By Babatomiwa Seriki
I woke up to a breakup text message from my girlfriend turned ex overnight, telling me how much my writing sucks and how little of a man I am in the real sense and in bed. A part of the several lines read:
“I only did you a favour by going out with you. I thought you had your life figured out but It’s clear to me now, you are still work in progress and I don’t have the luxury to wait”I took a moment to ponder and absorb self-pity as I sat at the edge of the bed frame with my eyes locked on my phone’s wallpaper – It was a picture we took on a road trip to her grandparents’ duplex miles away from the city, she wore a red leather jacket and had the blue scarf I got her around her neck – I could still feel her cheek on my face as she leaned in and pouted for the camera.I tried reaching her through countless numbers of calls and text messages but clearly she chose not to respond, so I didn’t let my emotions wear me off for long, “she can’t make me feel any horrible than I already do” I thought.I got out of bed. Had a little toilet moment and just on my way out of the bathroom, I spotted her toothbrush on the sink. I took a long hard look at the almost perfect strands of bristles well fitted on the stick, they are not in any way similar to mine which was more of stick than brush. I mean even the least object in her life seemed way perfect than my life as a whole. Seconds later, precisely where I stood, still in my state of persistent gaze, a glowing moment dawned on me. I took the toothbrush, had a last look at it, then I scrubbed the toilet with it, thereafter, I returned it to its usual place. I know what you are thinking; “I am cruel right?” Well what can I say; the greatest ideas are born in the toilet.My life in general was woven around mediocrity. I didn’t have much going on for me at that moment or ever, so I had enough time to myself doing nothing worthwhile. And about my writing, my ex-girlfriend was definitely right after all, I certainly can’t remember the last time I penned anything intriguing, but only if silly chats and pointless ideas written on sheets that end up in the trash can really count, then I guess I am a best-selling author. Sometimes I just can’t help but wonder how I landed a girl like that; she’s way out of my league so it’s safe to agree that I must have wished on a star.Finally out of the bathroom. I scoffed as I paced back and forth thinking of the best choice for breakfast. I wouldn’t know what to conjure out of the grains and condiments in the kitchen shelf so I didn’t bother going in there. I opened the fridge and was faced with choices; leftover noodles from last night, a box of cereal she bought some months back and something that appeared like pizza on a plate with toppings on it, no wait! That’s not toppings, looked like dead roaches. It took me 20 minutes to decide which to go for.The almost fresh state of the leftover noodles gave it an edge; it didn’t taste all that bad except for its cold woody feel in my mouth. After that bland meal, I chose to do a little writing with hopes that my breakup might spark grit in me. I had few words and several rent sheets before I dozed off on the couch.I jumped out of the couch with fright as the loud doorbell rung incessantly.”Who the hell… could that… possibly be?” I muttered repeatedly as I threw the cushions off the couch angrily. I had only slept for an hour and I was just at that period of a swell transition into the dream world before the unfair creature behind the door frightened the sleep out of me.I struggled my way up to the door, forced it open and I was awe-stricken as to whom I saw waiting at the door; Sophie, looking exceedingly breath-taking like a vamp, it seemed like I was seeing her for the first time as her alluring appearance astounded me. I had gone into an eluding trance that hit me like a thunder bolt then she snapped her fingers at my face and yelled,“You are not dressed yet?!””We have a date?!” I replied beguiled,”No, it’s a funeral! You have an interview you moron!” she responded furiouslyIt was at that point it dawned on me I had a job interview by 12pm. It had skipped my mind entirely, well maybe because the whole job of a thing was her idea anyway. To a reasonable extent I think I perceive myself a writer, although I have nothing published in my name yet and I have as few words as an advertisement leaflet but it’s something, all great writers start with a grip of a ballpoint but she rather qualified me as an apathetic old boy.I think you all deserve to know how I came about the job interview.After several months of rants, exchange of words and her persistent frustration channelled towards me to get a job, I succumbed to her demand and seek out vacancies. I filled multiple applications and ran towards several openings in newspaper ad sections but my efforts were wash clean down the drain. At a point, I thought probably I was aiming too high searching for high end jobs so I looked to a different direction and got a job as an attendant in Charles’ place: a trailer home turned diner which used to belong to Hooper; a knuckle head in the neighbourhood who was whisked away to a maximum prison after several complaints of multiple assaults on women, coupled with countless numbers of broad day thefts. Charles got the place for a token and transformed it into a diner.Dear old Charles – he was an excessively overweight round bellied