Today was the date. I was very nervous and I couldn’t shake a weird feeling I’d had since I noticed that Kelvin seemed to be actively avoiding me.
Ebube had said she’d prefer to meet me there instead of being picked up. So I agreed and when I closed from work, I drove straight there. I was early by 10 minutes, she was late by a minute. Still, she came into the restaurant apologizing so profusely that I wondered if she was apologizing for something more than she was letting on. She kept apologizing. So I leaned towards her, intending to kiss her cheek but she turned her head and it landed on her lips. She jerked back very suddenly and stared at me like I had meant to stab her. And then I started to apologize. She holds up her hand. I stop. Then she smiles and says hello.
We sit down at the bar while we wait for our table to be prepared. Ebube takes a very deep breath, closes her eyes then dramatically exhales. When she opens them, they’re twinkling and she’s smiling.
“I’m so sorry. I’m late and I’m nervous. But I just realized that you’re probably nervous too. So, let’s start over. My name is Ebube and your name is Boma. You’re friends with my elder sister and I really like your father. That’s the only thing we know about each other. Care to expand my knowledge?”
I smile and relax. Everything will work out fine.
When I woke up this morning and stood up from my bed, I noticed that the area I had slept on was covered in blood. I was quite upset. I had been too tired to do more than get to the bed, fall on it and sleep, I hadn’t even noticed the twinges on my lower belly, a sure sign that my unfertilized ovum would present themselves to me soon. And when I woke up to see them, my eyes magnified the bleeding typical of every first day of menstruation that I panicked, checking myself all over to see if I had any cuts or lacerations. I did not. So, I cleaned myself, balled the bedsheets up and tossed them in the washing machine. Then I went about doing my current volunteer project, counseling people online via live chat sessions.
Last night I’d had to counsel a young girl not to commit suicide after she was raped and became pregnant. I had to beg her not to kill herself. Beg her to let someone know the circumstances of the pregnancy. I was still very worried about her and when she ended the conversation I began to intercede for her life.
Though it breaks my heart; their stories and the ones who ignore my advice, I feel such joy when I wake up and I know that someone else will wake up today and confront their problems head on instead of killing themselves.
I had to chat with the girl again. She had told her mom and while her mom was happy she hadn’t committed suicide, she was insisting on an abortion. So I counseled her on that too. I coached her on what to say (she wanted to keep the baby and decide what to do from there) and when and how to say it and when the phone call ended, I went on my knees interceding for her baby too. When I opened my eyes and stood up, I was wracked with abdominal pain. I had to drag myself to the kitchen and pour myself a full glass of milk. The ulcer warnings are getting more and more frequent and I honestly wish I knew how to remind myself to eat.
After that, I talk to a boy whose friends want him to join them in a suicide pact, with a mother who feels like running away from her baby because she has dreams that she’ll kill him. I found out that the true problem is that she married a dead weight who lets her work 2 jobs in addition to being a mother and taking care of the house without ever lifting a finger to help her.
By the time I’m done talking to all these people, I take a walk, in turns praying and reminding myself that I have a life to live myself. If I don’t do this, I’ll burn out and become even more of a recluse than I already am. Then I look at my watch, it is an hour to my date with Boma and I hate to be late. Well, normally.
I’d already chosen my outfit, a lovely top with a gold belt and white formal trousers but seeing as I was on my period, I hunt down my formal red trousers instead. Lucky for me, the shirt complements both colours very well.
I get into my car, turn the ignition before I realize that I have forgotten where I’m supposed to meet Boma.
Calling him to ask wouldn’t speak very well of me then I remember that I’d written it down when he called me to set it up.
So I turn off the car and go back into the house. What was I doing when he called me? Cooking? No. Baking? No. Carrying food? Yes. Okay, what did I do after that? I had a bottle of soybean milk, then I noticed after taking it, that the carton was empty so I started making a shopping list to remind myself to get another one and that was when it occurred to me to write the address of the place. Where did I leave that note? I went to my room, searching my memory bank, it was early morning, I was going out that day. Closet? Deodorant? Perfume! I left it under the perfume bottle.
Then I check the vanity table and sure enough, it’s right where I left it.
I run down, get into the car and rush to the place. I get there 3 minutes before time and I turn off the car, take a deep breath and watch the restaurant. Before I know it, my eyes are glazed and unfocused and I’m wondering why I have had such a bad feeling today.
Then I see the stop light of a vehicle and I get out of the car and into the restaurant.
“Is it time to ask all those first date questions that sound like an interrogation?” I ask.
She looks at me quizzically then she smiles and says, “I personally prefer to ask and answer those type of questions when I have a drink in my hand”
“Then it’s a good thing the waiter is coming. Are you hungry?”
