By Abdulsamad Jimoh.
He didn’t take his eyes off the window for more than fifteen minutes after the train had left the railway station. He loved the fact that he sat beside the window, for this would favour him with an unbroken chance to see everything outside. He always did the same when he travelled by bus or by cab, but this was his first time travelling in a train. At first, he’d concentrated on the way people, buildings, farm fields and other objects outside whizzed by as the train hurriedly moved on the tracks, but after some time, he was lost in deep thought.
That morning, he’d left home in sadness because his parents had a squabble the night before. Most times, when his parents fought, it was either because of food or because of the children’s tuition fees. Last night, it was because of tuition fees—his tuition fees. It was already time for him to return to his school in Kano as the new session had begun, but his father appeared less concerned about it even after he’d told him several times. His mother wasn’t pleased with this at all.
“Adele, when will Martins go back to school?” His mother had asked his father after the evening meal.
“I can’t say for now, because there’s no money,” his father had responded and quickly stood up to start heading out of the living room.
“Where are you going? I’m not done talking,” his mother shouted.
His father turned to look at his mother and said: “What is the problem again Dunni? You asked me a question and I answered. What do you have to say again?”
“This is the fourth week of resumption for God’s sake, and you are still saying you don’t have money. How do you want this boy to catch-up when he eventually gets back to school?”
“Listen Dunni! I don’t have money for now. That’s all I have to say. And talking about whether he’ll catch-up or not, my son is not a dunce, so he’ll always catch-up. Am I wrong, Martins?” His father turned to look at him on the couch where he sat. He didn’t even know what to say at that moment—whether to say yes or no. It was a sudden question he didn’t expect, so he simply stared at the empty floor before him as though something was there—something unseen.
“This is not fair, Adele. I’m sure your friends would not keep their children who are university students at home at this period…”
“Shut it right there!” Adele yelled and he went bright red. “In your life, don’t ever compare me with my friends. If you love your son dearly, go out and look for money so that he can return to school.”
“And you call yourself a man, is this how to…” Dunni hadn’t finished her statement when Adele hit her face with a slap. She fell uncontrollably on the floor. Martins and his younger sister, Gloria, quickly rushed to stop their father who was still making another attempt to kick the woman on the floor.
“Daddy, stop this, please,” Gloria pleaded with tears streaming down her cheek.
Martins was speechless but he stood in between his parents, facing his father who was still standing there with his angry looking face and backing his mother who was lying and crying on the floor. He was irritated with his father’s action but he couldn’t do anything.
“Tell your mother that I should not hear her voice again this night,” Adele said angrily and left.
Martins and Gloria quickly helped their mother up and consoled her.
“I’m sorry mum. I’m sorry that this happened to you because of me,” he said and joined his mother and sister weeping in silence.
Later that night, he told his mother that he’d saved a certain amount of money from a part-time job he did during the holiday.
“How much is it?” His mother asked after she’d recovered from the torment of that evening.
“It’s just twenty thousand naira,” he replied.
“Will you be able to manage it? You know Kano is very far from here.”
“I’m contemplating going by train.”
“Yes, I’ve made enquiries about it. I think it’ll reduce my expenses because I will only have to pay four thousand naira.”
“From Osogbo to Kano?”
“But, you’ve never travelled by train before, hope it won’t be too stressful?”
“I will try and manage, don’t worry Ma.”
“Alright, so if that is the case, I will talk to some of my friends tomorrow to see if I can get more money to add to what you have already.”
“I would like to be on my way tomorrow; because I was told the train will leave Lagos in the morning and will get to the railway station here in the afternoon.”
His mother was surprised: “When did you start the planning?”
“It was last weekend after dad told me I would still have to wait for another two weeks.”
“He said so?”
“Yes. That’s what he said.”
Dunni was speechless.
“I was told at the railway station that the train will spend nothing less than three days on the way from here to Kano.”
There was a worried look on his mother’s face: “That’s going to be a very long journey, but God will save you.”