elderly man with a fierce look matched with moustache that ran beyond his upper lip almost crawling up his nostrils. Rumour had it that he got his limp from a ferocious dog bite when he peeped through a young lady’s bathroom whilst she had her bath. Little did he know that the hot totty had a watchdog which longed for a stray into its owner’s compound.It was a bright Sunday morning. The diner had a record breaking turnout; the highest we had ever received. It was the first time any worker would see Charles grin since he always kept an angry look, he wore the smile like a silk dress, knowing quite alright he was going to make more income than he had ever imagined. But the glimmer in the air was short lived when a huge sturdy adult male equipped with a short gun broke forth through the diner door and rallied everybody around a corner. The overwhelming amount of ink tattooed on the fellow’s body could only be seen on one person in the neighbourhood; Hooper. He was released a day before and had come to claim his property; the trailer house. I escaped with few scratches when he led everybody forcefully out of the diner but my “girlfriend” chose not to believe my end of the epic story, not until she heard gossips flying around the whole neighbourhood but then she still blamed everything on me like I orchestrated the whole event.Sophie’s excessive nag almost led me to the brink of lunacy. This made me long for peace of mind, so in my fervent search for utopia, I found a safe haven; a paddock that welcomes all frustrations right around the corner from my apartment building. Hooch Harbor they call it, I guess the name speaks for itself. One cold Monday morning, I tried to manage through an enduring session of censure and insults from my “significant other” as she stood right before me in her “discourteous Sophie” attire – a ripped jean short and my old t-shirt she said made me look queer- but all that ran through my mind as she rained words on me was the cold beer I would gulp right after this wearying moment with Margaret Thatcher. Almost an hour had passed and she finally gave up her wild talks. I excused myself out of the apartment for a stroll, which was a means to try out the new bar I had discovered. As I got ready to step out, the look of dismay she wore almost ripped the little hope I had left out of me, I felt like an hopeless sack of meat wandering the earth aimlessly without no saviour to free me from the imprisonment I called a relationship, but I still loved her against all odds.A huge sigh of relief eased out of me as the bartender slid a cold bottle of beer I had ordered earlier towards me. I escaped from my worries and morose as I swallowed rapidly the liquid beverage. I was on my third bottle when a fine young man walked in through the pub’s door. I would have sworn it was an old school mate but then again, John wouldn’t have grown up to look this elegant. John back then in high school was naturally built to be bullied, he was a skinny lad with a rough appearance that would disgust anyone at a slight – his nails were lined with dirt he picked up from digging through the old comic collections from the abandoned school library and that equally didn’t stop him from chewing on the dirty nails habitually. He kept a shaved haircut which revealed several dry patches of ringworm scattered around his pear shaped head- he had no other friend but my humble self and seldom spoke to anyone since his several comic books gave him the comfort he desired. John wore thick framed glasses that continuously fell off the bridge of his nose like it was passed on to him from an older sibling. This earned him the name “john huge frames”.So it struck me as odd placing the resemblance of the vibrant middle aged guy with that of John. He dashed through the door and the bright mid-day sun reflected his shadow as that of an overpaid male stripper with a well-built dishy body any lady would swirl for. He swept his hand through his long dark matted hair as he walked towards my spot. The closer he approached, the more revealing his identity became.”It’s really John. Wow!” I exclaimed in a rather low tone.”I think I know you from somewhere,” he asked as he sat on the stool beside me”I wouldn’t know. Who are you?!” I replied unawares so as not to seem like an eager beaver”Alex! It’s me john; john huge frames!” he hastened abruptly out of his seat with his arms wide open, almost tripping off my precious bottle of cold beer.”I will be damned, John?!” I rushed into his vacant arms as I was both surprised and elated to see him after a very long while.The whole room was filled with laughter as we reminisced over several bottles of drink. I had one too many that night which gave me a loose mouth, I revealed every detail of my boring life to john and at some point I found tears running down my jaw line. I wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol or the frustrations I had built up inside of me over the years that had me curl up into his arms. It was the first time I let my emotions run me dry. John was all the way attentive as he sat there listening to every aggravation I had to spill. It was getting late and I had missed several calls from Sophie so I had to get back home as quickly as I could because every sign pointed to me being stripped bare by my girl’s excessive nag but on the brighter half, “I haven’t felt this good in a long while,” I said to myself.
