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On Reserve


Letters from Nigeria

              by Ehi



Sunday 2006-01-22

Dear Wendy

There is a Nigerian "Nollywood" movie with the title OLA, THE MORNING SUN. I have seen the movie. It is far from spectacular, but many might consider a strong point the fact that it has Stephanie Okereke, a remarkably brilliant girl as lead actress and Pete Edochie, a veteran actor of the first rank, as lead actor. Well, recently, there was a new female staff in my office. Her name is Ola. She is not as pretty as Okereke (Ola in the firm). But she had a remarkable smile. Her smile was radiant - like the morning sun. And she was more generous with it than most people. Why I talk of her in the past tense? She was sacked after a month on the job. The grapevine had it the male lawyer whose responsibility it was to mind her - she was straight from the law school - had wanted her to sleep with him. She refused, so he put in a bad report about her. Subsequent events seemed to suggest he had not intended his report to earn her a sack. From what I know of this guy I can guess he just wanted to get back at her - he is not very bright and does everything on impulse. He later went back to the boss to try to reverse the damage of his report - after the sack.

There are other girls in this office. Rachael, the front desk girl, is a very interesting one. There are few facts I can tell you about her. She is fat. She is not really pretty, but she is one of the neatest and one of the most attractive girls I have ever met. She is materialistic - like every girl. She has a rather healthy attitude towards money. Save for some bible passages, she has never read a prose in her life. If you see her reading, your investigations will reveal either a schoolgirl-type magazine or something to do with her school work, which is computer or maths related - she does part time studies with a polytechnic. She is easy to impress and to intrigue. She thinks that I, Ehi, know everything and anything there is to know in the world. The other fact I can tell you is that I am infatuated to her - that is what it must be - which infatuation I am hoping will pass soon. I think what I find most attractive about Rachael is her childlike simplicity where it seems everyone else is so scheming, venal and complicated.

The other remarkable girl around is Tosan, a lawyer. She is short, dark and about my age. I can say a few things about her too. She is not pretty. She lies whenever she thinks it is convenient. She is irrational and incapable of deductive or inductive reasoning. She does not believe anything you tell her, especially where money is involved - because she hardly speaks the truth herself. She is selfish, self-centred and self-seeking. To her, money is the most important thing in the world and efforts geared towards the accumulation of it is the ultimate occupation and pre-occupation of mortals. It must be the first, if not only, consideration at all times. How I came to know so much about her thinking processes? We are on friendly terms. And that is the other fact about her: she was/is infatuated to me - I am not sure which.

In the early days she was clearly infatuated. As time went on, she seemed to cool off. But she still seemed to think much of me. It appears she thought "oh, well, if not me, then my sister" because she has ensured I meet her sister who is in the last stages of her medical studies. (I'm not sure what the attraction is since it appears I have very little to offer in any department.) That one is pretty and soft spoken, with a hint of mischievousness in her eyes. Tosan wants her sister and me to make husband and wives. Now if her sister is anything like her I would be unable to live with her under the same roof for a week without losing it. A more temperamental person would be unable to live with her for 48 hours without twisting her neck or taking rat poison himself. Not that I am thinking much about such relationships just now. But I am quite willing to look at her sister with an open mind. There was nothing particularly remarkable about her when I met her, except that she is not so short like Tosan, and is quite pretty. The only attraction she has for me is that she is a medical student. And that is only thing I know about her - yet.

And there is Lola who looks after money. This fast-talking lady who cannot spell potato has got the distinction of being by far the most accomplished liar I have ever met. When she lies, she looks you straight in the eye and does not blink. In the early days I used to be taken in by her easily. If I am not easily fooled by her nowadays, it is not because her skills are fraying at the edges, but because I understand her better and know the things she is likely to lie about. She is said to be quite rich in her own right. She does a lot bad things which never get back to her. Mike and Tosan believe she uses juju. To her, everyone is a liar. One day early last year I had problems in the toilet and my anal region was split. I could not sit down but I thought like other attacks of pile, this one would go within a short time. But on my way to work I had to prop up myself with my hands on my seat inside the bus. On my office seat it was the same thing. I went to inform the boss that I had to go home as I was unwell. When Lola saw me the following day she burst out laughing, asking, between guffaws, which hospital I went to. The slow thinker that I am, I had not the most slender suspicion about her motives and told her I did not go to any hospital. The following day Mike - who heard and knew everything - told me he overheard her telling someone I went away, not because I was unwell, but to attend an interview. That Mr Olaide had arranged for me to come over to where he worked. Olaide was our former member of staff. A week earlier, he had indiscreetly called me on the office phone and asked me if I would like to change jobs. I had not given a firm commitment either way. Obviously Lola had listened in on the phone extension, and so seeing me leave the office, her clever little mind surmised I went for the interview.

