The beginning of a work week could be both exciting and daunting for me depending on my weekend.There are some weeks I look forward to going to work supercharged and motivated and other times there is no stimulation that I often wondered if I would make it to the end of the week. However, I lived through it, survived and even triumphed. And today was one of those days.I was not eager to resume work as I dreaded seeing my boss. Questions of what the working relationship would be like after our Friday dinner date went awry. To complicate issues, it was my week to work on the reports so I would be working closely with him this week without the luxury of staying out of his way.
The worry which induced insomnia leaving me looking drained that my colleagues were quick to ask if I was ill over the weekend. That would have been the perfect excuse to be out of the office and not have to confront the unease I felt. But being one to go over issues headlong I guess I had to face my fears and move on.
We got into the frenzy of meetings, reports and deadlines. I was relieved to note that my boss was his usual self with no indication of being offended. There was no reference to the date other than hope you had a good weekend. I took the easy way out by taking a cue from him. No hard feelings.
Work and my palpitating mind returned to normalcy. I spend most of my day in the office, and I could not afford a tensed working environment, so I was rather overly grateful for Andrew’s magnanimity on the issue.
“Try not to take life so seriously and stop second guessing people,” I chided myself. To think that I had a miserable weekend because I was worrying things might degenerate at work. My admiration for him scaled up. He is a real manager.
“A kobo for you thoughts?” I heard Peju ask.
I rarely get to see her anymore. She is off every day after work and weekends. All my fears and reservations fell on deaf ears. she was completely smitten by the guy. Although I was not keen or excited about the relationship, I buried whatever I felt could go wrong and relished in her happiness that was infectious.
“It is a penny for your thoughts,” I corrected her laughing.
“Yeah,” she said drily.
“But remember we don’t use penny here, its kobo.”
“You are incorrigible,” I say grinning like someone had just won the world lottery.
I was rather taken aback when she informed me that she would be going to Dubai with Phil for the weekend, and would like me to come along.
“You sure are moving faster than the speed of light” I commented.
“Loosen up Lana. I am not like you. I do not weigh, think and analyse everything I do or say before taking any step or make my decisions. I love adventure, and I take risks. Life does not have a well laid out plan. There is no excitement in that,” She said with one on a mission to make me see things her way.
“Are you game or not?” she went ahead to ask me all in one breath.
“I do not know. I am not sure there would be room for me,” I replied noncommittally.
“You’re kidding! That is the only condition I gave. If you are in we are off and if you are not, I call Phil to cancel,” she said with a hint of you would not dare in her eyes.
I was in a tight spot.
My mind flashed to my boss offer to Paris, and my thoughts taunted me on how was this different. I tried to rationalise it in my head wanting to convince myself than the need to convince anyone, how different this one was. I was to accompany a friend who badly wanted to go but not without me. I could not afford to be the clog in the wheel. Also, she had something going for her with Phil. I should not be a spoil sport here and oblige her.
“Oh say yes,” she pleaded so dolefully, I could hardly believe she was the one who had threatened me earlier.
“Okay, I agreed, giving in to her request.
“I fail to understand why I have to be the condition of your going,” I replied none too happy.
“My chaperone, silly,” she said like I should have been smart to figure that out.
Peju hugged me excitedly. She released me rather too quickly, looking at me in a funny way as she turned to leave with a hurried “see you later.”
I turned to leave in the opposite direction and bumped into no other than my boss.
“I am so sorry,” I apologised harried at how much of our conversation he would have heard.
“You are going to Dubai?” he asked.
At that instant, I wanted to be anywhere but where I was standing before him ashamed at my double stand.
“Yes,” I stammered and angry at myself for being placed at a disadvantage.
“Peju and me,” I explained and wondered why I felt the need to give reasons for my choices. It is not like the circumstance was the same with the Paris offer but why was I feeling guilty and what was the difference, after all, I was hoping on a plane with a client even though he was my friend’s boyfriend.
