12th November, 2015.
The Heart (or wherever this meets you),
A Beautiful Soul,
Somewhere in Obalende,
NOTICE OF SUBSISTING VOID
Please refer to our Whatsapp conversation of 9th November 2015 and previous correspondences on the above subject matter.
It’s another Thursday morning. I know I should be glad; the day even atheists thank God for is few hours away…..but this is not about counting down to the end of a working week, nor is it about getting a two-day reprieve from hell. No, this is more like total disillusion: Mind has joined heart in turning feet away from the office, my laptop is revolting, even the case files feel like they don’t want me to touch them. The boss orders me to retrieve a document from the computer on the table to my right, and as I lay my hand on the keyboard, I suddenly don’t feel like powering up the system, because I know what, or rather, who it reminds me of.
I remember the first day I found that we were going to be colleagues. It was my first day at the office, and I was all kinds of nervous, unsure, tight-lipped, all that you would expect from an inter-city immigrant. I spent that day trying to adjust to the pace of work in the big city, and when you said “hey, nice to meet you, I’m Lola”, I must confess that I felt a strange calm as your voice hit my ears, but I was too busy trying to be confessional to admit.
Forgettable rides on city buses, lessened hours of sleep and self-induced mental pressure had caused me to form a defensive wall in my head, you know, the conclusion that I was not welcome in this city, and that rubbed off on my perception of whatever you said to me. Whenever you talked about the city’s sights and sounds, I would sense something like an “I know you don’t have this in your place” tone in your voice (in my head, of course), and on the day you asked if I knew about Jumia online store, I only stopped short of saying “no, we used slates and town criers where I came from”, thinking you had asked in derision. I often found myself rolling my eyes whenever you were on the phone as well, thinking to myself “who is she pulling off that MTN customer care accent for?”…..but as I would find, judging a movie by the first couple of scenes isn’t always the brightest idea.
Days rolled into weeks, and I was able to pull down that mental wall. I found that you meant well, that you asked questions because you wanted to know, that it was just me being presumptuous and unduly self-conscious. Whenever I was having a long day, all I had to do to feel at peace again was to stare at your corner of the office, a cheekful smile waiting for my eyes. People have a way of saying “it is well” in response to someone’s wails, but whenever those words found their way out of your mouth, they just had that reassuring effect I couldn’t (and still can’t) explain. No it wasn’t Love or even infatuation, it was simply transcendent workplace chemistry.
I loved the fact that you had a flair for fashion, and I loved when we argued about which between artistic paintings and handbags could lavish spending be excused. There was also that Ofada rice you treated me to one fateful lunch break; I had never eaten that in my years of existence, and the meal was quite the adventure, even if I would hang out in the restroom shortly afterwards. The informal Yoruba lessons were fun too, and while I have never been enthusiastic about learning the language, hearing you speak it was in many ways a turn-on……
This was why my eyes went pale that evening you confided in me that you had got a new job, and would leave the firm in a matter of days. One minute you find yourself getting so drawn to someone, the next you are forced to terms with the fact that you’d be seeing less and less of them. I felt like going into my head and charging my feelings with treason; they had chosen to turn on me. I had always been the type to distinguish professionalism from familiarity, the type to differentiate handing over an office file from a friendly handshake, the type to keep it civil at the workplace. I was also used to being the one who always did the leaving, the one who moved on, the one who would be missed, the corporate nomad. Now I had let colleague turn to friend, and I would equally find out what it meant to be at the other end of the office door. I have been through a number of breakups, but the reality of you emptying that desk hurt more than those combined (this is not to say I don’t have a heart, I’m just saying). Again, it was not love, it was just a case of workplace chemistry that I had let grow roots in my head. Erm, you don’t need to be romantically attached to someone to feel their effect, do you?
Lola, I am not kidding when I say that for days after your exit I turned in poor efforts at work, and at some point I considered quitting altogether. The bulk of the work fell on me, and whenever I looked at your table, all I had was the void staring me back in the face. I felt, and still feel, like a crime-busting detective in a dangerous neighbourhood without his partner…..sorry, too many action movies in my childhood. I no longer buy Ofada rice from that restaurant, the grains would remind me of you, as if the sight of your name as signatory to various documents is not enough memory-stirring torture already.
Tere, a new colleague, resumed two weeks ago. She is alright; smart, witty, cute large eyes, sense of humour and all….but she is not quite you. I wish recruiters could give new employees the option of bringing someone along, I would have gladly joined you…..but more importantly, I wish you job satisfaction where you are. There are days I want to talk with you on the phone all through the journey home from work, but just as some girls say about their phone numbers, I may have to earn the right to do that. I hope today gets better at this desk, but that does not change the fact that from nine to five, there’s a deep yearning for a ‘cheekful’ smile from the table to my right.
(P.S: I still owe you that movie treat, I know, I keep my debts in mind.)