I jerked back to life from the edge of my bed. My breath shallow, my eyes narrow… my bed… which of my beds was this? The king-sized snow-white quilted bed, or the tattered mattress with hollows at the spots where my head, buttocks and feet took their perpetual positions for years?
The room was dark, but as my consciousness increased so did my eyes adjust to its environment, and my olfactory senses heightened. It was the familiar foul smell of the pig sty outside my window that was most remarkable of my surrounding. I was back to 2015! I was back to my original life. A tide of sadness washed against me at that instant. Oh my goodness! Was I about to cry?
I climbed off my bed but immediately tripped on something that made me lose my footing. I landed with a dull thud of my shoulder on the cracked floor. As I struggled back to my feet, I made my way to the window, pulling the painted panes down. There were no curtains, but grey painted panes. It was way past dawn as the daylight flooded the room. I… I paused. My mind was on a reel, spinning faster than I could control. I shook my head vigorously till it finally settled.
With my back rested on the window base, I took a sweeping view of my room. It looked like a 6.0 earthquake had happened here. The remains of my chair looked like it must have partaken in a street fight. My table sprawled on all four like a new born calf. The books it once carried all lay in a heap beside it.
Where was the alarm clock? The memory of the encounter I had with it made me squirm a little. I gave another sweeping look around the room, refusing to take any further step from where I stood. The door to my cupboard laid flat on the floor, away from its hinges. From where I stood, my kitchen area looked like a rodent heist.
The only thing that remained in its original place was my shirt. My light-blue office shirt had my name monogrammed above the left chest pocket. It hung perfectly undisturbed on the nail in the wall.
For the first time I hated my name and my job at the same time. Before now, it was either one, or the other. I was a sales man, but now I realize that I have been a slave. A slave to the good life I always wanted. I was now running the rat-race to my dream destination.
As much as I suddenly hated my work, it was ironical that the only thing that remained undisturbed in the room was the shirt on the wall. More like the ‘handwriting’ on the wall.
Without allowing myself to think too deeply, I realized I must continue with life as it was here. Although I knew I was already late for work, I had to run up the street and a few thoughts to explain the cause of my lateness to the powers that be.
The effect of my surreal adventure into the future suddenly hit me then. My vision went blurred and images multiplied right in from of me. I was first drowsy, then the images of Suss and Danny flipped like photographic clips in my head.
I struggled to keep my balance till the effect slowly passed, and I was able to see clearly. Immediately, I scanned the room again for the alarm clock, oddly hoping that it was still intact.
Underneath the heave of books was where I found it. I scooped it up unto my left palm, and turned it around twice, and maybe more than two times. It still worked. The time read 7:12. I had been away for only a few hours but had lived almost an entire day in the future. I stopped myself from processing things. I realized how thin a line it was between sanity and malady. Something in my head told me I may have crossed that line more than a few times already.
In my first year as a Physics student, I had thought of career options I could possibly venture into after school, and never for once did being a sales man rear its head. In fact, it was hardly ever heard that people studied to be sales persons. I mean not formally.
Towards the end of the four-years-turned-five of my undergraduate programme, my friend, Shyllon who owned a book club in school had left most of his sales materials with me in my dorm. For some reasons, he never came back to pick up his books. So after graduation, I was left with no other option than to transport the two Ghana-must-go bags along with my little possessions back to Lagos. That was five years ago. I had neither heard from him since then, nor met someone who had. He wasn’t on any social media platform, at least not with the name I knew.
The day my father’s will was read, and the interpretation from the title deed revealed that the 12 by 12 ceiling room I lived in was now legally mine, was the day a few of my belongings scattered all around the house were left at my door post. The room used to be my mum’s room while she was in the house.
Mum’s relationship with my father was a paltry stale tale of cowardice mixed with religion that I am never eager to talk about. Regardless of how far I had relegated that bit of history to the part of the brain that was responsible for memory cocooning, it was this circumstances that molded my growing up years.
