My foot tapped the floor impatiently, fingers clasped together, as I stared at the telephone. I picked up the receiver and dialed in some digits. A female voice responded after the second ring.
How long is it going to take to get me the document? I haven’t got all the time in the world, you know.’ And with that, I slammed the receiver down.I knew my behavior had been irrational but I just didn’t give a hoot. I was ill-tempered today. I was mad at myself for being ill-tempered and at the world for making me ill-tempered. I was mad at him too: infuriated at him for not being a gentleman by telling me his name.It’s been six weeks since our chanced meeting.
No man had ever had this much effect on my psyche. And that made me more annoyed.Just then, the door swung open and Akin strolled in, waving a sheet of paper. ‘Get a grip woman,’ he said, smiling then taking a seat on my desk, ‘You’ve upset poor Denise.’ He dropped the document in front of me.
It’s been seven weeks,’ I said. I had told Akin about the stranger but I had decided against telling him about the dream.
Do you believe transferring your frustration to every member of staff will bring you any closer to seeing him again?
He was right but I wasn’t prepared to be rational. ‘This is when you are supposed to be a friend and take my side,’ I said. He broke into laughter.
Take your side against whom exactly: Fate or the unsuspecting victims of your wrath? Don’t be silly.’ He gave me a stern look and got off the table.’ I have only just concluded my divorce but do you see me acting it out on anyone?’ He gave me a pat on the arm and left for the door. On getting to the door, he turned and said calmly, ‘I am your friend. And that’s why I am saying Get a grip,’ before shutting the door behind him.
Some minutes after, the phone rang. It was Wright and he wanted me in his office immediately. I had a hunch that I was going to get some sort of telling off. After all, I hadn’t been the most easy-to-work-with employee recently. It is certain I won’t be getting an award for team player of the month. This stranger is ruining my life. I had to retake my life before it cost me my job. He was typing away, his eyes fixed to the monitor in front of him.
Have a seat, Sumbo,’ he said without giving me as much as a glance and I obliged.
He continued typing for another couple of minutes without acknowledging me. I was about to ask if
there was a purpose for this meeting when he spoke, eyes still on the monitor:
Now and again, I get a spark that reminds me I made the right choice in hiring someone. In your case, I haven’t had it in a long while. Find that spark. My patience wears thin.
I will,’ I replied.
Still not looking at me, he said: ‘I’d like you to develop a proposal and hand it personally to a high-end, potential client in two days. Details have been mailed to you. Have a good day, Sumbo.’I definitely have to retake my life. I left Wright’s office.
I exited the 12-story building into the chill air of October’s Friday autumn, feeling fulfilled and optimistic. I was confident I had done justice to the proposal. Benard, the potential client was definitely interested in the product and believed we could secure a corporate deal although the decision lay in the hands of his boss men. He had assured me that he would sell the idea to them and get me a presentation.The last official task of the day had been struck off my mental list and Wright had given me the rest of the day off. My belly gurgled and I felt the need for a cheeseburger. Fortunately, when I had arrived about three hours ago, I noticed a fast food restaurant around the bend that led to this street. My left hand slid into a pocket while the other gripped the black leather file bag as I headed for the traffic light.
Cars and pedestrians still ruled the asphalt street when I emerged from the building. I hesitated a few feet from the entrance and my left palm slowly slid down my forehead, lingering for a second on the face, before dropping to my waist in a gesture of frustration. There was a throbbing headache at the lower part of my skull.
Subconsciously, I turned to look at the 6-story structure behind me. The phrase ‘We’ll get back to you’ from the serene voice of the female interviewer was uttered in my mind.I doubted the positive outcome of that statement very much.
The interview hadn’t gone as planned. Damn employers and their stupid questions. I sighed and then yawned. Food time was this time. The penchant for special fried rice was dominant in my head. Unfortunately, the eatery on the other side of the road was the only one around and it definitely wasn’t Chinese or Indian. Fries and a burger of some description would have to do. I adjusted the satchel strap on my shoulder and trudged on to the traffic light.
