The door of the 15-seater van nearly falls off as it scratches along its track. The Mate hangs out and yells,
A mass of bodies push into the Tro-Tro: Men in business suits, women in brightly colored swaths of cloth, a mechanic with half a transmission, kids in school uniforms. Before I, too, am swept into the van, I notice the bright yellow decal on the back window, “Thank you Jesus!” The door slams shuts.
I slide into my seat and look in vain for a contiguous section of van that is not welded back together. As we putter up to speed, plumes of smoke come up through the holes in the floor. I stick my head out the window, trying to catch some fresh air and a little cool.
We stop at a light and the street comes alive.
Girls carrying metal bowls of filled water sachets and men with boxes of frozen yogurt weave in-between the immobile cars. Apples, chocolate, toilet papers, calculators, flags, plantain chips, and toothpaste all ride atop a sea of people like so many boats. Each item is called out by name as their salesperson rushes from car to car, summoned by little more than a glance. There is a woman next to a wheelbarrow that is filled with coconuts. She is swinging a machete in one hand and is spinning a coconut in the other. Green coconut husk is flying off. With a decisive WACK, she cuts the top off the coconut and hands it to her thirsty customer, who drinks deeply.
I trade a coin for a chilled bag of water and bite it open as we start to move forward. The sudden jerking causes the water to spray my unsuspecting neighbors and me.
I look apologetic towards the women next me and the baby wrapped to her back. The baby gapes.
“She has not seen an Obronie before.” The women says in slow, West African English. The accent suggests a large smile and hint of laughter. The woman leans forward, so as not to crush the child, and I smile with something I hope is a knowing or at least not-dumbfounded look. The baby’s mouth is still hanging open, and she pokes me as if to see if I am real. Her mother laughs.
We swerve to avoid a pothole and then another and another. We seem to be driving through the aftermath of a meteor shower. The Tro-Tro is bouncing to new heights as the pavement gives way to the ubiquitous red dirt road and we start driving down the left lane. I hold tighter to my seat.
Just as it all seems like a little too much, the engine dies. My legs shake a little as I alight. I mutter an involuntary prayer. I am at my destination, in one piece. “Thank you, Thank You Jesus!…Tro-Tro.”
Note from the author:
The story is 100% true, which means the facts can’t be trusted.