The waiter came, we ordered our foods and our drinks.
“Can I ask a question?”
“Why did you order a milkshake?”
“I had an ulcer warning earlier today and to be on the safe side I’m restricting all my drinking to dairy products”
“You don’t strike me as the worrying type. Is your job stressful?”
“Sometimes, I am. And yes, sometimes it is”
“What do you do? What’s your job description?”
“What do I do? I analyze people, talk to them, counsel them. My job description? I’m a psychotherapist. Back at you. What did you study? What do you do?”
“I studied Business Management. I did a diploma in law and then I got an Masters in Economic Development. I was in the process of starting a business abroad when my mom fell sick. So I came home and now I work at a company here. You might know it. It’s called ABIM Foods.”
She stares at me, lips pursed. What did I do wrong now? Then she smiles uncertainly. “I’ve heard of it. Do you like it there? Do they treat you well?”
“Well, I love my job. I like my colleagues a lot but I haven’t met the “they” as far as I know. So the second question is up in the air. I mean, it’s a lovely concept that birthed the company, truly. But I don’t believe that the owner is particularly serious about the company if he/she hasn’t bothered to check on the company for almost 4 months. I mean, who does that?”
Her face is impassive now. Our drinks arrive and she takes the time to dazzle the waiter with a smile and suddenly I’m jealous. She didn’t smile that brightly at me.
“I can actually see your point about the owners of the company. But you’re wrong about one thing. You have met three of them”
“I don’t understand. When did I meet them?”
“Well, you’re very good friends with one, you’re on a date with another and you met the last one at brunch last week”
“Ouch! Is it too late to tell you all the reasons I love my job?”
She starts laughing.
I was angry with him for a minute there. I mean, he wasn’t there when I started the company. He didn’t see the hours I put in. I was involved in every stage of the company’s birth. Every. Single. Stage. And he had the nerve to criticize?
The waiter brings our drinks and while I reach out to take the drinks, I smile and admit that he’s right.
Since Kelvin had stepped in for me, I was barely involved in the affairs of the company. The only thing I did faithfully was read the fortnightly email he sent me. My attendance at the monthly meeting wasn’t even stable. I was pulling away. He had pointed it out. Was I going to punish him for it? I looked at his face. There was no malice, just him declaring his opinion. And the fact that his opinion upset me did not make it a bad one or any less truthful.
So I tell him. He makes a joke and we settle down.
I suddenly remember my oversight.
“You said you came home because your mother was sick. How is she now? Is she alright?”
I took his hand. “I know firsthand just how awful it is when someone you love dies. I’m sorry about your mother. I’d have loved to meet her.”
“Thank you. She would have loved to meet you too”
The food arrives. And the conversation gets easier and flows more freely.
I ask him to tell me how Bunmi and Patrick met.
“Well Patrick was my closest friend. And he’s also the only friend I’ve had since childhood that made it to adulthood with me. When Bunmi and I became friends, I’d tell him jokes Bunmi had told me, give him advice on issues Bunmi had given me. So, he was interested and he wanted to meet her already. Then one day; she asked me to get her something she wanted. But at the time it was to be delivered she had traveled. So I sent it to him instead and gave her his number. When she called him, he told her he wouldn’t release it to her unless she met him for drinks. That’s the short version of how they met”
“Normal, casual. No juice. Tell me the long version.”
“The long version has to do with what she ordered me to deliver”. Then he stirs his drink and sips it so casually, so slowly that I growl at him.
He’s sipping his drink when I growl and he chokes, laughing.
“Fine!”, he says. “I’ll tell you now. Bunmi ordered a wedding dress”
Now, I’m choking on my drink. “I can’t see her doing that. Oh, wait, I completely can”
“That’s nice. Now, can you please explain it to me? I’m lost.”
He’s telling jokes and I’m laughing and telling some of my own until the bill comes. There’s something special going on here. At least for me.
He then asks me, “Since you’re one of the owners, I’d like to ask, what does ABIM stand for. I guess now that the A is for Amara, the B for Bunmi, but what about I and M”
“The M stands for Me and the I stands for …”
“Her face whitens and she runs out of the restaurant.
“What did I do wrong?”, I ask Bunmi.
“Everything”, she replies. “Absolutely everything”
http://kindnessblog.com/2016/03/23/13-short-and-sweet-stories-about-the-touching-kindness-of-strangers/ – Color Me Amazed had me crying.
This is the Easter period. And there are a lot of children who want to go for Easter festivities whose parents cannot afford to pay their way. If you want to, you can contribute to sending one of them.