I didn’t need a thousand reasons to convince myself that I was better off in the future than I was here. One reason was the fact that in the future I had a lover. Not just any ordinary lover, but a white young beautiful lady in the name of Joko.
Her eyes were made of sapphire beads, her hair glittered, and her lips were always ready to kiss. I thought longer on that trail for a while, knowing at the back of my mind that it wasn’t even lawful if I had to go by the fact that I wasn’t Sam, the person Joko thought I was.
But I refused to stop smiling. No. No one would come and put san-san in my garri. Not even Kobo. I indulged myself a little longer as I sat by my locker, palms wedging my chin.
“Snap!” Someone was by my side. I looked up to see the distraction. It was Nene. I frowned at her.
“Snap! Snap!!” She repeated, even though I responded the first time she intruded my privacy.
“Na wa for you o. You just sidon, by yourself begin smile.” She was standing in front of me, with her dangerously penciled eyebrows looking more like the infinity ~ ~ sign.
“Should I be crying?” That was the dumbest reply in the world to the ‘why are you smiling question’, but it was something typical of Nigerians. I thought of a better answer. I held my index finger in the air, and decided to drop a popular line from Pharrell’s song, “Because I’m happy…”
“Hollit!” Nene froze my melody mid air. “If this room no get roof again you know wetin that one mean, ba?” Her mannerism was classic of a Lagos chic. “E mean sey you, me, all of us here, including Tobias, no get job again. So… hollit. Save that happiness, you will need more than a dose of it in traffic. I need your help with a few customers. Movit movit.”
I still had seven minutes of my break time, I thought, but no matter how difficult things are, there are a few people who make work endurable for you, and Nene was one for me. She was my girl Friday, and this was my turn to bid her call. I pulled myself off the seat and followed her out of the office to the show room.
From where I stood, I could read the body language between a customer and a new colleague, Friday. The overly eager beaver must have been motivated by the need to impress Mr. Kobo, but he was sure encroaching into the customer’s proxy zone now. I pitied the young lady who kept moving slightly away as Friday breathed down her neck.
I put in the drawer the stock book in my hands and headed their way. As I neared them, both customer and colleague looked up at me. My smile was genuine for the customer but as soon as she looked away, I signaled Friday with a slight almost unnoticeable wink. I walked into the nearest closet, hoping he got the cue.
Five seconds later, he joined me. “Doing good, Fry.” I shoved his shoulder. “Imagine yourself in an exam, and the lecturer stands over you, reading your answers to his questions while you write, how would you feel?”
Friday paused, trying hard to get the drift. He looked up at the ceiling like the answers hung from the vents. He looked down, and then I thought the image finally dropped into his head. “No, I wouldn’t like that,” He said, giving me the exact body language I was looking for. “My brain will freeze, and I wouldn’t be able to write anything.” He answered, still not sure why the question in the middle of sales.
“My point exactly.” I made a note of it with my finger. “That lady wouldn’t be able think by you breathing down her neck.”
At last Friday saw the point. “Stay within sight, she’ll call when she needs you.” I was out and on my way back to my work before he could say thank you.
“So how did you reply the query?” Nene asked me, as we strolled down to the bus terminal to join the evening queue. I stopped short at that moment.
Nene looked me in the eye, reading my exact thoughts. “Oh my goodness, you didn’t reply?”
“I—I ,” I stuttered, trying to explain the situation. “I forgot. Actually, I forgot to go back to my mail. I tried accessing my portal in the morning, but my password just wasn’t granting me access. Then I called IT to complain, but Chuks said he would see to it and get back to me. I totally forgot to check back.” My shoulders sagged like a huge bag of potatoes was suddenly dropped on it.
“Hmm, this isn’t going to be funny by tomorrow,” Nene sensed.
I began to imagine what could happen as a result of this. I tried to push the thoughts aside, but for the first time I was really worried of the consequences. I thought about Kobo Olanta, and what he might interpret this as.
“Do you think you should call Chuks?”