“It is a beautiful place. You would have fun. Make sure you check the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world and when you do try the observation deck on the 124th floor. Near the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Fountain also the tallest performing fountain in the world. There is also the Dubai aquarium which houses about 140 species of sea life in huge suspended tank, and lastly, the Ski Dubai with the indoor ski slope is a must with the continuous temperature of four-degree Celsius.
You’ll have so much fun there you won’t want to come back this way,” he teased.`
There was no hint of any hard feelings considering I had thrown his offer to his face.
I felt free of my worry and a pulling of my heartstrings. I appreciated the display of selflessness and in one split-second I thought of asking if the offer to Paris was still open, but all I could say was, “I would note all these places.”
“You come back and tell me your experience. You’ll wish you’d never have to come back here.”
“Nah,” I was too quick to say.
“I’m a Naija girl, born, bred and buttered in Lagos,” I said proudly.
If anyone was proud to a fault of her Nigerian heritage, that was me.
I believed we were the most favoured people on planet Earth. We will laugh through hardship and believe that it would be well. No matter how bleak the situation looked, suicide was never considered an option.
There were several lines of separation in the country such as religion, ethnicity, education, politics and capitalism but held by a thread of unity although so thin yet strong enough to withstand the adversities. “e go better” was only a saying but it characterised who we were.
“You’re more loyal than most of us,” he said smiling and walked away.
“Phew, that’s been sorted out,” I sighed pleased with the outcome of our conversation.
He was such an incredible guy. Others would have been offended and make work difficult, but he was cool about the incidence and respected by thoughts.
I felt free as a bird in the sky with the massive weight of worry lifted off my shoulders.
“Dubai here I come!” I squealed with an unusual excitement for someone who was reluctant to go at the beginning.
* * * * * * * * *
As I drove away from Lana on Friday, I felt sorry that she could think I was trying to take advantage of the situation and insult her because of my position. I chuckled as I recalled how she flared up with her eyes wide and spitting fire with a cold yet calm voice as she fought for control.
It was amusing how she sought to control her emotions in all situations around her even when she was angry she exhibited a level of control. I had caught a glimpse of a moment she let loose, but that was a rare and fleeting moment.
I was impressed by her loyalty to her friend. The way she yielded to her friends’ pressure to the Dubai trip even when it was against her principle endeared me to her. To see someone who could put away her comfort for the comfort was refreshing in a world dominated by selfishness. This quality in a person made a strong team player. I was glad to have her on my team. I have also noticed how well she related with her colleagues, although from an arms-length perspective afraid to let people get close.
Had she been hurt before? She had the traits and signs shouting all over her “I am nice, I like you but please don’t get close. I was not going to close, but I was going to help her break the wall she had created around her and hope she let go of whatever fears or hurts plagued her I wanted to help her.
My friends said I took tasks and challenges and thrived with them. I am a people person, and I am at best when I see and take their capabilities to bring out their best. I have realised that some individuals do not know how good they are and the treasures deposited in them naturally. I study them, note and help then discover their capabilities by giving those tasks that build their confidence and strengths. I had never given it a thought as to why I did it but I love the reward of seeing people function at their best. To see beyond the dirt and flaws in people and helping them achieve their full capacity. Lana was my next project. I had rarely failed in the past. She was a colleague with a tremendous potential.
My phone rang, and I picked the call as I moved away towards the direction of my office into the usual frenzy of report and deadlines that got your adrenaline up. While others might dread it, I thrived on the action and challenges of the job. However, the call was from of my friends we hung out with once a month. He was calling to remind me of the meeting for this month.
At the end of the week, I’ll be meeting with the boys at a joint on the Island. It was something we did once every month to catch up on each others lives. We teased those married in our midst while we the single ones relished our freedom and peace. The married guys claimed we were missing on good food, safe and trusted sex and someone to come home to who you love and loves you back. Being married means you are on a team with someone who’s always got your back and a mutual respect for each other
However, while the single men disagreed that sex and food are freely available, there was no argument on mutual love and respect. Nevertheless, they were content with their lifestyle coming back to a quiet home was more appealing than coming home to someone.