So before I rearranged the baggage into my room, I sorted out their contents and, that was how I discovered a new interest for books. I was broke, jobless for years after graduation, and fatherless, but I was inspired to find a meaning to my life from the pages of books and tapes that were in Shyllon’s bags. I listened to CDs by John C Maxwell, Steven Covey, Brian Tracy, Les Brown, and the host of others. Soon, I had a plan, and it began with getting two jobs. One as a huckster, the other as a middle man. The first was where I learnt, the latter was where I practiced. I didn’t care if I was crossing the Rubicon. This was my life, and I had to make it count.
Three years and a few months down the lane, I had moved from a door to door hawker of home appliances to a store representative. Soon, a door would bear my name with the title HOD by its side.
It was a light at the end of the tunnel, although the louder voices in my surrounding gnarled at me every day, daring me to nurse the dream of becoming a head of department.
Kobo Olanto is his name, and after having thought of a few alibis to defend my lateness today, I gave up and opted not to answer him in the manner he would expect. I hadn’t lost the zest and eagerness to serve, but I had fallen into the snare of workplace politicking. I had become entrapped in the snake-eat-snake mentality of the hustling workforce. Here, everyone did whatever they had to do to bring sales. It was a case of the ‘end justified the means’.
I only had bleak memory of how I got to work today. My head was busy trying not to think too much after it had eventually begun the thought process, anyway. … The alarm clock and the watch. These were the mediums I had postulated. But were the beds also involved? I kept thinking…
I must have walked like a zombie past my colleagues in the hallway, because of the way they parted for me as I came through. I only stopped at the front of the door of the General Manager, where I believed my HOD would be now, most likely reporting my lateness.
I rapped lazily on the door twice and waited. Instead of a voice response, I heard a little screeching and shuffling, and then the door before me opened.
I walked in with a coy smile, and stood before my GM, not bordering to regard Kobo Olanto who was left to close the door after me.
“Eli, I thought you would never show up late?” the GM, half Lebanese half Indian, looked up from behind his narrow glasses.
“Good morning, sir. I thought so too.”
“You could have called your HOD, don’t you think?” I was always at the verge of laughing each time I hear him speak.
“Yes sir. Since yesterday, I haven’t set eyes on my phone.” I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw my phones.
Kobo looked at me. He was getting upset that the GM was giving me some reception. He was about to blurt when the GM asked another question. “But you have your private line, don’t you?”
“True, sir, but I haven’t set eyes on both of them, sir.” My mind was focused now. And I was eager to find a suitable explanation to what happened to me this morning.
“Are you okay, Eli?” The GM had taken off his glasses. His name was Zath Tobias, although I always had the feeling that most of these immigrants use fake names and passports to get work permit in the country. This feeling was so strong now that I looked closely at him as he asked the question. There were a few papers on his desk. He must have been reading something before I came in.
“I hope so sir.” I smiled. “I will be. But I am very sorry for showing up at work late.”
“Well, your HOD said he has once given you a query to this effect. I’m sure he already has another one waiting for you. So make sure you reply ASAP, right?”
I wanted to take a good look at Mr Kobo Olanta, but something in me wasn’t really interested. I had never received any query from him or anyone in the company my three years here, but I wasn’t interested in defending myself.
“I will, sir.” I sounded bored.
“Who even asked you to come in here?” It was Kobo who finally asked.
“I needed to see the GM on some private matter, but as the case is now, I would rather not bother him. Or perhaps, on a better day.”
“Better.” Kobo was the king of one-word exclamations. And he was getting advanced in it every time. “Out!” He barked at me now, pointing at the door. He needed to show his boss he had me under his thumb.
I tipped my head and stepped out of the GM’s office. Something in me didn’t care again. I was tired of the running battle between Kobo and I. I had to do something about it. I felt a re-alignment would do, and it must begin from my mind. And then maybe my alarm clock. Because I had to dream again, and as often I wanted. I had to travel back to the future. I preferred that to here. At last I had found a get-away place. An escape from all this. Better still, if only I would go and not return.