Your boss was so ordinary; you hardly noticed he was in the office. His face looked like that of a babalawo as his expression was always a frown with a side dish of “I’m not interested in whatever you have to say but you’re welcome to waste your spit and time” and so you made up your mind to avoid him when you first got the job.
The thought of asking him for a raise at first caused an ache in your chest that reminded you of the one you had when you first came to Lagos and had started sleeping in on Sundays because you had to rest from a busy week. Then the ache started and grew until you started to feel unhinged. So you found a church nearby and became committed.
Now as you walked into your boss’s office, you felt the ache strongly and felt like running into Mama’s arms.
Mama; You breathe in because the thought always calm you down. Mama that cooked the best meals, and always knew the right things to say. Mama that would pray for you while you knelt down, rubbing oil on your face and speaking softly to you, telling you how important you were to her and to papa in heaven.
“Good morning Sir”
He rose up his head from the newspaper to look at you briefly and then his head went back down.
You march on because no wall of Jericho will stop you today. You continue talking, telling him about how you had contributed to the company’s growth and how you were ready for more responsibilities if that is what getting a raise would take, you didn’t tell him about landlord or Uncle Juru or the sleepless nights, you kept your tone even so he wouldn’t think you were demanding, but his head stayed glued to the paper and the only way you could tell he was listening was the occasional nod of his head.
Still looking at the paper, he said
“Are you done talking?
You took a deep breath and replied
He finally dropped the damn paper, stood up and went to lock the office door.
“When you ask for a raise next time, lock the door when you come in, so nobody hears. I don’t want everybody coming to my office and asking for a raise.
“I have worked in this company for 25 years, given my life to this company. You see that big factory at the back? It was my idea. You know that we source our materials locally instead of importing from china, saving this company lot of money, also my idea. I am the reason this company is still standing. I missed my children growing up, because I hardly saw them due to late nights and early mornings. Then one morning, I wake up and they are off to college and they despise me. Not that they would tell me to my face, but I see it in their eyes. They think I am a bad father, do you also think so?
You have no idea where this monologue is going so you sit still. If someone had walked into that office, you might as well been seen as a stature.
Mr Kolewerk undaunted by your stillness gets up and starts pacing.
“I clothed them, fed them and made sure they had a roof over their heads and what do I get? They take their mother abroad for vacations and leave me here. The last time I said something, one of them told me that I needed to concentrate on work, can you imagine?? They take their mother on shopping sprees and once a year, they send me a perfunctory birthday gift. They have taken their mother to Greece, the second vacation this year and I’m stuck in this dingy office and I have to listen to you asking for a raise. Well my dear, you can’t get a raise, this company’s budget is already stretched as it is.
“Mr Kolewerk, you don’t understand, I…
He raises his hand and you stop talking
“Do you have a boyfriend?
Your cheeks turn red.
“I am not sure that question is appropriate sir.
He laughs. He actually laughs and the sound grates on my nerves.
“You young ones say the weirdest things. You barge into my office and ask for a raise but I can’t ask you a personal question. Anyway, I don’t need you to answer. Here is my preposition, become my mistress. My wife is gone most times and a warm body next to mine at night won’t hurt. You would get a car and an allowance triple what you currently earn. You might call me an agbaya but you need money and it must be urgent because you haven’t been sleeping well, I can see the tiredness in your eyes that make up can’t hide.
You don’t remember how you left the office or started to wander around but you somehow found yourself on your street.
You walk straight home and mutter thanks when you don’t see your things outside.
You finally admit to yourself that you don’t know what else to do as you collapse on your sofa that also doubles as your bed.
You have come to the end of yourself. All this hustling, where has it gotten you to? A meager savings and a thug landlord.
Why did you come here? You were happy in Asale and you were thriving. Then the ‘make it’ bug bit you. But you had already made it in Asale.
You wanted to prove a point. Now you can’t even remember the point, because you don’t even have roof over your head.
Mama had asked if the lord was leading you when you first told her about moving to Lagos, but the lord had been the last person on your mind.
Now you think about the lord and papa in heaven, you remember Ireti’s poem
My papa in heaven
Your love na big bomb
Whey explode for my heart
I enter wahala
But you follow me enter
And I no dey hear word
But you dey repair my ear
I fit try run
But you go catch me
Your love dey original
And e dey sweet me.
You smile and start humming Mama favorite hymn.
You feel lighter after a while. You decide to ask your papa in heaven for help.
“Good evening sir. Ekaale. It’s me o. I know it’s been a while that we talked, don’t mind me, I have been doing my own. And my own isn’t working. So I have come to receive mercy. Have mercy on me and help me. Mama always told me how you loved me. I want to experience that love. Help me out of this wahala that I have entered. Amen.”
You feel so much peace in your heart that you fall asleep almost immediately.
To be continued…