I felt myself levitate. I could sense gravity but I was also aware that my body was floating in a dark space. My hands and feet flailed. My tongue stuck to a dry palate. I sensed tears leave their ducts and slide down my temples. I heard scurrying feet and distant calls. My torso had been lifted and I was being carried somewhere. Gusts of wind swayed the hairs on my arms as someone else fanned. My sensory organs (except my eyes) were functional but I lacked the will to escape this dark place.
Then gravity pulled and I was dropped on a hard surface. Drowning followed. The hard surface melted into an ocean and I sank, deeper than I thought possible. What was happening to me? Why couldn’t I speak? I was aware of my environment but I couldn’t respond to it. Is this what a stroke felt like? That wasn’t possible, 27 was too young an age to have a stroke. Or was this what the aftermath of a heart attack felt like? 27 was equally too young for a heart attack.
Suddenly, the same water that drowned me rushed into my nostril and I choked. I opened my mouth to breathe and gulped a tank. If there was ever a time I wished I knew how God worked, this was it. I screamed for help but I couldn’t hear myself. Was this how my life found its end? Because of an alarm clock?
Alarm clock! The thought sent jolts through my system. Those two words were like a defibrillator that shook me awake and my eyes fluttered open. From my mattress, I looked up at the painted louvers that also doubled as a blind, in search for a ray of sunlight, but my sight was only able to reach as far as the wall before my face, which gave me a lackluster glare in return. I had no idea what time it was and I didn’t care.
There was nothing to care about. Not the wretched life of a struggling salesman who earned less than the minimum wage. My Lebanese boss didn’t care about regulations and the well-being of his staff – more like servants – as long as he made profits. I was sustained by commissions; a graduate of physics surviving on tips and ends. This is what my nation’s economy had reduced me to. Yes I blame the economy, who else would I blame?
Some days came with healthy commissions, but today, no amount of commission would drag me out of bed. I was going to call in sick again. It’s been three days since I lost my precious alarm clock.
After the dizzy spell passed at Madus Waste Disposal, I had stood up and walked away in gloom. Chioma had hailed in desperation but I didn’t answer her. It was her fault that the alarm clock had been recycled anyway. She had followed me home and tried to placate me for her near fatal mistake, but I didn’t utter any word to her till the next day. And then she left, the same way she came- like a thief in the night. I called in sick the next day, and the one after that. Today was sure to follow suit.
I reached for my phone on the floor beside the dingy mattress to call Kobo Olanto but instead, it rang. It was Nene. She had called in regularly to check on me since the first day I called in sick. She was so caring. Or so I thought.
“Nene,” I answered with my best sickness-ill state of mind-bedridden-organs falling tone.
“Oh boy, if you like yourself enh,” Nene’s voice didn’t carry the usual sweetness that had melted my heart in the last three days. “Quick quick show for office oh, gbege don burst.”
”Weting happen na?” I asked after a grunt meant to feign bodily ache.
“Na for house your wan take know?” Nene responded “If you like the tachere money wey you dey collect from commission, better show nah nah.”
Then the line went dead.
Something was wrong at work. If it wasn’t grave, Nene wouldn’t be rash on phone with me. She had her seasons of madness, but this was beyond mad, something terrible seemed to have gone wrong. I dragged myself out of bed and ransacked the trouser at the foot of the bed. I found a mangled one hundred naira note. Not enough to get me from here to Mega Plaza on the Island, but didn’t waste thoughts on it. If there is a will, then there will be a way.
I had a couple of bus conductor friends that plied that route, and I was sure going to use my go-to-hell to harvest from my tree of goodwill.
I stood before Zath Tobias, rage dancing in the pit of my belly. Sacked? That was impossible. I was the best salesman in all of Mega Plaza. How could they just sack me?
“Sir, are you saying I don’t have a right to fall sick?” I asked in the meekest tone I could muster. At his perpetual accuser’s corner, Kobo Olanto stood wearing his most evil grin. This was sure his machination.
“Of course you have a right to fall sick,” Zath responded. “But not at the expense of this company.”
He had a smile on his face as well, reminding me about the special brand of sinister found only amongst these unfortunate Europeans.
“Sir, I beg you to reconsider.” I pleaded despite the bile stuck in my gut. I needed the job, no matter how paltry for a graduate it was. It put the proverbial agege bread and ewa agoyin on my table. How did it happen that just when it felt like I had grasped the tethers of the good life, through that unfortunate alarm clock, that situations suddenly went awry? Before the alarm clock, I had no hopes of affluence but I had a job at least. At the end of the day, it was all bad luck. Bad luck, bad luck, and nothing more.
I couldn’t process most of my thoughts, but it was more of a certain tiredness in my soul, than anything else, that restrained me from using profanities and lashing out my tongue.
I walked out sordid and defeated, my past trophies and achievements here tipping over to the ground. At last it had proved to be all vanity. There went my dreams of becoming HOD Sales. Or even anything for that matter.
Nene had wished me well, and helped me with a thousand naira note which I had used for transport. She had promised to come check me as soon she could, but I didn’t allow her become mushy or emotional at that moment. I told her with a firm expression that I would be fine, although I knew I lied. I had taken the BRT bus from TBS home, but I didn’t realize when I went past my bus stop. My mind wondered like a thirsty gerbil under the hot desert sun.
The walk home from the bus stop wasn’t good for me, but I didn’t have a choice, and all I had with me was the change left from the teefare. My savings at the bank was less than what could take me for a month. As I crossed the highway, I realized that my focus on the job had even limited what I could do elsewhere. The last time I thought of making any sense from what I studied at the university was when I was just out of the university. I was a sales man, but even my mind was now wired to sell only what I was asked to.