managed to gain a little control to bring the tricycle to a halt.

Hanging my bag around my neck, I jumped out of the tricycle into the waiting arms of another man whom I suspected was the driver’s accomplice. The moon was full, and I could see the driver leaning on his vehicle and coughing loudly. The accomplice, much taller than the driver and I, held me tightly against himself, waiting for the driver to catch his breath and then decide what to do with me. He kept asking his partner, the driver, if he was OK and each time he spoke, his foul breath kept hitting my nose, distorting my thoughts.

I had to act fast. My tablet, mobile phone and the tips I got from work were with me and I couldn’t risk losing them or even getting raped! The scenes of one of the martial arts movies I watched during the day flashed before me, and in one swift forward kick, I had the tall accomplice letting go of me, screaming in pain and holding onto his… you know what I mean. The driver charged at me and I ducked. He hit the ground with a loud thud. I bent over him and started to throw punches at him with all my might. All those practicing in the bathroom were finally paying off). The tall guy charged towards us. In one moment, we were all punches and kicks and bruises. My bag was still hanging firmly around my neck, but the tall guy had ripped off the sleeves of my dress as he attempted to pull me again to himself. That guy must be a pervert, a stinking one!

By then, I was so exhausted and I knew I still had to run the remaining distance to our house. I had to take them down immediately. The sandals I wore were made by mum’s special cobbler, and whatever material he used in making the sole was quite heavy. I took the right foot out, said a quick prayer, kissed it and threw it at the driver. It landed squarely on his face and knocked him out. The tall guy was already on his way to suffer the same fate as the driver when…

Someone tapped me on my shoulder. I froze. Who else was there? I opened my eyes. It was the driver, on his seat in the tricycle.

“Sisi, we don reach oo!” He said.
I looked out of the vehicle; our house was just by the side. I was sitting in the tricycle with my bag clutched to my stomach, tablet, phone and money intact, sleeves intact and sandals on my feet.
“Thank you, Oga”, I replied as I stepped out of his vehicle, still stunned from the short reverie I just had.

Damn! “I’m so resigning from this job tomorrow”, I muttered to myself.

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