Forget whatever I had said earlier, or thought aloud about. No, they weren’t wrong, they were not just as I thought them to be. One was the fact that my new job was more or less that of a security man.
The second, which was linked to the first was that I was posted to keep watch of a ‘watch museum’. How incredulous that was.
All through the brief introduction I was given by my team head, my heart skipped like a rein’s while I tried to stay calm. Steam of heat had condensed on my forehead as damp perspiration, and inside my mind I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world things events could coincide. Even if it was mere coincidence, as I thought it to be, it marveled me all the same. I was sure I hadn’t told anyone about my surreal moments in the future, so it was impossible for Friday, or Sunday to have tried to work things out intentionally. My mind strayed on…
Could it be possible that one of these clocks bore the magic inscription that would take me back to my future? I found myself reigniting the possibilities of finding a link to the future. Maybe this was a second chance. Just maybe.
With feet strapped up in an almost undersized pair of boots, and torso wrapped around an over starched khaki uniform, my sales man instinct seemed snuffed and suppressed. Each time, I tried to free my neck from the weighed of the collar, under the pretense of looking around and surveying my perimeter.
People strolled in in trickles, and my new partner Rhoda, with a cute face but obviously no spring chicken, kept promising me to enjoy the ease while it lasted. Not until it was about a quarter of eleven that morning did I understand in full what she meant. It was like hordes was opened, and legions set free to roam. People came into the gallery in droves, and the four guards including me, stationed in the hall didn’t have a chance to prompt “attention!” Work was in full throttle.
I scanned from left to right, then right to left. Then I looked far across the hall, then down my nose. That was the routine Rhoda had explained to me, which was explained to her when she first joined, which she did so stoically. After twenty minutes, I knew I could only stay a second longer at a spot before I began moving around. Although I was now a watch guard, I was first a trained sales person, I couldn’t help but to move around.
Avoiding the stare from old Rhoda and the rest of my team members, I walked into the throng of tourists which were an unusual mix of Europeans and a handful of elite black. Here didn’t seem like the place for the usual everyday Lagosian who instead would be in one of those Marina offices hustling to make ends meet at this hour.
I found myself checking out designer brands put on by some of the tourists, and sniffing the expensive mix of perfumes that permeated the air. The tour guard was speaking with a trained smile and obviously a mental script that had stayed lurked on her lips as a result of doing the same thing over and over again. I remembered the little tour Sunday gave me earlier; it was almost the same thing from what this guard was saying. I was sure after a week I would be able to assist with the tour just in case there was a need.
All my walkabout was just a ploy to scan through the area and perhaps find a clock that had the inscription. Or was there a possibility that there would be more than a clock with the magic words? I couldn’t bear to think of the other possibility that there could also be none. My heart seemed to writhe at that moment.
I had my natural smiles on, observing the people, eaves dropping on the little side convos, and definitely remembering to do my work at making sure no one crossed the line. That line on the floor, I meant. I pressed my rubber heels softly unto the tiled floor as I eased by. The clock has to be somewhere. And yeah, I had all day… and perhaps all night. I was the guard here, remember?
I wanted to engage someone at least in a conversation. I felt it was necessary, but again, this was only my first day at work, and I had to study the terrain before someone else misinterpreted my zeal. I backtracked to my post after only a few minutes. Checking on Old Rhoda, she had the face of a ‘know it all’ mother prepping to administer corporal punishment on her child. I hid the smirk on my face and resumed my ‘back and forth’ survey from my appointed position, making sure to keep an arm’s length from Old Rhoda. If there wasn’t going to be another Kobo Olanta here, I guess I had a part to play.
At six that evening, over a thousand people had come into the ‘clock museum’. And apologies to the hustling class Lagosian, they showed up, although, most of them after five in the evening. Even if it was the evening pub that normally opened here at the park that must have attracted them, more than a handful still paid a visit to the clock gallery.
I had checked on social media in the afternoon, and realized that the #ClockColletor and #ClockMusuem was even trending. A lot of art informed enthusiast had dropped by to make a few comments. Now, as I sat out my first day at work with Obed and NK over a boring conversation and few free plates of peppersoup with shredded isi ewu, I found myself going through the latest comments about the exhibition. My mind was thinking… you could never know, someone could have made mention of the magic words… Umendikayat… Angrandaso… or maybe some subtle clues, you know… you could never tell.
The Exhibitionist, one of those Nigerians in Diaspora who thinks people here should pay them homage because they came around, had only been in the country for the first time last year in over a decade. He was supposed to have been here this evening, instead, he had been all day on different urban radios, speaking about the event, and why people should come see what was on here.
Somehow my plans to embark on my own private assignment had been sabotaged by Mr. Sunday, who had followed instruction to the letter to lock up the exhibition gallery as soon as it was six. Had there been a case of theft? At first, I had feared for my job, and what would become of me if after just a day I was back on the streets, jobless.
Just as I was about to tell of my leave, Mr Sunday approached our corner. He was looking directly at me as he drew closer. “Where is Andrew?” he asked, resting his wide palm on the table. The three of us spoke at the same time, and the summary was that none of us knew the exact whereabout of our team head.
“No, he couldn’t have gone home, right?” Sunday asked.
Well, I didn’t know how to answer that. If Sunday thought he guessed right, why was he asking, ngwanu?
“Okay come with me. Come take a record of this?” Sunday began walking away in his usual carefree easy-go-lifestyle mode. I left Obed and NK at the table, but not before I poured what was left of the soup and spice into my gapping throat.
In the backroom office two fat ladies I didn’t know stood aside from Sunday. And they all seemed to be in a hurry. I waited at the threshold with arms behind me.
“One of those tourist, I believe forgot her handbag somewhere around the clock gallery you were stationed, right?” Sunday seemed to direct the question to the two other people in the room. I finally concluded he was in the habit of ending most of his statements in a question.
One of them, a lady, just raised her thin line eyebrow to suggest an affirmation.
“So, quickly, take a note of everything inside, and hopefully we can make contact, ASAP.” Sunday directed the duty to me.
“So, we believe you will take it up from there, Mr. Sunday?” asked one of the women.
“Yes, since there is an ID, we don’t think there would be any problem. Thank you so much ma’ams.”
The two ladies moved their heavy weight around till they were out of sight.
I poured out the rest of the bag’s content on Mr Sunday’s table as I held the bic pen to take note: A dead Nokia palasa phone, a tiny glass case of what smelt like idi agbon, a thick dog-eared phone diary, a tiny bottle of half empty gin, a neatly folded stark of DSTV receipts, a hand mirror, two wooden combs, a roll of rubber thread, and a silver chain wrist watch.
I counted everything, and Mr. Sunday double checked as I placed them back into the hand bag one after the other.
… a hand mirror, two wooden combs, a roll of… and a silver wrist watch…
I stared at the watch in my hand. The trembling started as soon as the tiny words jumped out at me. My eyes were fixed on the inscription in the inner lining of the wrist watch. All I could do was stare.
I heard Sunday ask one of his rhetorical questions, but I couldn’t answer him. Not just yet. Maybe after my senses returned to me. At this moment they were on their journey back to the future.