I was in the single team and had no issues with joining the married group. I was not a traitor to my present state but agreed with the school of thought of the married guys and looked forward to meeting that special person. Each day brought me the awareness that my singleness was becoming dull, but I refused to get desperate to settle for just anyone. It had to be that special someone.
I believed in the sanctity of marriage and aimed to spend the rest of my life with that person so however long the wait may be it would be worth.
The myth, “Love happens when you least expected” was a reminder for me that when the right time comes, the right person will come along.
Our meeting in the previous month we had stayed later than planned and not too long Deji’s wife was calling on the phone.
“It is past your bedtime, and you have to go home,” he was teased mercilessly.
Deji did not take kindly to the joke, but he was one of those who had an arsenal full of nasty jokes, and I did not feel sorry for him being at the receiving end of one.
I looked forward to the meetings as they have a way of helping one rewind and refocus. It was something about men bonding and building themselves up, and I valued our time together. The coming week will be more fun than the rest I hoped.
One another occasion Peter had grumbled about the state of his marriage to the delight of the single men and the chagrin of the married camp.
“If you thought marriage is heaven, be warned it comes with its hiccups, wait till the first baby came. It is as if your wife suddenly forgets all about your existence with her whole attention on this new person who has arrived the scene”.
“Do I sense a jealous man here?” Musa asked hitting him on the back playfully.
“You are competing with your baby?” I asked taken aback.
“I am not”, he growled.
“It’s hard to explain. One day you are the center of her world and the next, she’s got this helpless rival whose your blood staring her in the eyes. You watch her cooing at the baby in some secret language you cannot understand and the child giggling with delight as a response.
Sometimes I think the eyes of the child goes weary when he see me like “like hey dude what you are doing here. I cannot share with you tonight.”
We were all reeling with laughter by now. You could hear loud guffaws across enough to block any ones hearing. It was a good thing we were seating outside. Peter was a first class clown.
“Am I the only one feeling that way?” He asked looking round. I thought I saw a slight anguish on his face but in a flash, it was gone, and it could have been a figment of my imagination.
“You are the only one with a baby,” we all chorused and laughed hard.
I hope what you are saying is not true,” Musa sighed. His wife was expecting their first baby in three months.
“Don’t let him scare you,” said Deji, who was still waiting for children in his three-year-old marriage.
“You will get there, and I will be here to remind you that I warned you,” he said with the air of it is given.
“For months I wrestled and could not voice out how I felt. It was crazy. How can I be competing with my child for my wife’s affection and attention?” he asked.
We were clueless as none of us had walked that route before so we could not offer any advice. Peter would have had to figure it out himself.
The discussion moved from family to work, and that was when the group sprang on me
“When are you leaving banking to join your father’s business?” Musa asked.
“I told my father ten years, and I have four more years to go. Although I have started going through the records and learning the ropes gradually, I love what I do now.
“Have you thought of starting a bank or something similar to the financial institutions? Peter asked glancing at the others for input.
“The way you have handled our investment portfolio on the side of your banking has been incredible. You have made us all rich men. You could get like-minded men with resources and start something,” he added.
It was no secret alongside the banking he had delved into investment, and most of the guys in the group had willingly allowed him to make their financial decisions. Fortunately, it had gone well. He had considered taking up a role in investment banking but opted to remain in his current position as its diversity afforded him a mixture of commercial, retail and investment banking providing a platform to build a robust investment portfolio from scratch.
I slipped my club soda mineral water on ice thoughtfully. I had often thought of floating an investment company adding it to the subsidiaries of my father’s business, so I still get to run the family business and do what I love. But he had not been able to get his thoughts together. Peter suggesting it was like a confirmation of what he wanted to do.
“If anyone could do it, that would be you, Andrew,” Musa said slapping me on the back in his usual way.
I winced I had not seen it coming, and the lack of expectation must have heightened the pain.
“Please let us know where we can come in,” Deji offered.
And so over a couple of drinks in a bar, my friends came the idea of owning an investment company. It was time to draw up strategies and put my thoughts together if this was something I want to do.
Naija – A popular slang used to refer to the country Nigeria