It had been six months since I last saw my beloved, Adobea. The blame for this state of affairs lay with the National Service Secretariat, which sent me several hundreds of miles away from my beloved for my National Service. Adobea hated the thought of it, what's more, she cried about it. To her, the distance meant the termination of our three year old relationship and she had several examples of people we knew to support her argument. I persuaded her, encouraged her, soothed her, but to no avail. In any case, I had to go.
Today I had my first opportunity to go back to Adobea, to let her know that she had never been out of my mind all this time I was away. I needed to get to Accra early and I was up by 4 A.M. I prayed and did some kind of a morning devotion. Yes, some kind! I spent 95 per cent of that time thinking about Adobea or talking to God about her. I do not know if that would pass for meditation but what matters is that I made sure to ask God to grant me a safe journey. By 5.30 A.M., I was ready to go. I opened my bag to make sure that the most important thing was in it -- Adobea's gift. I smiled and took a minute to savour in my mind the hug I would receive when she opened the gift. Then I stepped out.
At the station, there was a the usual hustle-and-bustle. Driver's mates were screaming the names of the destinations of their buses. Hawkers were doing same for their wares, and early morning preachers were also doing their bit for God. Two things irk me at bus stations. The first is the loud P. A. systems that station masters use to announce bus schedules, and the second is the porters who stop at nothing until you allow them to help you with your load -- no matter how small it is. I tend to avoid porters. There are several stories of them taking off with people's bags. One of them approached me and asked where I was going. I pushed him out of my way -- my bag with Adobea's gift in it would not be one of their prizes! The porter tried to cause a scene but I was not ready to indulge in anyway. I ignored him.
A short way ahead I stopped to listen to the voices shouting out the destinations, and soon found where the bus leaving for Accra was parked. Just after I paid my fare, the driver's mate came up and offered to put my bag into the boot. I politely declined and indicated that I would keep it with me -- I did not mind carrying it on my lap for the five hour journey.
As we waited for the bus to fill up with passengers, a fat woman came to sit beside me. She tried to recline in the seat, but her bulk would not allow that. She started shifting about but soon gave up, having failed to find a comfortable posture. She called out to the driver and when he approached, she claimed my bag was making her uncomfortable. I looked at my bag and then at the woman, and finally at the driver. He smiled. We were both thinking the same thing. If anything at all, the woman's size was causing the inconvenience. The driver offered the woman another seat but she would not take it. I finally agreed to part ways with my bag and have it put in the boot.
Soon the bus left the station and I started imagining how Adobea would receive me when she saw me at her house. I wondered whether to go home first, or go directly to see her -- and then my thoughts were interrupted by the loud snoring of the fat woman beside me. She had fallen asleep with her head partly resting on my shoulder -- and worse, saliva was drooling from her mouth unto my shirt! I wanted to slap the sleep out of her but I held back.
My mind returned to Adobea. What if she was angry with me? What if she was not even in Accra? Perhaps, she had travelled somewhere. I quickly snapped out of those negative thoughts. I lifted my head to focus on the road, and realized that we were at the T - junction. A left turn would put us on the road to Accra. I smiled. We were getting closer! Then the bus slowed down, and the driver took the turn. Alarmed, I turned to look at the other passengers. They seemed unfazed by the driver's decision to turn right instead of left.
'Mate!' I screamed.
This story is part of a series based on the experiences of National Service personnel.
Elikem M. Aflakpui graduated from the University of Cape Coast with a B.Ed in Economics. He is currently doing his National Service in the Central Region.