Thursday, June 23, 2011
It would appear that there's a recurrent theme in my work which is sadness and all.. as I've been told by my friends. I really write alot of sad stuff, even i didn't realise it was that bad. I try not to publish the reallly sad stuff here, I don't want you guys thinking I have issues... well i do but heck who doesn't
Anyway... I tried to infuse the CHEESE factor in this one. I tried not to barf as I wrote this and it was hard. Lol
Hope you like it
I remember very vividly the first time I met her. It was the last working day in April and the banking hall was full. Pensioners were milling around, grumbling because the young boys who had come to collect money via Western Union were seemingly unruly and refusing to remain orderly. Salary earners in stuffy jackets, unable to withstand the heat from the ineffective air conditioning, young ladies with flowing hair punching away at their blackberries, all trying to get in and get out. The tellers seemed unable to keep up with the ardours task of keeping up with the throngs of people that kept coming into the bank. As the revolving doors opened, letting in another set of tired looking, sweaty people I sighed and went back to reading the copy of The Economist that I had brought in. It was looking like a long afternoon but I wasn’t going to go back to the office till I had gotten the mix up with my travel insurance and forex deposits sorted out. I remember the only reason I had walked towards the door was because I felt the tell tale pinch in my thigh from the accident, and I guessed I’d been sitting down for way too long. It was the worst time of the month to have gone to the bank but I was tired of sending incompetent people to get it done and I had to be in Helsinki the following week. I’d just walked past the doors when I felt the hot draft of air from outside, and then she walked in. She was talking on the phone so I had a little time to stare without being noticed. She was tall approximately 5ft 8” and dark skinned. She was wearing a black shirt tucked inside grey tailored pants that carefully moulded her derriere. She looked hot, literally and figuratively and almost telepathy was at work, she reached into her purse for a handkerchief to dab her forehead. I moved closer, I don’t know why but I did and I heard “Ok Carrot Cake, I have to get off the phone now before these security guys come to tell me I’m inside a bank. Yeah, Love you. Talk Later”
I took one last appreciative glance at the beautiful girl that just walked in and walked back to the waiting area. Hers was not a face a man forgets easily, plus she had the confidence and gait that was etched in my memory. Something about her struck a chord within me but I ignored it. I went back to reading my magazine and silently cursed the lucky sod who laid claims to her heart. 'What kinda wimp let's his woman call him Carrot Cake anyway?' I looked at her again "Damn, I'd be her carrot any day..." I thought wistfully. Women were stressful and like any normal red blooded male I enjoyed the hunt of a good chase and usually if the sex was good, it was a rewarding pat on the back for the effort made. I tried to see if she had a ring on her left hand but she had joined the queue of people trying to get money, and I really didn't envy her.
"Segun Balogun" I heard my name and let out a sigh of relief, the security guard at the bank pointed in the direction of the branch manager's office. "About damn time"
My sister had never been known to do things in moderation and as such my nephew’s first birthday was not going to be an exception. She had ordered 3 huge cakes and there was enough food to feed an army. There were clowns and people in stuffed Disney characters that seemed to entertain the older children but scare the socks off the younger ones. The adults were milling around the garden, everyone needed an excuse to party and everyone knew that my sister Teniola did not do anything by half measures. I walked over to the barbecue stand and involuntarily inhaled; the scent of char and chicken skin made me hungry. Completely oblivious of my surroundings I grabbed the barbecue fork and dug into the biggest piece of chicken I saw on the grill.
“Someone is really hungry oh. We thank God” I heard my brother in law call in my direction and I knew that my twin would soon trail after him. I loved them both but their love and concern for me was almost stifling. I had snuck into the party because I didn’t want to be gawked at ‘the twin who isn't married’ 'isn't she the one who lost all that money to the pyramid scheme that went bust?' 'I hear she even tried to convince her parents to sell their house"
It had been a bumpy past couple of years and I was just finding myself again, but sometimes I really just wanted to be alone; maybe to soak myself in self pity but my sister and her husband were not having any of it.
"Carrot cake, you came!!!" Teni's sing song voice rang through the garden and I was slightly embarrassed because people turned around to stare. That was our "private" name. Like all identical twins, we shared a deeper bond beyond our looks and in all I'd been through she was the only person I'd come to lean on totally. I hugged her and held on, she whispered in my ear "trés chic... Showing off our long legs are we? Loads of good looking eligible men here. You plan to take some hearts home with you today?" I laughed and looked at her closely "none of that match making rubbish today abeg abeg abeg. I just want to eat plenty chicken and drink plenty red wine! Can you swing that?" I hissed in mock irritation and kissed her again.
I took my plate and went in search of some alcohol. A group of people huddled around the drinks section of the party and I could see someone was talking about 'bonds', 'coupons', 'rates'. These events in Lagos were more about networking than any other thing, I stood there for a while thinking of how to make my way through them toward the plastic cups.
I noticed the guy talking, his voice oozed authority and confidence, the kind of person who would feed you a whole load of crap and you'd take it because you were drawn in by the timbre of his voice. He was tall, but only slightly taller than I am. His features were strong and he looked really good. I realized I was actually staring and I looked away. Grabbing a seat near me, I sat, pinching away at my food till I could grab a drink. The noise from the bouncy castles distracted me a bit so I didn't realize he was standing by my side till he spoke. "Hey there!" He held out a plastic cup with orange juice. It was Mr. Hot Stuff Investment Banker. I wasn't sure if it'd be rude to decline but I wanted the strong stuff. He must have noticed my hesitation because he laughed and said "oh... My bad! You want some of the good stuff" I don't know why, but in that instant, maybe it was the sound of his laugh, or his intuition but I felt a pull towards him. "No it's fine. I'd have this. And yes you are right, I've been feening for the good stuff but this would do. Plus it feels funny sipping merlot from this plastic mess"
"You know your face looks really familiar, like I've met you before" he seemed uncomfortable as he spoke and I groaned and laughed at his discomfiture. "Sure my face looks familiar, that's my body double standing over there with her husband and her son" I laughed again. This was new. I was laughing a lot. He didn't seem like the sort to chat up a girl with the "your face looks familiar" line so I assumed he'd either worked with Teni before or something.
