He has been awake for a while. It doesn’t look like he will be going back to bed anytime soon. Thoughts plague him. One particular thought actually. The accident. He hadn’t seen it himself, but the boda boda rider had narrated it in such detail. It felt almost as if he had been there as it happened.
All he had seen was the abandoned lorry and the crowd. He couldn’t forget the crowd. As the bike moved closer, so too did the crowd. A menacing advance punctuated by screams and insults. One sane voice almost drowned in the madness as the man with a helmet shouted that vehicles were not allowed to use the route that lay ahead.
Sleep continues to elude him. No matter how much he tosses and turns it is beyond his grasp. So far away, he can’t even feel it. For lack of something better to do, his thoughts begin to drift. Further and further until he is back on that boda boda. Listening to the rider’s tale. ‘Seeing’ it.
Apparently some young people had opted to use that route to beat the traffic. It is possible they were overspeeding. What was not open to speculation was the fact that they may have been inebriated.
Along with the mangled flesh that was pulled out of the wreckage, were shattered bottles of beer, some sachets of cheap brew and a pack of cigarettes; almost empty.
The driver of the lorry, for whatever reason came hurtling down the road with reckless abandon. He was sober after the accident. Sober enough to run away from the scene.
One of the victims had his fist tightly wrapped around his phone. The collision had caused the two to become one in a nasty fusion of skin and plastic. Not even the hardened lumpens that no doubt had collected, had it in them to take what didn’t belong to them.
The alarm goes off. It doesn’t make much of a difference. The hours leading to it have been spent sleeplessly. He lies in bed a little longer. A sense of dread filling him for a few seconds. As soon as it comes, it leaves. He slowly climbs out of his bed and starts to pick out his clothes for the day.
He takes a bath and gets dressed. He feels a little bothered. A sense of foreboding seems to be nipping at him, but he brushes it aside as he settles down to have breakfast.
He checks to make sure he has everything he needs for the day and starts to leave the house. He sees his pack of cigarettes and hesitates before picking it up. He has been trying to quit, but his nerves could benefit from the nicotine.
Work seems to be moving at a place that suits it, which infuriates him quite a bit. He glances at the pack of cigarettes and makes up his mind. He tells his co-worker he is stepping away for a bit. She smiles knowingly. He wonders why he even bothered to make excuses. Why indeed. Its not like he feels ashamed of the habit and no one has given him any flack for it. The debate raging through his head won’t let up, he finds a spot and lights up.
His thoughts go back to the accident. The person with the phone. Was it the driver? Was it a passenger? What thoughts were going through his head before impact?
The pack still has some cigarettes. It’s an achievement of sorts. He stares at the clock, willing the end of the day near. It takes its sweet time. Looking through his diary, he sees what he expected; no entries for the day. It has been a slow day and it simply won’t let up. Just one more hour left. 60 minutes that stretch into many more than that. It feels almost like…
His phone rings, startling him.
“What’s the plan?”
He doesn’t feel up to anything at the moment. He is still shaken from what he saw yesterday.
“Maybe a drink may help. Staying in couldn’t have done anything to help”
That is true. Maybe a night out may soothe…but it should be tame.
“You know that’s how these things always start out, but fine. We will keep it local. There’s a decent kafunda near your place. I’ll holla”
For the second time today, he finds himself staring at his watch. It is not a hard stare. His eylidss are heavy, laden with sleep. The sleep that had previously played hard-to-get has come home. He muses on the thought as he feels his eyelids close. He lets them.
His phone doesn’t.
“I’m at your gate”
He mutters something under his breath. It is not polite.
“Sheesh. Were you asleep?”
He doesn’t offer an answer. He hangs up and makes his way to the gate. As he locks up he remembers the pack of cigarettes and goes back and gets them.
The night is on an uphill swing. Thoughts of the accident long gone. He is truly having a great time. This place, though has become boring. A change of location is necessary. He turns to his friend and makes a suggestion that meets no resistance.
“Let’s pass by the supermarket and get cheaper booze. I mean beers”
The second part is offered as a means to reassure his friend. In the past, they have experimented with all sorts of cheap alcohol. The ban on ‘sachet’ alcohol did nothing to slow down their pace.
He looks at his pack of cigarettes. He has enough left to keep him going.
They tire of drinking from the parking lot in the supermarket and get into the car. They met one of their friends and he came bearing gifts. Sachet alcohol.
They set off with no idea of where they will end up. They spy a jam in the distance and they opt for another route.
He begins to berate his friend over his weakeness for sachets. He in turn is called a chimney. He is offended and says he can quit right now!
There’s laughter in the car, none of it his.
He looks at the pack of cigarettes and wonders why he can’t stop. Then and there he decides this is the end. He will not light another, never smoke again.
His preoccupation earlier on had not afforded him a chance to call his girlfriend. Ignoring the late hour, he pulls out his phone to call and check on her.
Around the same time, the car starts to swerve. The friend driving seems to have lost control. Panic spreads in the car.
Up ahead, he sees the bright lights of the lorry…