“No matter how much you hide your pain, Your eyes will never falter to tell the stories your lips could never unravel”.

Image by whitfieldlink — Pixabay

It rained all through the night yesterday. Olamide was coming back home from work after a long 14-hour shift in the scalding sun, hands clenched to his briefcases and recently-purchased storebought goods. The air was crisp. Laughter, banter exchanges and the peppering smells of suya wafted in the air, creating a chaotic yet electric atmosphere that mirrored most of evening-time in Lagos. Hawkers closing down their stalls on each and every corner of the street; little kids in nothing but underwear and tattered clothes, chasing each other down the street with sticks or toys in one hand, the incessant blaring of danfo bus drivers shouting the names of arrival bus stops with passengers squashed like sardines on a bumpy ride home.

The weather had mercy on his soft-brown skin today. Waking up at 6 am, he sat down in the dark living room teasing his cup of Rwandan coffee with the tip of his tongue while watching the sun waking up from its own slumber. Morning tea was usually hot, as Grace (the new maid) never got the temperature just right like Blessing did. He pardoned her error, amongst others, and forced himself to drink the flowery, fruity herbal mixture with a robust and sweet aftertaste as it cascaded down his throat.

Yesterday’s storms have ended, and tomorrow is a new awakening. Or so he tells himself.

The table in front of him is covered in heaps of balance sheets, financial statements, and pressing work emails. He shifts some of the documents away to make space for his phone, watching the papers dance on the way to the floor while some fall on the seat next to him. He picks up the phone and it’s Chineye (his assistant). With a cheeky grin and a quick eye-roll, he answers and puts her on loudspeaker; the world around him is silent and holds no other listeners.

After a few mumbles about business meetings and his immediate need in the office, he grunts, cuts the phone, and quickly scrambles through the mesh of paper to find the relevant documents for today’s tasks. On average, a bear could migrate to Canada from Antarctica faster than he could find 3 out of 10 documents he was looking for in a table that held the weight of more than 120. He wasn’t always this messy though, well, not until Okojie (his ex-wife) left.

He picked up two suitcases loaded with work files and dashed out the door. Warming up the engine, he inputted the coordinates to his work to find out the least traffic-packed route to get to work and drove out of the compound into the road. Lagos roads and tiger parks barely hold much difference in comparison, with the latter being more tamed in nature. The streets were a horrible meshwork of different cars, tires, and shades aged over time, bumping and crashing against one another to make the shortcuts into skinnier roads that circle back to the main road, but ahead. This was the daily bread that made him eventually sick, but now it is just another day in Lagos. A day like any other: no manners, just madness.

Chineye welcomed him from the reception with another cup of instant coffee, a small pastry, and some ibuprofen to get through the day. The company was on the verge of unraveling a new product, which meant an overall change in the management but also teams, staff, equipment, and well location. Olamide dreaded this day; similar to the one where divorce papers were found, tucked under his pillow after making love to Okojie for what he didn’t know would be the last time. Maybe he did, though, but the outbursts of rage and anger perceived by the neighbors that night makes it harder to tell.

The whole office, similar to his table at home, was in a frenzied state. Calls were being made back and forth, with gents loosening their ties and dabbing their exasperations off with pocket handkerchiefs, already dripping with sweat. The ladies looked more relaxed, they had to be. Hands glued to keyboards; the rapid clack-clack ringing throughout the office of emails sent back and forth to department managers, stakeholders, worldwide staffs, and trusted customers of the changes about to be made. It was safe to say this new change was unraveling the company in ways that made transition week the most anxiety-induced time at work Olamide had ever seen. Nevertheless, there was work to be done and meetings to pretend to pay attention in.

After the 5th unproductive meeting of the day with the main topic on the next directors’ gathering — Ikoyi Club or the Oriental Lagos — Olamide packed up his bags and made a head run for the door before being pulled into another ‘brotherly’ banter with men thrice his age that couldn't seem to get off the company’s board. The dilemma with Olamide is that he constantly disapproves of people who take and take from others, yet acts shocked when the one person that he constantly took from packed bags and took flight. And this wasn't the first time it has happened — or rather, this wasn’t her first attempt.

Briskly walking out into the sleepy day with clammy, sweaty hands, Chineye guided him to his car at the back of the building parked near the two bronze-brown gates with large eagle statues facing left and right like spiritual watchdogs. He grabbed the documents she was holding in her hand and slid into the car with an air of urgency, a sudden desperateness to leave. Chineye was not fazed one bit by this, however, knowing all the sly cambrioleur tricks he had to get out of any confrontation. Olamide was as predictable as a debutants’ chess game. She held down his lock button and window roller, stalling him from shutting himself out of this world to drive into another.

Locking eyes while maintaining a firm grasp on his left arm, she whispers hoarsely — tired from carrying everyone’s weight on her shoulders — “Olami, this is not living. You come to this office like you have invisible chains laced between your arms up to your neck and inside your brain. There is no life within you, not even when you speak. You agree with everything everyone says, especially this move which the boss is using to move you somewhere new as you’re the only divorcee now. Stop letting other people decide life for you and stand up for yourself, goddamnit! Aren’t you tired of looking in the mirror and seeing this? Don’t you think you deserve better than this? If you don't, at least I know you do! Why don’t you want your life to change? If this is because of Okojie, I just think that — ” the car starts and Olamide pushes the break down, taking him out of the conversation and the building in the flash of a second.

Chineye stumbled as her arm thrashed out the car, speeding off into the main street. Her blush was colored with a darker red as she tried to regain her balance on her Loubs, only to come face-to-face with the boss. Olamide’s rapid depart was just one of the many disasters waiting to be unraveled in the carnivorous city of Lagos.

j’écris. nigerian, and other associations.

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