"No, not that. You don't even look that identical"
"Wow, that's a first! Not a lot of people can tell us apart"
"Well I can. I'm a stickler for details and you're slightly taller than your sister and you're errr..." He trailed off uncomfortably "I laughed again because I knew what he meant. I had rounder hips than Teni and even though I'd lost a lot of weight in the last year, I was still cursed with full hips.
"Yeah... I get what you mean" we both laughed and then he continued
"When I heard your sister call you Carrot Cake I remembered where we'd met... Well not really MET, but I saw you...". He rubbed his thigh involuntarily, I looked at him
"Do u want to sit down? Your leg is hurting?" I got up and made to go grab him a seat and he held me back... I turned around to face him and he moved closer. We stood toe to toe, he stared down at me and I felt my pulse quicken. I wanted to run away. I didn't need this, not now.
"You can feel it can't you? I know you can. I'm holding your wrist so I know. I felt it a year ago when you walked into that bank and I can feel it now. We can't run away from it. It's real and it's happening"
I looked at him, yanked my hand from his grasp and ran.
He thought seminars and trainings were just a waste of time. He had always thought so; in the early days he spent hours preparing to lecture a bunch of uppity professionals who thought they had better things to do than learn about funds and the money market. He also had better things to do but twice a year he did this for himself to remind himself that the world needed to be educated about these things. These days he gave the lectures by rote, he had given hundreds of these speeches and he didn’t even need to look at his slides before he taught. He liked to look around the room and find at least one person who was remotely interested in what he was teaching, because these seminars were usually attended by mid level lawyers and bankers and they always had their head bent over their computers and he knew that these people really didn’t get the need to understand how the money market worked. Why their companies insisted on sending them here would never cease to amaze him; but he wasn’t complaining really. He needed the diversion. He needed to work and keep working because when he wasn’t working his mind roam free. Idle time meant thinking about a time that was so difficult for him. In the course of 18 months, he was played by a woman he thought he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He went on a downward spiral after that. In retrospect now that must have been a retarded time in his life because what intelligent man takes to drunken motorcycle races? Did he have a death wish? And then he had the accident which didn’t kill him but after months in a coma with a severe head injury and a broken left leg; with months of therapy and a bank account bleeding red he started making his way back. He realised being damaged and choosing to remain damaged had a longer lasting effect than one could ever imagine. And so he pulled himself together and started building his life again, choosing to work as much as he could to block out any pain, physical, emotional or financial.
Consciously pulling himself back to the board room and doing an overall sweep of the people he was about to spend the next 30 minutes or so teaching he sighed, he had a long day ahead of him. He had only gone half way through the slides when the door opened and Tayo walked in. She was wearing a blue t-shirt that had "I make 'em go WILD" written on it. He'd seen her exactly three times in his whole life and each time he felt something akin to peace. It was weird because he didn't even know her, he had asked about her though at the party last year after she fled. Tayo Olurin, she'd worked with Standard Charterd for five years. Single, very single. She'd has a couple of bad breaks and from what he gathered she had been on the mend. No wonder she ran when he started spewing all that jargon about "knowing" and "feeling". He wasn't lying though, he felt it and he knew it. Now more than ever he wanted the time to fly so he could go talk to her. He wondered if she'd still remember him. He needed to sit down soon because his thigh throbbed. He was supposed to use a cane but he told his physiotherapist that he was fine, but sometimes the pain rang through his brain if he stood up for too long.
She was late for the training, she didn't want to go anyway. It was a waste of her saturday as far as she was concerned but like every slave to the corporate machine, when work called you jumped. The trainer was running through some slides of bar charts and diagrams when she walked in, slightly embarrassed because her late entry had caused some kind of distraction she quickly pulled out the nearest chair and plunked herself into it. She'd just pulled out her laptop when she realized that she knew that voice; the chances of her ever forgetting it was very slim. It was the guy from the party last year. She felt an involuntary tremble in her stomach. She looked at him and she caught his gaze squarely on her. He remembered her and in that instant she knew that he knew that she also remembered him. She felt like a trapped mouse. She couldn't run as she did from the party, but she could sit out this session of the training and bail as soon as she could.
It was like the fates were against her because the next thirty minutes dragged on forever. She sat mesmerized by the wealth of knowledge he displayed and the ease with which he taught. She was clicking away furiously on her keyboard taking down notes and action points when she heard him behind her "Hi Tayo" He has a mischievous grin on his face which increased her discomfiture in seeing him "err, hi Mr Balogun"
"Oh right, I keep forgeting to stay within the lines of formality" he grinned again. His smile disarmed her and her words were caught in her throat. He sat down beside her whispered so only she could hear what he was saying
"Please let me take you to dinner. I promise I won't scare you away like the last time, but you have to admit there's something here. There's something that happens to me everytime I see you and I haven't felt that way before, but I know it's something good. It's calming and it's you. Please Tayo. This isn't a mistake"
She stared at him, his words left her dry mouthed because she felt exactly the same way. The fates and the oriental idea of yin and yang creating the perfect balance came to her head, he flooded her mind and it wasn't turmoil she felt, it was peace and calm.
She smiled and reached into her purse and pulled out her card.
"8, Taiwo Koya Avenue, Ilupeju. Pick me at 7"
It was him. It was her. They were the perfect match. There was balance