“Amen. Thank you ma.”
That morning he’d told his father about his movement for he couldn’t leave without him knowing.
“That’s very good,” his father had said. “I’ll call you, okay?”
“Alright sir,” he replied promptly.
That was all his father could say. He didn’t even bother to ask him how or where he got the money.
Martins had booked a ticket before noon at the railway station; he was ready by the time the train finally arrived.
When he realised that he’d been carried away for a while, especially with the last night incident, he refused to think any further. Soon, he lost interest looking outside and then withdrew his attention.
Majority of the people inside the train were busy having conversation. Some were even laughing incessantly and talking in their high-pitched voices. However, the situation wasn’t the same at the section where he sat—nobody was talking there. The section had four seats altogether: two on each side, facing each other. A lady was sitting next to him, while an old man and a woman occupied the opposite seats. When he turned to look at the lady beside him, he was surprised to see that she was also staring at him. Perhaps, she was ready for conversation.
“Hi,” Martins said in his deep masculine voice, still staring at the lady.
The lady didn’t respond by word, instead she waived her right hand gently at him. The lady was still staring and Martins was beginning to think maybe there was something wrong with the way he appeared. He imagined looking at himself in a mirror and saw a handsome guy. He was of averagely built body with a dark skin. The lady, on the other hand, was good looking in her fair skin; she had prominent eyes and long eyelashes, and she used a big head-tie to wrap her bulky hair.
“I’m Martins, and you are?”
Again, the lady didn’t respond, but she tried to use her hands to show some signs. Martins didn’t understand. Why is she not talking? He asked himself.
She noticed he was confused, so she quickly dipped her hands into her bag and brought out a pen and a notebook. She wrote on the book and passed it to him. He collected it and read what she wrote:
I’m sorry I can’t talk but I can hear you. My name is Jummai. It’s nice meeting you.
Martins was shocked. A beautiful lady like this is dumb? He felt pity for her. Rather than talking again, he decided to write her back:
Oh, so sorry for that. I’m astonished.
Jummai read and replied:
It’s okay. I know you’ll be shocked but that is who I am.
He took the book, read what she wrote and responded:
All is well. Your handwriting is legible, I like it. And, you are a beautiful lady.
Jummai smiled while reading the note and quickly wrote:
Thank you very much for the compliment. You are a very handsome guy too.
Martins was beginning to enjoy the conversation. The old man and the woman on the opposite seats were fast asleep. He was even happy with that fact because he might be easily stymied by their attention. He beamed when he read Jummai’s message. He wrote:
Where are you travelling to?
I’m going to Kano. I’m currently a student of Bayero University Kano, fondly called BUK. I’m studying English Education.
“Wow, I’m also a BUK student studying Computer Science,” Martins announced, pronto. He couldn’t wait to write that down. “I’m very surprised.”
For the next two days they spent on the journey, their conversation remained incessant through their adopted means of passing the note. They flipped the pages as they began to exhaust them one after the other, and at intervals, they smiled and stared at each other. They talked about their school, families, friends as well as their lifestyles. Whenever the train stopped at its station, they would go out together to buy food or drinks or even take a short walk.
Jummai told Martins about herself. She’d been dumb since she was born; she lost her dad at the age of six; she was the only child of her mother, and she had no friend for people easily lost interest in conversing with her because of her state. Martins felt deep pity for her and also told her something about him.
As the journey was drawing to an end, Martins realised he’d fallen for Jummai in no time. When both of them smiled and stared at each other extensively, he interpreted the smile and the expression on her face to mean affection.
Before their parting, Jummai wrote:
Thank you for making my journey interesting. I never had an interesting journey like this before in my life. I wish to see you around.
Martins too found the journey interesting. This is the beginning of something, he thought. He could not deny the fact that he’d fallen for Jummai and he wished to reveal it to her.
-Photo by Sklorg via Pixabay
This story was originally crafted in response to Reedsy Weekly Prompt: “Start your story with someone looking out a train window.”