Nkechi makes her way through the street that leads to the tower. She checks her wristwatch and curses under her breath,it is difficult to get ahead of traffic jam in Lagos.
The door opens and Nkechi rushes into the restaurant like a person pursued by demons; she almost pushes a man down in the process.
“So sorry, sir,” she mummers.
The man looks at her and shrugs. Water trickles down his head and he tries to wipe it off.
They both rushed into the restaurant at the same time, and didn’t see the other coming.
That morning, the heavy downpour descended without a sign. People ran blindly to the nearest shelter. She didn’t plan the day to be this bad, and much more, she has an appointment to keep. Immediately the security man lets her in, she makes her way to the restroom while the man goes straight to take a seat, very close to the window.
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She wants to see the extent of damage before she thinks of the next possible step to take. Her mind runs to a million directions at once. She has so much to explain to her boss and the impatient client who expects her in his office that morning.
Nkechi looks at her image in the mirror and her heart skips: her hair is soaked along with her white shirt and black pants. Her makeup has turned into a mud puddle on different parts of her face and neck, almost staining her white shirt. She cannot believe her eyes; she looks like a mad woman. Now she knows why the man gave her the ‘look’ when they both rushed into the restaurant.
Nkechi quickly brings out her handkerchief, wipes her face clean and dries her body a bit. She runs her fingers through her damp hair and use the rubber band she finds in her bag to bind it at the back. She arranges the rest of her cloth and makes her way back to the restaurant.
Nkechi takes her place on one of the chairs close to the window. From where she sits, she can see the office where she was supposed to be that morning. It is still raining and there are no cars or people on the street. The street is flooded and there is no way she can make it to the office for the appointment: it can only mean swimming across the flooded street to the other side. One challenge of rainy season in Lagos is subtle flooding.
Nkechi looks at her wristwatch and her eyes nearly fall out of their sockets. It is already eleven in the morning, and her appointment was supposed to be at ten. Her boss will really be disappointed in her. She might even lose her job. The client will think them unserious, since this is the second time they are trying to get him for a meeting and something happens. She rummages through her bag and digs up a wet file.
“Oh! Gush! What have I done?”
She puts her hands on her head as though it is about to fall from her neck. Nkechi opens the file before her and gently flips through the document for the meeting –all wet and messy.
“It seems you are in a lot of trouble?”
Nkechi jumps to her feet and turns around. She catches the same man she bumped into, staring at her with a smile hanging down his long jaw. He had removed his black jacket which now hangs on the back of his seat. Nkechi does not know what to make out of his question. It is difficult to know if he is lending a helping voice or just trying to make fun out of her discomfort.
“I saw you looking out at the tower, as though, you have business there?”
“Yes, I do. It is just that the rain came all of a sudden and I happen to bump into you by mistake. I am so sorry.”
“That? Nah! Don’t bother. If it were not me, it could have been any one.”
It is obvious that he is trying to make her feel less worried.
“Yes, I have an appointment. Unfortunately, my boss would not be too happy to hear that I missed it.”
Her face falls.
“An important client of the company?”
He asks in a hushed tone. She nodded with a smile. He really seems funny, and is achieving whatever he plans with her.
“Yes, very important.”
“What do you sell?”
Nkechi is surprise. She does not expect him to ask such a question, and the least she wants at the moment is to talk about agriculture. She looks at him, weighs her options and decides to go with his flow. The man notices that she is taking her time to answer the question, probably frightened by all the questions he has been asking.
“Well, at least, we need to keep a conversation till the rain goes away, don’t you think so?”
He gets up from his seat, picks his jacket and comes over to join her on her own side of the table. He looks towards the tower and at his wristwatch, too, and then to her.
“So, what do you sell?”
Nkechi coughs a bit, sits up –to catch her official spirit—and says:
“Well, I teach people the path to living a life of sustainability.”
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The man draws back a bit in order to get a good look at her. He smiles because he likes what he just heard. He is a business man and one thing he wants is sustenance in everything he does. More people rush into the restaurant and some get up to make their order. A waiter comes over to their table and they turn their attention to him.
“Sir, would you like to have anything?”
The man turns to Nkechi.
He orders ice tea for himself. The waiter leaves to get their order. He turns to her and asks:
“So, how do I achieve this?”
“Well, it’s simple….”
Her phone rings and cuts her short. She dips her hand into her bag and brings out her phone with a shaky hand.
“My boss! I think I am in a lot of trouble.”
She takes the call, and while she is at it, it stops to rain. The man slips his card into her palm, picks up his jacket and leaves. Her boss hangs up; Nkechi makes her way out of the restaurant; her job is on the line.
The receptionist makes her wait for few minutes.
“So sorry for keeping you waiting, but he would see you right away. This way, please.”
She got to the office some minutes close to twelve; it was a miracle to know that the man could finally grant her permission to meet with him. The door opens and Nkechi steps right into another definition of luxury: the furniture looks exquisite and the office overlooks the busy life of Victoria Island. Before she gets the time to take in the beauty of the office, a man steps forward and stretches out his hand for a shake, a smile draws down his long jaw:
“Good day, have you come to let me in on the path to living a life of sustainability?”
Nkechi’s legs nearly turn to jelly, and as she buckles, the man she bumped into at the restaurant steadies her weight under his gentle arm.
Written by Oluoma Udemezue.