Photo Credits – Google
“How was your trip Nee? Everything sorted now?”
Only baba aladiye (my uncle in Akure) calls me by my full name Inioluwaleyi. Everybody else calls me Ini which is the short form, but even that has always been too hard for my Norwegian boss to wrap his tongue around. When he first joined we spent many a frustrating hour together correcting his pronunciation to no avail. He just couldn’t do it, so to him I was ‘Nee’. I had no problems with that, just like he was fine with me (and everyone else) calling his name ‘Einar’ with Nigerian intonation.
We were seeing for the first time since I returned from Lagos two days ago because he too had had to leave Abuja for a meeting in Warri a day after my departure and only got back into town last night.
“Yes Einar. Everything’s fine now.”
I felt slightly guilty at lying to him about family issues needing my urgent attention in Lagos. Family was something he never joked with.
“Good. I should move to Lagos office soon. Abuja very good but no sea. A Viking without sea is not a Viking.”
He chuckled quietly at his own joke, brought out a new pack of Malboro from his hip pocket and carefully removed the seal before flipping it open.
“I need a smoke ja, but I’ll be back in five minutes. I’m going to need your input on the EIA report I brought back from Warri and we can use the small boardroom for our discussion. You want to grab a coffee or something in the meantime?”
I shook my head.
“Okay” he said. “I’ll be back.”
I smiled at his ‘terminator’ impression and then watched as he ambled across to the French doors on the far side of the hall and stepped out onto the balcony where the smoke wouldn’t be a nuisance to anyone. In spite of its high number of expatriate staff, the firm had a ‘no smoking’ policy which was strictly adhered to by everyone. The balcony was the internationally accepted smoking joint.
Einar’s reference to Lagos triggered a rush of fresh memories.
It had been fun sitting down and talking with Naomi again after such a long time. I’d not even realized how much I missed her and from her behavior it was clear she’d missed me too.
We didn’t watch a movie or see any sights; all we did was sit and talk and talk and talk, about anything and everything under the sun except what actually brought me running to Lagos, her husband. Every time I tried to bring up the matter she would deliberately sidestep and move the conversation in a totally different direction.
I eventually had to reluctantly cut the flow of gist at 8.30 so she could go home to him.
The pain in her eyes was obvious as she hugged me goodbye.
“Thank you Ini darling for coming over to cheer me up, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much in a long time.”
“My pleasure it was Nam” I replied. “It hurts that we can’t do this more often though, and that I can’t keep you beside me permanently, making you laugh every day.”
“Shhhhh” she whispered back at me. “You do enough already my knight. I honestly don’t know where I’ll be right now if it wasn’t for you. I’m sorry I didn’t allow you ask all those questions I know must be burning in your mind. I’ll sort stuff out myself. Please try and understand will you?”
I could only nod in response.
“When do I get to see you again?” she asked.
“Who knows?” I said, shrugging.
“Hmmm. I know we’ll keep talking anyways. I can count on you to be there right?”
At that point in time the entire world shrank into a small capsule and we were the only two people left in it.
“Always and forever” I whispered, my voice thick with emotion.
Like the sun emerging from behind a cloud, her smile lit up the room. Then a lone tear broke free of her right eye and slowly ran down her perfectly made up face unimpeded.
“Always and forever…” I repeated again for emphasis.
“What you say Nee? Are you sure everything okay?”
Einar’s voice startled me back to realization. Engrossed in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed that my boss had finished his cigarette and was back in front of my table, concern etched in the deep lines on his weather beaten face.
I must have spoken aloud.
“Nothing Einar” I replied with a forced smile meant to mask my embarrassment.
He had a skeptical look on his face as he observed me for a few seconds.
“Nee. You’re a good man. You vil tell me if you have any trouble ja? Anything, anytime?”
“Sure boss” I replied. “I definitely will.”
He patted me on the back and strode off, immediately back in work mode.
“Now” he said over his shoulder, “To the boardroom. Kvikk!”