‘Yes, the last number is 6.’ I shouted my phone number through the window just as the trotro was leaving the Okponglo bus stop. I had just met Jennifer, and I was going to talk to her students. I reflected on what had happened within the last forty or so minutes and my heart gladdened. God taught me with this practical lesson that he has everything planned and mapped out for me. He taught me that I may be denied something I am qualified for; and I may miss an opportunity I would love to have had but I wasn’t ready for. He told me that I would have to wait a while for what he has planned for me. And when it comes, it would be a perfect fit. Custom made for me. Serendipitous. It would make me an answer to people’s prayer. And move me closer to the completion of my assignment.
Then He whispered in more ways than one, ‘This lesson is for some time to come’.
I had been wondering why I had not insisted Akweley return the umbrella immediately. I had gone to braid my hair at Madina. The partings lay my scalp bare. Now the sun cooked my brain. I could not understand why people knew how to borrow things, but did not know how to return them. I made a mental note to go and retrieve my umbrella myself. Two days was long enough.
I heard one of the trotro mates shout ‘Lapazlapaz…’ A cool relief washed over me. ‘I’d just take this one’, I thought to myself.
Horns blared here and there. The sun blazed madly and the trotro mate stunk to prove it. As if people had to smell the sun on his sweaty body. He hang off the entrance of the vehicle and shouted ‘Lapas, Awoshie, Lapasawoshie lapazawoshie…’ The blue nylon rope that held the heavy door to the rest of the vehicle threatened to snap. He tugged at it once, then twice. It had gone taut. He was satisfied that it would keep faith. He turned. ‘Lapaz Awoshie Lapazlapaz…’ he went on. The vehicle slowly filled.
‘Mate, mesi w) Okponglo’ I said as I was climbing up the badly welded step into the trotro. I knew they would pass there. I only wanted to be sure.
‘Daabi. Si na b3fa wei’ the mate responded, pointing out to a red trotro ahead. I had barely settled in my seat and I wasn’t pleased. Ordinarily, I would argue. But today, my strength had evaporated slowly. The walk from the salon to the bus stop had been tortuous. I got down from the car and started towards the red trotro. Just before I got to it, a girl appeared from the opposite direction and took the last seat. The red trotro moved and as if on cue, the Lapas trotro followed. The mate smiled at me as they passed me by. I rolled my eyes at him and I thought to myself ‘I was just not meant to sit in these trotros.’ It seemed a lame consolation. The bus stop stunk. Two nights ago, it had rained heavily. The rubbish the market women had gathered was scattered about the whole place and big fat flies buzzed around happily.
I watched many trotros pass by. Some to Dome, Taifa and Haatso. None of those would go by Okponglo so I waited. Then an Accra bound trotro came. I got in and sat by a woman who was light skinned, only, her feet looked as mottled as roasted ripe plantain done by a novice. I noticed this and suppressed a laughter. I took out my phone from my handbag to check my messages. There was none. I replaced it and looked out. I watched as people entered and took their seats. A little while after, a slender girl came in and moved to the back. I turned around and watched the girl as she sat. There was something about her. Her face, her mannerisms. She looked very much like my sister’s friend. But it couldn’t be, I reasoned. This friend did not live in Ghana so she couldn’t possibly be in a trotro at Madina. I reached into my bag again for my phone. I scrolled through my WhatsApp contacts and found my sister. A fleeting thought that she might probably be doing ward rounds occurred to me and I hesitated. I cannot say that I hate my sister’s job. I just don’t like that she has to do it; be a doctor. It takes her away from me too much. I replaced my phone. Better not to disturb her with trivia.
The trotro got full. The mate pulled the door shut loudly and I shivered. I imagined someone’s finger getting caught between the vehicle and the door. The mate let out his hand and banged on the door once and said ‘w) ya’.
Right then, I heard my name from behind. I turned and stared straight at the girl I had been watching earlier and my face lit up. It really was her. It was Jedidah.
The thing about trotros is that there is hardly a journey without a stop every three minutes. At Maselachi, the trotro stopped for the mottled-footed lady to get down. Then a few more people alighted at Firestone. A few minutes after, the mate banged on the door twice. We had reached Atomic Junction, First. A couple of people alighted from the trotro and I slipped beside Jedidah
‘You’ve grown up oo. I wasn’t sure it was you at first.’ she said when the car started moving again. The last time we met, I was graduating from JHS. That was about 7 years ago. Time had passed and with that, my chubby cheeks.
‘So where are you now?’ she went on to ask.
I am in business school, I told her. Majoring Accounting.
‘But I heard you won some writing contest bi like that. Why are you in business school?’
I half expected that question to follow. Over these last few weeks, I have had to provide an answer about that to so many people. I was considering writing my response on a flash card to pull out for people to read. I could only take so much. But this was Jedidah, I didn’t mind.
‘You know this our system’, I replied, ‘if you do certain courses in high school, there isn’t much else you can do. Especially if you lock yourself up in a business class. You’d have to travel the road a little further before you can make a detour’.
‘Yes. True, true’, Jedidah agreed.
‘I sincerely would not advise anyone to do business in high school, unless they are clear in their minds about it. I mean, what business does anyone have studying business in high school in Ghana? You could always do that in university anyway. And the ‘basics’ argument, hoh please!’
I had not finished talking when a lady who was sitting by Jedidah chipped in.
Her headscarf was what had caught my attention earlier. Now it was her voice.
‘I could not help but listen in on your conversation’, she said, her eyes apologising. ‘I only wish my students would hear you talk about this. I have been trying to tell them to explore in the arts, the sciences. Professional courses are best left for certain periods and high school certainly isn’t one of those. Especially for those who are yet to find themselves.’
I told her I would love to. It would be an honour, I added.
The mate banged on the door again. This time, I was the one coming down.
I had reached Okponglo how God had planned and when he had ordained. He had chosen for me the third trotro for the purpose of meeting Jedidah (which was one of the most improbable things to happen) so we could have the conversation we had for Jennifer to eavesdrop on so that one student(whom I don’t know yet) would hear me tell her ‘don’t buy a one way ticket on this journey’.
The first two trotros seemed like missed chances. What they actually were were wrong choices. Serendipity is a planned thing, really.