I know I ALWAYS write in ‘first-person’, probably a sign of literary laziness? I don’t know. But today I thought to try something marginally different. Still writing in first-person, but from the points of view of three different people – Abby, EnKay and Jide. Enjoy, and when you’re done please let me know what you think. Merci beaucoup.
It’s about 11.30 on this dusty Monday morning and a young man walks into the lobby looking lost. My eyes, trained to spot money (or lack of it) a mile away, take in his frayed collar, faded tie and dusty shoes and I wonder what on earth His Royal Wretchedness is doing here. Yes, he’s handsome, but his one dimple and perfect eyebrows can’t make up for this contraption a very wicked tailor has sewn for him in the name of a suit. I guess he’s one of those job seekers coming to drop another CV, the manila envelope clutched in his left hand sort of tells the story. Seriously, I almost feel sorry for him.
He seems to gain some confidence as he spots me at the reception desk, smiles and says hello. “See my life?” I say to myself as I hiss inwardly, on a good day this one wouldn’t have the guts to look me in the eye if he passed me on the street, let alone expose teeth and “hello” me like I’m his mate. But in this firm I’m paid to be nice to whatever brand of humanity the wind blows in through those doors so I smile half-heartedly and mumble a reply to his greeting, they don’t pay me enough to win an Oscar, abeg. Then he gives his name as Jide and mentions he’s here for the 1pm appointment with the MD and something clicks!
“Dear Lord!”, I think to myself, “so this is how a girl will just allow opportunity pass her by because she’s forming? God forbid!” I dive into damage control mode. I broaden my smile, laugh maniacally at a very dry joke he cracks about the red carpet and subtly arrange my ample bossom to reveal an additional square inch or two of cleavage. I must remember to say a prayer of thanks to the god of Ann Summers. Of course, the rest of the conversation takes place between Jide and my breasts, but today I don’t mind. I don’t say the usual “my face is up here”, in fact, I encourage the communion between man and cleavage by leaning forward in my seat and playing with the topmost button of my blouse. It’s a bit frustrating because this useless button that will pop open at the most embarrassing of times with no encouragement at all is acting like it’s been super-glued on today.
Anyway, uncooperative button or not, the hard work finally pays off! Jide asks for my number while I’m bending over in front of him to dust his seat (I’m pointedly ignoring the cleaner who’d just dusted the same seat barely five minutes go and is giving me the evil eye). I’m so excited, but I didn’t start meeting men today so I play it cool and tell him I’ll give him the number later, if he’s in and out of the MD’s office before my shift ends. Na wa for you o, of course my shift won’t end till he comes out!
I can’t contain myself! So, when Jide is safely seated opposite me in full view of my Ann Summers enhanced cleavage I happily call out in Igbo to my colleague and best friend EnKay to come and share in this new asiri. Now, I don’t like to speak Igbo in public, but though I have to keep Jide close enough to ensure he remains focussed on my girls it’s imperative that he doesn’t know that today’s gossip is all about him so I have no choice, I tell EnKay to keep it strictly Igbo.
Oh, did I introduce myself? My name is Abuchi, but everyone calls me Abby.
My name is EnKay. No, not Nkemakolam anymore, please get some class. The fact that my parents thought it wise to saddle a child in this day and age with THAT name is testament to the reason why people who grow up in the village shouldn’t be allowed to have children.
My dear, this morning Abby suddenly seems over excited. She’s always over excited, anyway, but I wonder what it is this time. All I know at this point is that it’s some kind of gossip about some non-Igbo person in the building, because that’s the only situation where she deigns to speak Igbo like the rest of us. But she’s my friend and I love gossip so I scoot my chair into her cubicle and before I come to a stop she screams excitedly, “o jurum numba m!” – he asked for my number! – Emm… OK. I look around and there’s nobody worth noticing in the lobby so I ask her to be more specific. She tosses her head in the general direction of a tattered young man in mismatched socks and after freezing in horror for a minute I clap my hands in scorn and ask whether guys these days don’t know their level anymore. I get up to go thinking that’s all the asiri there is, but I can see Abby’s still bobbing with excitement so I sit back down slowly. I think she might need an intervention.
I mean, looking at the sad case in the thread-bare shirt, he probably wouldn’t make in a decade what Abby made from the weekend she spent with that senator last week, or half what she made with the oil mogul the weekend before. And of course I tell her so! You see, we women can feel so starved of love sometimes that we forget the most important things in life – money, money and a lot more money, so it’s my job as her best friend to remind her and bring her back down to earth, and that I do. I remind her that that rumpled suit over there cannot afford one sole of the shoes she’s wearing, the one Chief bought on his way back from Paris as a thank you when she ‘serviced’ his client from Dubai. And I’m midway through reminding her that the ‘it’ sitting down there staring at her boobs cannot afford a door knob in the apartment Alhaji paid three years upfront for as a reward when she finally allowed him use “the back door”, when I realise that she’s laughing. At this point I’m looking at her like the mental case she is most days but she holds up her hand to silence me and I listen.
She tells me that yesterday she bumped into Kenny, the HR guy. Kenny, how do you get that short form from Kehinde? Anyway, Kenny had told her that the MD was planning to interview a promising young man today at 1pm for some big shot job in the IT department, and that the boy had all but gotten the job because the MD had stumbled on some freelance work he’d done while in university and was extremely impressed. Of course, from all indications the rumpled specimen here, who Abby says is called Jide, seems to be the promising young man. Once or twice in her excitement Abby has lapsed into English and I have to keep cautioning her to keep it Igbo because I don’t want our newest colleague thinking I’m a gossip.
She goes on to explain that though Jide’s monthly salary won’t match what that media ‘big boy’ paid for the bondage session last month, it would be much more than enough for her to “retire” on. So her plan is simple, she’ll cultivate Jide for marriage in two broad steps. (1) Smile at him and give him her number today BEFORE he goes in to see the MD, thus proving that she was willing to give him a chance even when he had nothing at all and (2) when they start dating pretend to be a very good girl and after ‘mistakingly’ rocking his world once, use the carrot and stick method and refuse him any further sex until he proposes. Of course there’ll be a few gaps to fill in and she’ll have to convince her parents to accept a Yoruba boy but basically, Jide will be her fatted calf to retire from aristo work on.
My dear, how do you see it? I must say I’m proud of Abby today, I think it’s a plan made in heaven, and I tell her so. Especially since Jide is moving over from Ibadan and wouldn’t know anyone here in Abuja to give him Abby’s story. Besides, if anyone does she can always turn on the tears and attribute the hateful gossip to some man she refused to marry, or something similar.
Then the MD’s secretary rings and asks for Jide to be sent up.
The pretty one with the boobs, the one I flirted with earlier on, answers the phone and then smiles a little too seductively at me and beckons. Even the evil looking one, I think they called her NK, bares her teeth at me in a grimace that I think is meant to be a smile. Na wa o, this must be how point-and-kill candidates feel, sha. The pretty girl tells me the MD will see me now, and as I say thank you and am about to walk past she gently tugs at my sleeve, smiles shyly and hands me a small folded sheet of paper. I smile back and say thanks already knowing what’s in it. As I walk down the corridor I unfold the paper to see her name, phone number and BlackBerry PIN. I smile to myself and shake my head. It should be fun deciding at what point during our ‘relationship’ to tell her my name is Jideofor Nnamdi Ebuka.
Asiri – gossip, Aristo – high class call girl