I chose the table with four window seats, put my file case on the one directly opposite mine, set the food on the table, and started on the chips. As I munched, I did a proper survey of the premises: Most of the tables were vacant; a broken TV rested on an elevated wooden slab attached to the corner of the wall closest to the door; and a male employee appeared to be flirting with a willing, giggling female customer, neglecting the greasy tables and mucky floor. I shook my head at the face of customer service.
Just then, the door swung open. My heart skipped a beat as the stranger responsible for my recent personality change walked in.His eyes found mine and he hesitated as if deciding whether to have a meal or turn away. That was an indication that he remembered me. Who the hell did he think he was? I was angry at his hesitation and even more exasperated at the fact that I was most likely responsible for it. My eyes narrowed, brows arched and my teeth gritted on the now bitter chips, but my gaze fixed on him. And then, he sighed, smiled and walked right up to my table.
My name is Tubosun,’ he said, totally taking me off guard. My anger melted like ice cream on fire, and the chips tasted better. ‘May I join you?’So Tubosun was his name. I tried to act like I didn’t care. ‘If you want to.’
He dropped his satchel on the seat next to where I sat. ‘But first things first; I’m hungry.’ With that he headed straight for the counter.My eyes followed the slender figure in the tailor-fit black suit as he approached the counter and put an order through. He had a prominent slouch as he leaned on the counter while awaiting his order. A slouch presupposed a lack of confidence or positive mental
attitude or someone having a bad day; a major turn-off for me under normal circumstances. But in his case, whatever it was, won my compassion.The order was ready and he brought it over to my table. I noticed as he sat that the sad look from our first encounter was still evident in his eyes.
We didn’t say anything for the first few minutes, glancing at each other sporadically. He was indeed
hungry; I could tell from the speed his meal diminished although he was trying not to make it obvious. I observed his eyes when they met mine and could tell, from the furrow of his brows and imperceptible lines on his forehead, that there was some kind of mental struggle. I had obliterated the chips and was half-way through the cheeseburger in my palm. As much as I could finish off what was left, my appetite had mysteriously evaporated. I settled the leftover on the paper plate, finished off what was left of my drink, and slowly pushed the tray aside.I decided to break the ice.
I could guess two possible answers to the intended question from his dress code and satchel but decided assumption might come out as being impolite. ‘So what brings you to this part of London today?’ I asked, then reached for a napkin and dabbed my lips.
He swallowed, flipped over the cover of his drink and took a swig, before replying: ‘Interview.’ My first guess had been right. ‘And how did it go?
The chance of securing that job is pretty slim,’ he said in a deadpan tone. He hesitated for a moment, his eyebrows furrowed again as if deciding whether vulnerability was the better option, then he sighed. When he spoke now his gentle frustration was as clear as looking through a looking glass. ‘Some companies do not fail to amuse me. I wonder if they really go through an applicant’s CV. Imagine the interviewer asking about my marketing work experience when it was obvious from my CV that I had none.’ I felt sorry for him. ‘And how did you respond?’
I told her about transferable skills from other roles I have handled and actual skills I could apply from my postgraduate marketing degree,’ he replied, pausing for a bit, then shook his and laughed ruefully, ‘but the look I received told me my response wasn’t adequate.
Given the circumstances, you gave it your best shot. And that’s what matters. So don’t let that bother you. If it is yours, you’ll get it. If not, something better is just around the corner.’
My words must have had some effect for he seemed to relax. He picked up the last two sticks of chips and popped them into his mouth. As he chewed, he said: ‘Thanks for the encouragement. You sound like my dad. Enough about my sappy tale. I reckon you’ve just had an interview-’ his eyes drifted to my file case ‘perhaps a presentation?
A little bit of the two. I introduced a product to a stakeholder who, in turn would attempt to persuade other stakeholders to give me an opportunity to do a formal presentation.’
‘And how did that go?
I could have told him that I was pretty sure it was a done deal but it didn’t feel quite right, given the peculiarity of his situation. I crossed two fingers in response.
Suddenly, I had a surreal urge to be spontaneous. Usually, if I could help it, I preferred a strong feeling of a potential positive outcome before taking any leap. This Tubosun guy had unleashed another side of me without even knowing it. I wanted to spend more time with him.
