“I should LOWER MY VOICE?!” The woman shouted. She was getting louder, in that very Nigerian way of escalating an argument very quickly. People turned.
Real fear clutched at my heart. My hands grew cold. How would I pay my rent? How would I get another job? I had lied to get this one, won it by out-talking my rivals, as one senior management person told me on my first week. Could I do it again? Were there even vacancies? I didn’t have enough saved up for my masters’. I couldn’t make a proper living as a writer, not without some side hustle. My life prospects flashed before my eyes. None of it was good.
Of course I didn’t want to work as a banker for the rest of my life. I hated the job! But it was better to quit than to be fired. And it was more pragmatic to quit when one had other things in place. Otherwise…
The floor manager marched towards my cubicle. Asshole reached over and placed a hand on the woman. She turned towards him.
“What seems to be the problem?” asked the floor manager. Her voice told me what I suspected. This was it for me.
“There was just a misunderstanding…”
“I wasn’t talking to you, Chielozona,” she turned to the woman. “Would you like to make a complaint?”
When the woman turned towards us again, she was smiling, all the harsh angles of a face contorted in anger had dissolved like a sugar cube placed in water.
“Sorry?” she said, looking dreamy.
The floor manager’s smile superior smile faltered. “I asked if you would like to make a formal complaint. You were shouting. You had a problem, abi?”
“Me? Shouting? No. It was just a misunderstanding,” she said. “No problem at all, ma.”
Customers turned back to what they were doing. The floor manager huffed and stomped away.
Asshole concluded his business and poked his head in my window – regardless of the woman standing there – and said “I’m leaving, I’ll see you later.” As if we were friends. I said nothing. I didn’t look at him. I was so shaken up. Something had just happened and I couldn’t place my finger on what exactly. Asshole didn’t move from the glass. I looked up.
“You’re welcome,” he said.
I went through the rest of the day in a daze, counting down the hours till I finished for the day. I suddenly missed Cali with a fierceness that made me ache.
I slipped my phone out of my pocket. Cali, I will like to come inside tonight.
It had barely sent when I got my reply. Yes mummy. I am here for you. Then, Do you want me to pick you?
No, I drove. I’ll come to you.
What do you want to eat?
Cabin and milk then.
I started to feel better.
The floor manager took her frustration out on me by giving me a lot more work to do. I didn’t complain. I knew I had got off lightly. She was just annoyed that she had not got rid of me this time. By the time I left work the car park was deserted. I had parked my car almost by the front wall, a tight squeeze as there had been no space but now it looked forlorn being there all on its own. It shone ghostly sliver in the moonlight.
Shouting a greeting across to the night watchmen, I darted across the car park, taking courage from their sleepy responses. I flung my things in the passenger’s seat and slammed the door. I slid the key in the ignition and twisted it.
Nothing. Not even so much as a wheeze.
I tried again. It didn’t work.
I pulled out my phone to call Cali but it was dead. I sighed. The day just kept getting better. I sat in the car while I weighed up the benefits of using one of the calling stands on the road to call Cali, then waiting for him to come all the way through traffic to get me, versus just jumping on an okada.
The okada won. I grabbed my things and set off, determined not to walk past the perimeter of the bank’s fence where it was well-lit. I waited. There were no free okadas. I was about to give up and make a call from the MTN umbrella down the road when a dark car pulled up beside me. Its driver wound down the window and a gust of cold air wafted out.
“Ah, it’s my friend with the attitude,” said the asshole. “Get in. I’ll give you a ride.”