You check the wall clock. It is time for the meeting with the manager. You had informed him earlier in the day that you’d be coming with Lara, your fellow co-worker, so she can assist you in translating/interpreting. You go and find Lara and in two minutes, you are knocking on his door.
“Yes, come in” the gentle voice from within calls. You understand that, and push the door handle so that the door slides inwards to allow you both into his presence. You greet him, both of you bending a little at the knee as a sign of respect to him.
“You’re welcome. Have your seats please” he motions towards the two leather seats opposite him.
“You are punctual” he says. Lara smiles. You don’t, as you wait for Lara to tell you what he means. She doesn’t say. She’s clearly infatuated with him. His name is Wale, the first son of Mr Kasali, the owner of Twinkles- the Sideway Supermarket you work in. He has just come back from the United States you hear, and while his dad is on a short leave, he will be looking over things. He is a very attractive man, very very attractive. You particularly like his peaceful demeanour, the calmness about him, and the ease of his speech. But he talks too fast, you can barely catch a word he says– and you are not even literate. So when he says words like punctual, you are just amiss.
Wale continues, “I have called you here because of what happened yesterday evening with the lady in the red gown.”
Lara explains, “Hin say hin wan follow us talk about the geh wey wear red come yestada.”
That girl! The lying thief! You think to yourself in fury as you allow yourself remember the incident of the previous day. She had waltzed into the shop, looking all picky and touchy. “Everything wey she wear na big big. I know. Okàn mí so fún mí pé ki n maa so; say make I dey wash am” you explain. She looked expensive. Brazilian hair, short red dress, long red purse, black lipstick, and the works. Your eyes followed her. Every move, every twitch, every scratch. And then, she had shoved some condoms into her private part.
“Rubber?! For my mind, I say Rubber lasan lasan? Ashawo oshi! I vex go meet ahn.” Quickly, you had accosted her with a confrontation. She made a scene, and hosted a pity party. People looked at you silly. Everyone insisted that a “well dressed lady” like her would never do such a thing, besides it was only you that saw her. You insisted. And even went as far as telling her to strip, to clear herself. People thought you crazy. Neither Mr Kasali, nor Wale had been around– and so it was, that the cheap thief was appealed to, while everyone cast you the bad eye. You felt awful. But you knew you were right. The next day when you resumed work, and heard that Mr Wale had asked to see you by 12:00, you were not surprised. In fact, you had prepared for it. The reprimand. The sack letter. But you didn’t mind.
Lara begins trying to explain what you have been saying the past thirty minutes, but Wale holds up his hand.
“Thank you, I understood every word” he says.
Lara stiffens. You blush. He is looking at you some kind of way. Your guts are always right. Well, almost always– except that one day Larry, the fine Customer you once had a crush on, had asked you out to lunch to ask you about your co-worker Funmi. That day, that one day, you could have sworn he had asked for Lunch because he liked you, but you were flat out wrong for the first time. It hurt you bad.
“What most of you don’t know is that we have a CCTV in Twinkles” Wale continues.
Lara stiffens again. You can’t mirror her reaction, because you don’t even know what he’s about. Ceeceetev? You tap Lara, who quickly explains that it is some sort of Camera in some sort of hidden place that captions everything everyone does, every time. You freeze inside too. Not because you’ve been a bad girl, but because you just never knew. What had who seen? Who had seen what? You wondered.
“Miss Olabimpe Tokunbo, the CCTV reveals everything just as you have narrated it. And the management is so proud of you– for your bravery, and effort at putting things right; not just last night, but every other day. We would like to reward you for this, by promoting you to the rank of ASS- Assistant Supermarket Supervisor.”
Lara explains, her voice wavering. Churning off at the edges. She looks up, down, in her palms, at her feet, anywhere else but at you.
You blink; once, twice. Did she just say he said you have been promoted to the rank of ASS? You smile. Really smile. Your dimples deepen in the centre of your cheeks. Your heart warms, as you remember Mama’s frequent words of admonition:
A kì í ṣe ọ̀tẹ̀ eranko gán-ń-gán; bí a bá he ìgbín àdá là ńnà á.
Literal Meaning: One does not conduct one’s feud with an animal in a half-hearted manner; if one finds a snail one hits it with a matchet.
Intrinsic Meaning: Give your all to every enterprise you embark upon.
You smile again. Oh Mama… you almost cry. In fact, you cry. You miss her, but now is not the time. So you brace up, and smile into Wale’s face. “Oga, thank you o. Thank you. Infat, mí o mo tí mo se ma dúpé. I nur know. Bhet God go thank you for me sha.” You look towards Lara, hoping she would help you translate, but she is far off; far gone from the confines of the round office you are both seated in.
“You’ve earned it” he says, smiling. You don’t know what that means, but he is smiling at you, deeply. He likes you, he frigging likes you, your guts insist. You suppress the thought in anger! That was what it said the last time. You would believe your guts in situations as that of yesterday, but when it comes to love, you are better off without it, you decide. Besides, if Larry wouldn’t like you… Larry, that Undergraduate boy; how would a whole Wale- entrepreneur, first son of a big man, who speaks English like good tap water- like you, a common beautiful girl who can’t speak a line of Pidgin English without infusing some Yoruba in it. No… different dreams for different people. That dream is not for you.
But you appreciate him nonetheless. So you look into his eyes one last time to thank him, and tell Lara it’s time to go. She says goodbye, affectionately, seeming to linger a bit; whining her booty with immense effort as she steps out ahead of you. You smile, and shake your head. Lara! Well, she can dream. At least, she speaks half as good as him. As you step out and shut the door behind you, you can swear his eyes were, still are, on you. You shudder. Then you remember the CCTV. But of course, his eyes must be on you and everyone else. Your guts insist, Wale’s got his eyes on you. Its tenacity surprises you. You almost believe it. But then you don’t. It can’t be.
Proverb Source: Yoruba Proverbs- The Good Person.
© The Short Black Girl, 2016.