“I didn’t even leave home with my phone this morning.” Since lunch time that day, I hadn’t thought about my time travel experience.
“Eli, you know you didn’t get to explain to me what happened with you this morning.” She looked up at me. Even with her almost six inches wedge, she still had to incline her head almost at 90 degrees to look me in the eye.
“I know.” I wasn’t sure I could explain this to anyone. “It’s not serious. I stayed up almost through the night. I woke up at my usual time of 5, but fell prey to one senseless idea of extending my sleep for 5 minutes. My sister, I no know when 7 nak.”
Nene laughed hard. I was glad she found it hilarious. It meant that story was believable.
We were fortunate to get into one of the new BRT buses that Ambode just brought in. At least, we could collect small AC for body while in the 3MB traffic.
I got off the bus at my bus stop while Nene continued her journey towards her Iyana’paja destination.
I didn’t bother to pick a bike to take me to my house. I needed time to think. A thousand and one thoughts drifted me in many ways, like a rag tossed in the wind. It left me confused. My mind was a battle field between my future and my present. And it was simply because, as I realized, I believed in both. While one was within the concept of a more tangible present, the other was a substantiation of an inexplicable future. But yet, neither one felt more real than the other.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to sleep tonight or stay awake throughout. But I knew that by 5am, I had to be by my clock, the secret words lurking on my lips, ready to make another journey into the future.
The magic words came to my lips then. I couldn’t wait to get home, I realized my steps were faster now. Just the thought of the sight of my alarm clock made me begin to jog.
I entered into the compound, greeting everyone in the front yard with a single “good evening” and dashed up the stairs towards my room. The light of the corridor was from a single dull yellow bulb, but I could walk through blindfolded. I stood in front of my door, keys in my hand to open the padlock.
Sweat dripped down my face as a result of my excitement mixed the stuffy air of the corridor. I reached for the padlock just as the key was about to go in…
I didn’t know what to think as the padlock wasn’t there. I mean, it wasn’t holding the door. Which meant the door wasn’t locked.
I pushed open the door as I contemplated whether I locked it in the morning or not.
Just then, I heard that familiar long lost voice. Once again, I didn’t need light to see the figure of the familiar image in my room. It had been six months I last saw or heard from her, but here was Chioma sitting casually in my bed, legs crossed like brand new twine.
“Hello El,” she said in her once sonorous, now irritable voice. As much as I used to like the sobriquet and warned her that it was a name only for God, I felt I meant it now. Don’t call me El!
“What are you doing here?” I asked, gritting my teeth, seething through my nostril.
“I was in the neighbourhood, I tried your number all day, and you didn’t pick.”
“Because I was at work.”
“It’s a mobile phone, not a Graham Bell.”
I wanted to smile. Chioma was sweet for her sarcasm, but I wasn’t interested. Speaking of Bell, where was my bell? I made for my table. Not until then did I remember that I had left my room in shambles. Now it was swept clean, everything in place like nothing ever happened here.
“What happened here?” I asked, still not giving her the reception.
“Back to your life- is what happened here.” Chioma was so full of herself, reminding me of the past.
“No. Here has good all the while, and would be great from now on.” I just wanted her out as soon as possible so I could seat by myself and prepare—”
“Wait, where are my books?” I asked her, as I noticed the unusual space on my table.
“Oh, I had to—”
“You had to what?” I didn’t let her finish. Now there was something more pressing. “Where is my alarm clock?” my voice surprised even me as soon as it came out of my mouth.
“I had to clear the room of things you didn’t need.”
My eardrums were resonating past the safe frequency. “Where is my alarm clock?” I whispered the words, making her read my lips and sense the greater anger in my voice.
“You mean that god-forsaken gadget that can’t tell the correct time? I got some Abokis to come take a few things away.
My head was heavy. I wanted to shout profanities at her, but too many words choked me up, my heart hit bad on my sternum. “Get those Abokis back here,” my voice came in another heavy husky whisper. “Get. Back. My. Cloorck.”