CHAPTER
XI
Sumbo
************
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-storey 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 cheese burger. 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. 
 Tubosun
************
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-storey 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. 
Sumbo
************
 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 cheese burger 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 eye brows 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 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?
 
Tubosun
************
We found a cinema a
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, 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.

Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.