This Bus Departs at Nine in the Morning (cont.)
On this extraordinary trip, in the
dawn of the rainy season, we were ambushed by mud.
As we scaled the side of the mountain, a mud pocket
swallowed the two left tires of the bus. Tomatoes,
kerosene jugs, greens, and other fish-stenching cargo
began to trickle off the roof. The bus attendants
dismounted and laboriously pushed the bus, while the
prayed loudly the bus free itself from the grasp of
I feared the bus was going to tip
over on its left side; I was only partially correct.
The optimistic woman to my right would not confirm
my apprehension until individuals alarmingly invoked
Jesu Cristo and Allah. In that delayed, dream-like
quality of traumatic experiences, a wave of heads
turned to the right in unison. Trees, bushes, and
wildlife surfed a colossal swell of mud.
The impact of the traveling earth
on the unfortunate bus spit the tin vehicle on its
left side and carried it well down the mountainside.
I recall some bowel-shaking jolts and the thunderous
reverberation of the volcanic mud rush during the
actual "relocation" of the bus, but not
much else. All crests eventually fall, and with the
assistance of two obstinate trees, the bus halted
and mud slithered over and under us.
An eternal, breathless silence followed
the violent stop; not even the livestock whispered.
A photograph of the interior bus landscape would exhibit
human bowling pins immediately after a champion strike.
With the bus exhausted on its left side, we were piled
on one another like firewood. Shock slowly evaporated
and sore limbs peeked from the mass. Those people
nearest the right-side windows began to prudently
crawl out of the mud-oozing bus.
I was one of the last travelers
to be pulled through the mud spilling openings. Everyone
cheered as the final passenger, a milky-haired African
man dressed in a forced suit, surfaced the drowning
bus. People congregated in small circles, inspecting
one another's wounds and bruises. To my knowledge
no one was severely impaired, but of course, a Tanzanian
would never confess discomfort.
My only memorable injury resulted
from a bus-tossed chicken that found refuge up my
skirt. Once the chicken realized it survived the turbulent
encounter, it decided to peck its way to freedom through
my bare inner-thighs.
The tattered Africans, some with
bare feet, collectively and wordlessly began to ascend
the mountain. No one searched for possessions; they
just calmly scaled the mud mounds towards the nearest
village. There were no crying children, no declarations
of legal pursuit, no cellular phones to notify the
authorities, and absolutely no word of a refund. I
quickly scrambled after my big-bosomed companion,
"What do we do now?!"
Again, her cheek-vibrating laugh,
"We walk, young sista!"
"How far?" I winced.
"Oh, hamna shiba!" she
responded. I instantly reminded her, she said "no
problem" just before we were assaulted by mud.
She observed me cautiously, "What are you thinking,
"We will walk for a long time."
She laughed abundantly, put her
arm around me and exclaimed, "Karibu (welcome)
After a long pause, I said
to her, "You know, the next time the bus is going
to fall, I am not going to sit by such a fat woman."
She could not stop laughing.
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