‘Make sure you call at least once a day, so we know you are alright.’ Bade’s father said as they stood at the train station waiting for the train passing through Ibadan from Lagos on its way to the north, as the day that Bade had to depart finally arrived. His mother and his younger sister were there as well, both trying to show a brave face to the world. Other people waited at the station, whole families coming to say goodbye to someone, single men heading out into the unknown to make their fortune.
Everybody had their story, and Bade was determined to make the best of his.
‘I will sir.’
‘And make sure you stay safe and avoid trouble. God will keep you safe my son.’ His mother said, her voice quivering slightly.
‘I’ve told you I’ll be fine mum. There’s nothing to worry about. Just take good care of Temilope for me.’ His mother nodded. Bade knelt down to look at his sister in the eyes. She still didn’t understand what was going on, she just knew that her brother would be going away for a while and everybody was sad and afraid about something.
‘Be a good girl, alright, and take care of mummy.’ Bade told her.
‘I will.’ She promised solemnly.
‘When will you be able to come home?’ His father asked.
‘Well, I spoke with some people, and they said it is customary to come home after the three weeks of camp, so that I resume officially after the Christmas Break, so I should be back in three weeks hopefully.’
‘That’s good,’ his dad said, turning to his wife, ‘you see, he won’t be gone for long.’ His mother nodded, unconvinced.
Moments later, they heard the sound of the approaching train, in more moments, it pulled into the station, steam bellowing out from the exhaust pipes. The chugging sound died slowly, the train vibrating on its tracks, as the doors opened and those who had reached their destination alighted. Bade turned to his family one more time, patted his sister on her head, hugged his mother who held onto him a bit longer, tears welling in her eyes, his dad had to help him to pull away from her, but when she started sobbing openly, he hugged her again, whispering in her ear that he would be fine, that nothing would happen to him, and he would come back to her. After a few moments, he let go, and this time, she let him and gave him a brave smile. He finally shook hands with his father, hefted his travelling back and headed towards the open train door.
He presented his ticket at the entrance and was directed to the first class compartment, where there was still a bit more space to manoeuvre than the choked up lower compartments. He stowed his bag in the overhead space and sat down on the left side of the aisle, beside the window, where he could still see his parents. He waved to catch their attention, and his sister waved back. She was still waving when the train lumbered into motion a few minutes later, gaining momentum like a behemoth and gathering speed slowly and steadily, taking its occupants to their destination.
For some of the passengers, there was uncertainty as to what life had in store for them. Ruin or reward, fulfilment or regret, hope or despair, life or death. But the essence of life itself is its uncertainty, the chaos in the universe, the randomness of events. Nothing can ever truly be predicted, not even the weather. But that uncertainty was no reason not to live. Some would even argue that it was what what made life interesting. Bade smiled to himself. ‘I’ll be fine.’ He assured himself. Taking succour from the decisiveness of his words.