Monday 12 August 2013

Palmgroove Letters Part 9

Nafisat twirled around in her office chair slowly, and in precise angles, swinging her black Jimmy Choo pumps from her toes and wondering where she could get suya so late on the island.

 It was 11.15pm and she was still at her desk, with the bright lights of various Lagos businesses still shining bright. The rain was pouring down outside and there were intermittent sounds of thunder, immediately drowned by the sounds of hundreds of generators growling to power the business hub of Nigeria. She looked out of the window, watching the raindrops fall slowly down the window of the 18th floor of Gloval towers. The window was ajar and the strong winds blew little drops of rain into her office, bringing the sweet smell of moisture and the salty taste of the Atlantic ocean. 

 Her work life was intact, she had just submitted the preliminary report on the deal with the Chinese investors brokered by her uncle, and she was due to travel to Beijing with her boss to start the first round of negotiations. Nafisat had left the office no later than midnight over the past three weeks trying to get all the background financial information to get the negotiations going. She loved every minute of it, not just because of the excitement of starting her first project from the initial stage, but also because it had distracted her from her catastrophic love life.

 It had been over three weeks since she wrote the letter to Bayo and she had not heard a word back from him. Although she had emphatically said that it was the end of their relationship, she was still hurt that he had given up so easily. She missed him dearly and during boring meetings she sketched his face on her note pad, scared that she was forgetting what he looked like. 
She wished she could capture his smell, the Tom Ford smell mixed with old spice shower gel. She had deleted his number and messages from her phone so she would not be tempted to call him. They had no friends in common and with her current work schedule the chances of running into him were very slim. 

More surprising however was the fact that Nuhu had not contacted her either. Since she had walked out on him, neither him nor Farida had called her or sent her so much as an apology. She initially figured they were happy living out their fantasy and would eventually drive themselves crazy. Both their personalities were too strong to co-exist for a long time. 

 As the days turned into weeks, it dawned on her one morning in the shower that she had been replaced. She had gone through several stages of feelings. Her initial anger had worn off and had been replaced with hurt and disappointment. She had not spoken to anyone about it and the one person she usually confided in was the reason behind her problem.
 Wonu walked into her office as she was lost in her thoughts and jerked her back into reality. 
 “Naf, we are ordering indomie from the mallam downstairs, would you like some?”
 “You are God-sent, I am starving.” She replied 
"Alright then coming right up” he said as he picked up his phone to place the order
 “Have you figured out how to use the 3d graphs software?” he asked, taking a seat opposite hers and stretching out his whole body, stiff from sitting in one position for hours 
“Yes, thank you so much for showing me. I am almost done. Why are you still here anyway? Doesn’t your wife nag you about your late nights?” Asked Nafisat

 “She’s stopped nagging me about anything long time ago. She understands that I need to put in work in order to be able to afford the life we both want. Have you seen the rate of college fees lately? Assuming the rate of inflation remains stable for the next 20 years, our kids will need millions of naira to even get the most basic degree. Besides, I bet you she is still up, working herself. Need to give her a call now actually, excuse me Naffy” said Wonu as he stepped out of her office to place the call. 

Nafisat smiled at how cute he was, and marvelled at their unity. She was claustrophobic and she couldn’t contemplate living in the same house with her husband for years without plotting his murder. She needed someone like Nuhu who travelled often to give her plenty of weeks off the relationship. She flashed back to when they first started dating. 
He was in University in Nottingham, and would come over to New York to see her every other month, or she would come to spend her vacations with him in his family’s Hyde Park home. The first time they had been in the same country had been ten months ago when she had moved back to Nigeria. This marked the beginning of the end of their relationship. 

Although they were not in the same city, the whole country seemed too small for the both of them. They fought incessantly and disagreed on almost everything. He had moved back a year before her, and had changed. He was bossy, misogynistic and extremely arrogant. He had a sense of entitlement, and actually believed he was better than others. He disliked non-hausa people and felt his family belonged permanently in the ruling class. She tried to let him know several times that things had changed, and just because his family had ruled for decades, did not mean they could continue to exploit their people. Every time she criticised his view on something, he would get offended and warn her to drop her western ideas.