He didn’t say anything, but held my gaze. His forehead was an epitome of tensed activity. I was afraid he’d come up with an excuse.What are you so afraid of, for Heaven’s sake? I asked in my mind. And ever so lightly he sighed, relaxation washed over his face again. He muttered something
inaudible, and before I could ask what he had said, he replied: ‘A movie would do me some good. Something funny.’ Relief engulfed me. Who knew spontaneity could have a silver lining?
We found a cinema bus-stop away from the fast-food outlet. The walls were plastered with movie wallpapers – Showing Now and Coming Soon – that gleamed in the green rays emitted from eco-bulbs. Fortunately, for a Friday evening, the area wasn’t jam-packed.Still, with the current queue, we would have to wait, give or take, twenty minutes before getting served. On the plus side, the comedy we had decided to see was showing in another thirty minutes.
She had gone to use the toilet. I’d be lying if I said her memory hadn’t lingered since our first encounter like a wraith unwilling to cross the great divide. And it scared me. It was undeniable that I was drawn to her from that day. And even scarier, that she seemed to like me too. She was even the last person I had expected to run into today, and I would have retreated, but the hurt in her indignant eyes rendered me powerless. My attraction to Sumbo was mounting like a warhorse struggling against gravity but forging ahead still. My eyes darted to the direction of the ladies, and at that moment, she emerged from the door. Her top and bottom curves were conspicuous even in her formal wear. A familiar sensation began to build between my thighs. Perhaps, my attraction was only primal, after all. There were countless cases of men who lost interest in the opposite sex after bedding them. I decided to rest in the possibility that this wouldn’t be any different.She reclaimed her place in the queue. ‘It’s almost our turn.
The glow on her face was there alright.I trembled at the thought that I was responsible. I sighed subtly and told myself not to worry. Sexual gratification would solve the problem – If not for her, possibly for me.It was our turn to be served.
She appeared to be in a state of pleasant reverie, I noticed, and I didn’t interrupt. My mind began replaying our time in the cinema, as we descended the escalator that led to the exit. I had thoroughly enjoyed her company throughout the screening: the way subtle lines on her forehead became prominent and her cheeks forged dimples when she cackled at the main character’s funny or snide remarks; the moments when her palm innocently settled on my hand for a second. But the ominous feeling that nothing good could result from a serious relationship with her hovered over my head like pesky houseflies on a corpse. I needed to bed her and free myself from her grasp before it was too late.
That was a good movie.’ She said, her voice penetrating my thoughts. It was slightly dark now. The air was a tad chilly outside the mall so I dug my fingers into my pockets. ‘Indeed, it was. There is something about the main actor’s face and demeanor that cracks me up, even when he isn’t trying to be funny.
You picked the words right out of my mouth. So, where are you heading now?’
‘Home,’ I replied crisply. ‘Peterborough.’
Her face was transparent, exuding scintillating delight. ‘Same destination.
Silently, we strode a few meters to the bus-stop. A glance at the digital timetable device screwed onto the top side of the advertisement ridden, a plastic wall of the bus-stop revealed that the next bus to the train station was due in another ten minutes.
Do you miss home cooking?’ she asked.
You have no idea. I haven’t had pounded yam and vegetable stew since I stepped into this country,’ I chortled, ‘and I am not referring to that blasted poundo yam.’ I had anticipated laughter but she didn’t say anything for a minute.
At first, she
appeared to be vacillating between options, as she tapped a hand on her pants
repetitively, then a resigned look followed. ‘You are in luck. I’ll make you pounded yam and vegetable soup tomorrow evening, that’s if you’d like to have dinner with me.’ Operation Deliver-Myself-from-Sumbo had been set into motion and I intended to exploit it. ‘I’d love to. Where and when?’ ‘I’ll text you the time and address’. We exchanged numbers.
Kreate is a budding Nigerian writer with a flair for fiction. Writing for him began sometime in secondary school where he dabbled in poetry and plays. He has authored two self-published short novels. He is a banker and lives in Surulere. Read more interesting pieces at KREATEATALE