Of course, there are remarkable men here. A certain one we had here was Mike. Mike is a tall well-built guy who completely distrusts anybody who speaks Yoruba and most people who don't. A few days after I started work here he had warned me about the dangers of talking flippantly, telling me he was delighted I did not socialise much so he did not think I needed the advice much. He then added that he felt obliged to warn me because I am not Yoruba. I am talking of him in the past tense because he no longer works here. He is so conservative on social and family issues he will make Jesse "No" Helms look like a social reformer. He once told me of a visit he paid to his relatives. He told me of how, before his horrified eyes, the woman of the house dished the chicken head from the soup and served it to a visitor. The chicken head, he told me, ought to go to the first daughter of the house. He then explained who the lap ought to go to, as the rump, the legs, and all the parts are designated for different family members - where he comes from. Poor Mike. Must have been a traumatic experience for him to see such a horrible thing being done by a grown up relative! To him, a woman being seen in trousers or anything that reveals any contours and exposes some flesh is a capital offence. Mike can go out of his way to be nice to you sometimes. Mike also likes to bully people. Used to do it to me in the early days. Probably stopped because he realised my only response was to ignore him. His favourite statements are: "I told you so." "I said it."

The week was quite busy. Since I returned from my trip I have been trying without success to draft two things - one a story based on an incident which took place during my trip, the other a pamphlet meant to assist the sales of my book. (By the way, I just put a copy in an envelope addressed to you. Someone will post it for me.) And there was a proposal to draft for the chap to help market my book which would require a lot of computations.

So at the beginning of the week I was looking forward to writing something. But when I got to the office on Monday the first thing I saw in my inbox was a story to edit. A sensible thing to do was to say was I was too busy and could it be sent to someone else? But on looking I saw that there had been some problems getting that done and I was not the first person it was sent to. I tried to imagine the author, probably a young fellow checking his mails three or four times a day to see if "anything" has been done. And it can be annoying when you wait and wait and wait and not even a word. So I would not let a fellow aspiring writer down, not for my own worldly pursuits.

I had up to two weeks to send back the work but I decided to send it back within one, two or three days. One reason for this was that I felt it was better to knock it off and delete it from among the many things clogging up my thought process. Another reason was that I knew it would be appreciated if I sent it in much sooner as there had been a lot of delays. I finished work on it the Tuesday evening but could not mail it till Wednesday morning because the system acted up.

The office was as troublous as usual. By the end of the week I had not done a single thing and looked forward to the weekend. It happened that the PC of the man who is to help sell my book was with the engineer. As we had a lot of correspondences to print, it was decided we transfer his printer to my place as I have no printer. But the printer would not print. And then there was power failure often. (NEPA has not relented in its drive to destroy the economy of this country.) Once they restored power Saturday evening, my neighbour's wife knocked on my door. She wanted her computer lessons. I could have told her I was too busy but we do the lesson once a week and I had told her I was too busy that several time before we finally got started a few weeks ago. And when am I not busy? So I gave her the lesson for a little over an hour. By the time the weekend is over, I have not done anything. This week again, is another week.

The mail has not come. It is beginning to look suspicious. I think the Bean should be informed so they complain formally to the postal service.

The fatigue has not lifted yet, but the ulcer is letting me be. So is the pile. How are the cats - Daisy with her melodious miaow? And Charlie who interferes with the printer and does not like being held up to the webcam? And the others - Shayne and Sabrina?

Your friend

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