We walked out of the bar to John’s car and stood there for a while as we rounded up our joy ride down memory lane. He reached for the car’s glove compartment and brought out a complementary card with a phone number on it which he asked I call for a job. I didn’t remember to ask what the job entailed neither did I ask what he really did for a living but I guess he would have revealed to me if he had wanted to, so I shared one last friendship hug with “John huge frames” and bid him farewell then I tottered all the way to my apartment.
Sophie had already left by the time I eventually got home after a stone throw distance to my apartment building turned several miles of pit stops and continuous staggers. That was the last time I ever had that much to drink. I met a paper on the sofa that read, “Don’t bother calling,” I wasn’t surprised as to her actions since her temper and impatience matched that of a daylight robber. I got to the bedroom, laid intoxicated as I snored through the drunken night.The next morning was when I woke up to her breakup text. So, she wouldn’t have known about the job vacancy because she wasn’t patient enough the previous night to share the good news. I was startled when she made mention of the 12pm job interview but I didn’t want to ruin the moment since an overnight ex-girlfriend came back knocking the next morning. It must be a good sign from the gods.I hurried to the bathroom, had a quick shower and tried on a suit passed on to me by my dad. It was the same suit I wore for a friend’s wedding some months back.”How do I look?” I turned to her”Like a rock star baby!” she responded with a warm smile.I think you should know that was the best compliment I had ever received from her. She branded my stubble cheeks with a number of light kisses and that was it; my good luck charm. The brief moment with her just seemed like a mirage on a heated paved way that could be easily spotted from a distance. Simply put, it was more of an illusion.I stepped out of the cab like a movie star, brought out my almost empty wallet and tipped the driver an extra change, I was in a light mood but I still had anxiety running down my vertebrae. I stood agape as I stared at the enormous structure that housed the company designated for the job- I counted 15 floors and more but the scorching sun hindered my vision going further above, the exotic marble exterior brought out the elegance of the building as the vibrant sun fell on it – A section of the building had a huge post that read “Discreet Consultancy,” same name engraved boldly on the complementary card john gifted me.I couldn’t reach out to my confidence buried in deep beneath my fear of denial and uncertainty, so I slowly turned around and awaited another cab to take me back home but during my long wait, I reconsidered my several options and found out I was only left with one, get a job or immerse in rue of not trying and I definitely wasn’t equipped to handle a new episode of Sophie’s wrath.It was already 11:45am so I hurried to the entrance so as to meet up with my mid-day appointment. I tried as much as possible to comport myself but my fret revealed like an untucked shirt as I walked to the reception. The lady behind the reception desk excused her gaze from the desktop computer she was working on and gave quite a sarcastic smile as she watched me struggle through each step of my unconvincing composure. I finally made it to her desk after the few paces seemed like forever, I leaned towards her with one hand in my pocket and the other placed on the cold marble furniture, my leg crossed over the other so as to replicate a posture of poise.”You don’t have to try so hard. We were all like this the first time,” smile rolled up her cheeks as she reached out for a handshake”That really goes a long way cause I feel trapped in my own body,” I sighed as I reciprocatedI handed her the complementary card already stained by my sweaty palms. She never seized smiling and that gave me a sort of comfort.“Make your way to the 10th floor, then check the last room down the aisle. I believe you will get the job Mr…” she paused and awaited a response”Alex, Alex Wilkinson””Good luck on the job Alex. I’m Sandra”“Nice to meet you Sandra, thanks”I stepped into the elevator and both parties matched gazes while the elevator door closed slowly. She made a swift wave but my response was cut short as the door finally shut. I hoped to make it up to her if I got the job but then a sudden change in mood came to life…“The number I called for the interview only requested to look sharp for the appointment. No resume, No prior information. I mean, what’s this job about?!” I soliloquized as the elevator ascended through several floors.