It’s quiet in the dusty bus station, save for the hum of the fluorescent lights. The bus stands like a monument, a behemoth yellow vessel with its logo emblazoned on the side — a map of Niger and a galloping white horse. In the dark corners of the yard still bodies of the awaiting passengers sleep, bodies shrouded in sheets. Between morning and well after night, before the sun has decided to lighten the sky, the driver starts the engine, a rumbling idle that announces our imminent depart.
We climb onto the bus into half sleep confusion, shadows and profiles searching for a place. A friend’s remark rises from memory of how every journey starts in a battle, struggling for a seat, but the long hours bind us in solidarity. We drift into that delirious half sleep dreaming of potholes and cracked asphalt.
In the darkness, a young woman dies. Her body collapses in the aisle. There is confusion and shouting, the crying of her two children that meld together in a single drone, the panic and uncertainty and fear. She lays there in the dark for a long while, the bus continues, on the hope perhaps that somewhere down the line, there is someone who knows what to do. Her hand is cold as the plastic floor of the bus. We cover her in a blanket and ride with her body until the first prayer, arriving at a city, where we descend from the yellow bus and wait.
Her body is removed and the voyage continues, without a trace but for the silent glances between us. But the other passengers are soon gone too, replaced with new ones: an old woman with yellow bracelets draped in brown robes, a young girl with two two lines furrowed into her cheeks and delicate henna designs on her hands, a soldier in camouflage with matching red socks and beret. As the sun peaks at noon and descends into the colorless haze of dusty winds, I realize that I can’t recognize any of the passengers anymore, only the cold aisle of a bus, the memory of a nameless death, and the gallop of white horses.