I wanted to walk over and introduce myself, but I did not want to be referred to or remembered as “that guy from the cemetery”.
She was one of a small group walking with the bereaved. Her black t-shirt was different from mine and had the company logo at the bottom. Her braids were pulled back from her prominent forehead and done up in a bun.
Forehead gang. Kimon.
I threw a mental peace sign at the thought, careful not to laugh out loud – I remembered how much we ribbed children with such “opon” growing up. Look at us now, it has become so cool and stuff.
Her eyes slanted upwards at the corners.
I ran my eyes down, taking in her deep blue jeans that hugged her hips.
I considered letting them pass so I could get a back view, but I decided against it. I may never see her again, so why bother? And she may even be married, or something.
At the car I checked my phone for messages – I left it charging in the car.
I checked the whatsapp messages and saw they were mostly chatter from the guys in Camelot. We had moved the group off bbm to whatsapp.
Mehn, una dey chat sha, I thought as I read through. They were discussing the latest Avengers movie. I had a few thoughts I would share later.
There were two messages from a girl I had dated during NYSC. I had not spoken with her in three years.
– I’m good o, you? I replied.
There was one from a number I had saved as Cynthia_Abuja.
My heart bucked. Cynthia was the last person I expected to hear from. Our meeting had been brief.
I still felt a tinge of embarrassment, and some resentment, to think that I had gone against my grain and sent her a message first. A message which she had not bothered to reply.
– Hiiii! How are you? I’m sure you’ll be wondering where I’ve been. It’s work o. I’ve been swamped. How are you sha? I hope you’re keeping okay. Just thot to check on you. Bye.
– Oh, remember our talk about what you do? There’s an opening at my office that I think might suit you. Only thing is, it’s an Abuja opening. Let me know if you’re interested. Toodles.
I smiled; all was forgiven.
I could almost hear her in the message; she typed the way she talked: unrestrained.
When Cynthia walked into the shop that day, I had my back to the door.
‘Hi, do you work here?’ a voice said behind me in a rush, like the speaker wanted to get the question out-of-the-way.
I turned and the first thing I saw were the glasses. Round, thick lenses in a thin frame perched on a narrow nose. Above the glasses was a mass of curly dreadlocks dyed blue at the tips.
If the aim was to shock, she couldn’t have done a better job.
I blinked hard a couple of times and she leaned in, squinting. I took an involuntary step back.
‘Bobo,’ she said reading my name off the badge on my chest, ‘what sort of name is that?’
‘My parents had a sense of humour,’ I gave my standard reply with a nervous chuckle.
I don’t think she heard my response.
‘So, I have a problem,’ she rushed on. ‘Last month I loaded my phone with 4k and this morning I got an sms for bonus airtime below what I was expecting.’
‘I’m sorry about that madam,’ I said returning to my desk, ‘what’s your number so I. Can run a check for you?’
‘My name is Cynthia, not madam.’
‘Okay Cynthia, your number please…’
I ran a check and realised that, in addition to the four thousand naira, she had also loaded two thousand naira but she only got bonus airtime on the two thousand naira. The reason was that the four thousand naira was directly as data credit, not call credit which was later converted to data, so the system only recognised and rewarded the two thousand loaded as call credit.
I explained this to her and, although she said that was bullshit, she seemed to take it well.
‘Why wasn’t I advised of this by your colleague when I asked for airtime?’
‘I apologise ma… Cynthia.’
She waved my apology away.
‘Do you like your job?’
‘I asked if you like this job.’
A lot of thoughts chased themselves around in my mind. I considered the 5ft 5 or 6 or 7 – I’m rubbish with gauging heights – dreadlocked woman in the baggy t-shirt and owlish glasses, and I smiled.
‘I do actually. I love my job.’
Her favourite word.
‘First, I love meeting people, which this job allows me. I’m not much of a paper-pusher, and I really do like being able to help.’
‘When you put it like that,’ she tilted her head left, ‘I see it.’
‘Is there any other way I may be of assistance Cynthia?’ It was the standard how to close a transaction line, but for some reason it sounded different to me. More.
She looked me in the eyes and held the look for maybe a heartbeat, and then smiled a wide toothy smile. It did not reach her eyes.
‘You have my number, send me a message before today ends, and maybe I will be the one to be of assistance.’
I swallowed. Nothing, my throat was dry.
She pushed the glass door and was gone.
I sent her an sms to ask how her flight went and if she got to Abuja okay. She didn’t acknowledge the message, or send me one of her own. For three weeks.
I read her message again before replying.