 She jumped suddenly at Wonu’s gentle touch. Her chair had been facing the window, lost in counting the droplets of rain sliding down the window. She twirled her chair around to watch him facing her. 

‘Wow, I hope its not Nonso’s graphs that’s got you this lost.’ said Wonu, stretching out a little plastic bag to her 

‘Oooooo yesss please! This smells divine.’ Said Nafisat as she took off the foil cover smiling at the steaming noodles, brightly coloured with diced peppers, onions, chicken and sweet corn. She wiped her fork and laid a napkin on her table and carefully began to pick out the onions at the surface. They both ate in silence, loading up on the carbohydrates they had burned during the day. Nafisat finished first, with a stack of onions neatly arranged on her serviette and a huge smile on her face. 

‘You look like you had a makeover, food is glorious’ said Wonu chuckling at her 

‘Oh boy, hunger won kee person’ said Nafisat
 ‘Hahahahahahahahaha! Please say that again. Oh my God, I think I need to record that’ said Wonu 
‘Whatever dude, Mr Segun says my broken English is improving. Infact, we listen to Wazobia fm in the mornings now’ ‘
Well my dear, you still have a long way to go. Just a little pointer, only Bourgeois people call it Broken English’ 

'Na you sabi. Na God dey tear ticket’ said Nafisat, laughing at herself ‘So, why haven’t you gone home either? Its a Friday and you are technically still a corper, its not like you can get fired.’ 

‘Honestly, I don’t have that much to go home to. I live in my uncle’s huge empty house and I don’t really have a lot of friends here. If I go home, it’ll be to paint or to sleep. I should probably pick up some hobbies. Monitoring the stock markets doesn’t count as a hobby right?’  

‘Ermm let me check my book of cool, nope nope I was right, that is in the book of losers.’ Said Wonu with a sarcastic drawl. ‘What about the love life? I mean you are stunning, you must be chasing them away’ he said matter-of-factly 

‘Again, honestly, it seemed like I was about a month ago. But right now, I could not be more alone’ said Nafisat
 ‘I find that really hard to believe. But assuming, without conceding, that you are alone, what have you tried to do to amend the situation. I mean yes you are gorgeous, but you need to mingle. How else do you plan to meet someone? Or is it a Northern thing? How do y’all meet people? Said Wonu 

‘I really don’t think I can be an authority on anything Northern. I could ask my mum for you though’ she said with a chuckle 

‘Ok then, you should come for a party with me and my wife on Saturday. Don’t worry no one will be speaking broken, so you can fit right in.’ said Wonu. 

'I am socially awkward. I don’t do well with small talk to strangers Wonu’ she said 

'That explains why we all disliked you when you first started’ he replied 

‘Haha I am not surprised. A corper that bags a huge office with a great view to herself is never going to be popular’ said Nafisat 

‘Well its hard to be mad at you because you work so hard. I must confess I have always had this stereotype about you Hausas as being lazy. Especially the women’ said Wonu honestly 

'You are not misconceived. Like I said, I am not a good yard stick to measure any stereotype. I love this job, and I will be sad to leave it.’ Said Nafisat 

'Leave ke? Where are you leaving to?’ asked Wonu in surprise 

‘Back to Kano. The plan was always to be in Lagos for a year. I doubt I can convince my parents to allow me stay a day longer than my service.’ She said

‘Really? Have you got a job waiting for you back there?’ asked Wonu curiously

‘Err well, something like that. I am supposed to be getting married. But I’m not too sure that’s going on anymore’ said Nafisat 

‘Wow, sounds complicated. Well I hope you find a way to stay. Not sure how Nonso will cope without you on this project.’ Said Wonu 

