He slid into one of the blue jeans he loved so much, the one that made his tall legs look fancy.
He is faced with the choice of going with either the white t-shirt that made him somewhat appealing or the black one that made people scared of him. The PVC on the plastic table outlined his name; Joke Harrison Nnadinma. Later when he would think of these moments, moments that he left his house to serve his country he’d wish he hadn’t done it; Leave.
As he made his way to the bus park to start his journey to his hometown that evening, he felt an uneasy feeling in his heart, a feeling that he couldn’t quite at that moment figure out. He settled in the first passenger seat of one of the mini busses, the side mirror reflecting his dark skin that amid the golden rays of the setting sun, glows.
As they left the park and into the busy dual lane that evening he decided to think less of this uneasy feeling. As they pierced through the cold and lonely air, and the darkness of the night creped in, waves of the cold and lonely wind smacked across his face, the waves somehow making his journey more peaceful and comfortable. Maybe he was able to relate to the wind because, like him, the wind is lonely too. He would later blame the weather for being so peaceful this very night, for not sending any form of warning or help in the catastrophe that is to come.
When the bus stopped in front of the Federal Secretariat of his hometown and he alighted. He wasn’t at all scared, he, like many others didn’t see it coming. He only made it past the gigantic black gate when the first bomb went off half a mile from his location. The next followed almost immediately, then the next and the next and the next; four blasts in total. When he heard the first blast and saw a black Toyota Camry fly up in the air, he wasn’t sure how to react, more cars of course immediately started flying up and screams of horror and pain erupted. He just stood there moping. He could not at that moment process what he was seeing, it is safe to assume he shut down temporarily. It was of course after a spur of the moment that his adrenaline kicked in, he took cognizance of the flood of people headed for his way; the gate.
These people were all mostly screaming, pure terror can be seen in their eyes and in the way their hands flew in the air, most of them appeared wounded. Their eyes were unsteady and he could somehow feel their heart thudding frantically against their chest, maybe it’s because his own heart was thudding posthaste. The first instinct that kicks-in in moments like these is survival, so he ran.
With no direction whatsoever, he kept throwing his long legs into the bushes while clutching his bag with right his hand, he needed to get to safety, where was safety? He was not sure. Anywhere but here.
The concept of bombing and suicide bombing is something he’s distinctively familiar with, at one point in his life he had blogged about it. Those were the days he hoped he had a future in the journalism world, he had made three posts about bombings—all with the same featured image; a woman whose eyes were the only visible part of her body as her black Hijab cascaded the rest, and her waist rigged with explosives.
So it is safe to assume he is familiar with bombing, every Eastern based Nigerian is familiar with bombing. It’s something they hear on the old radios of their grandfathers, something they read on the Facebook pages of News channels, the website of popular bloggers. It is something they heard but never got to witness. They’d often snap their fingers in horror when the death count rolls in.
In the woods somewhere he would finally stop running, a few others ran past him while some stopped running a while ago. It’s safe to assume the fear of another bomb going off has somehow been erased and a new form of fear has started to crawl in; fear of the unknown. Suddenly he and they—a few others that stopped when he did— are now cautious of where they are, mostly they were now afraid, no one knows what lurks in these wood. Their mind now constantly feeding them with wild and dangerous imaginations.
They had started calling home—these fellow survivors— he could hear them crying into the phone, he could also faintly see relief was across their face at the end of every phone call, home was safe. He brought out his phone and was puzzled with the question of who to call.
Who was he kidding, no one wants to know how he survived a chain of bomb blasts by just minutes, and no one wants to know what he was doing there in the first place. No one wants to know how excited he was to serve his country during this time of need. Frankly, in his world, no one cared.
He had always known he was alone, he preferred it that way, but something about this night made him more lonely than he had ever imagined, he had never been so scared, alone and angry.
Deeper into the woods a woman was wailing, this woman was dark skinned, with a lanky body clad in a faded white t-shirt and black tight jeans.
People soon gathered in the dark and dangerous woods to calm her down and perhaps get to hear her story.
‘‘My daughter’’. The Woman screamed, ‘’she’s dead, my baby girl’’. They barely made meaning out of her words, her tears and weeps made her almost inaudible. Some of these survivors that gathered started crying with this dark skinned woman, they all felt there were now connected, that somehow the woman’s daughter was their daughter. They now felt they shared a certain level of intimacy. Hate is not after all the only bonding emotion, relief sort of is.
He would hear this woman’s story; Harrison. He would feel his rage boil, he would feel the need to somehow avenge the woman’s daughter’s death but that’s where it becomes more difficult, because nothing he would do matters, he is a useless 25-year-old man who had succeeded in only one thing; isolating himself from the world.
He would only notice the bruises on his legs when he got home, he would see the stains of blood on his jeans. He would cry into his pillow because the screams of the blasted victims would keep on echoing in his ears. The imaginative look of the little girl, that her mother said was the most beautiful girl in the world, would keep on flashing across his eyes.
He would blame his government, he would from this day become politically apathetic. He would never trust his government again, he would call them corrupt, evil, Murderers, Greedy, selfish and simply cold-blooded.
He would live the rest of his life afraid of women dressed in Hijab. The official statement did not, however, say that a woman dressed in hijab detonated the first or all bombs, or was in fact anywhere near the area. But he can’t help but imagine that the woman he used on his blog posts somehow materialized to detonate the explosions.
He would have nightmares from that night onward, he would see the woman in black hijab sitting inside the first Toyota Camry that flew up, he would in the dreams feel the woman’s eyes trained on him.