‘He always finds a way. Well now that I am full, I am craving my bed’ said Nafisat as she stretched out her whole body. She started her routine of cramping in her Macbook, Ipad and Iphone with their respective cables into her oversize black Prada bag. She walked out with Wonu, to the Elevators and waited in front of the big gold Gloval Oil sign. She hated the corridor and sign because it was ostentatious and over the top.
 The walls were gold marble and a small fountain surrounded by fake flowers sat underneath the sign. It reflected the pomposity of the company CEO whom she had only ever met once. He only wore white with gold accessories and personally decorated all his offices. They got into the elevator and walked to their allocated parking lot to find Mr Segun sitting next to the car with a frown on his face. He did not appreciate her current late nights especially on a Friday as he usually went to visit his family in Ikorodu at the weekends.
 ‘Oh wow, your driver is still here. Lucky for some’ said Wonu with awe. Nafisat felt bad that she had kept him so long, especially on a Friday. It was already past midnight and the driver’s lodge was completely empty. He did not even smile at her as he started the car and pulled it towards her. She climbed into the car and said goodnight to Wonu who bade her goodnight, still with fascinated at her luxurious life. Mr Segun drove her home in silence, not even turning on the radio. She began to nod off during the ride home as she normally did, and his anger softened, she was clearly overworked.

She tipped him handsomely on arriving home, and this seemed to wipe away his anger. She walked to the back of the brightly lit house, past the light green swimming pool and into the kitchen. The volume of the Hausa movie on in the Kitchen was extremely high in an attempt to drown out the sound of the Generators which were directly behind it. The chef did not hear her walk in and she clicked her heels quietly behind him upstairs to her room. She yawned continuously and couldn’t wait to shower and have a lie in for the whole weekend.

She pulled out the keys to her room and put it in, but it did not turn as it was already open. She walked in, surprised to see her lights were on. The maid was becoming careless she thought. She sat on her bed and took off her shoes, massaging her aching feet. She took off her head scarf and let her hair fall down to her shoulders. She ran her hands through her hair closing her eyes momentarily, until she was startled by the sound of the toilet flushing.

Nafisat jumped up, scared that a robber was in the house. Before she could think of her next move, Farida walked out of her bathroom, drying her hands on the back of her jeans as she always did. She looked just as surprised to see Nafisat, as if she had not been sitting in her room waiting for her for the past five hours. They stared at each other in complete silence for what seemed like a full minute.

Farida wore a branded polo top made by one of her designer friends and slim fit jeans. Her clothes clinked to her every curve as always. She wore minimal make up and her hair had full curly extensions. She looked casual but still gorgeous. Farida seemed once again lost for words, a rare feat for her.

 ‘Hi Naf’ said Farida quietly

 ‘Hi’ she replied, sitting back down on the bed

‘You look exhausted. I hope you have eaten’ Farida said with concern

‘Lets skip the chitchat shall we? Spit it out’ said Nafisat, suddenly wide awake

‘I really don’t know what to say Naf. I know it sounds clichĂ©, but it honestly just happened.’ Replied Farida more quietly, almost a whisper

‘Is that it?’ Nafisat replied coldly

‘I understand that you’re upset Naf. I mean it’s the ultimate betrayal. I am not proud of it but….’

 ‘When did it start?’ asked Nafisat quietly

 ‘About 5 months ago.’ She replied taking a seat at the opposite edge of her bed. When Nafisat did not reply, Farida continued nervously ‘I was styling his step-mum when he came into her room. I said hello to him, and he ignored me because he thought I was part of her help. You know how rudeness irks me, so I said hello to him again. He nodded a response and didn’t bother looking at me. Once his step mum stepped out of the room, I told him exactly where to shove it. He told me he did not notice me, and apologised. He seemed sincere so we laughed about it. I dressed his step mum a couple of more times because of the First lady’s Conference that was going on, and that’s how we got talking. We exchanged details and it sort of progressed from there.’ Said Farida

‘Well that’s a great ‘how we met’ story except you skipped the part about him being your best friend’s fiancĂ©’ replied Nafisat sarcastically.

She thought how proud Bayo would have been of her appropriately timed sarcasm and she momentarily smiled. Farida misinterpreted her smile and sighed.

 ‘So when were you planning to elope? Did you feel good making me feel like a fool? Listening to me complain to you about how he had changed and you giving me advice on how to mend our relationship? Remember how I told you that we had not had sex in months, and you told me maybe it was what we needed? Oh wait, remember when he travelled to Paris for work and you were also in Paris for Fashion week, was that also unplanned?’ asked Nafisat looking directly into her eyes, her anger starting to bubble

Walahi ba haka ba Naf. We started off as just friends, we just had a lot in common and….’

‘Nabil does not have any female friends for a reason. And you don’t have any straight male friends either. You are a slut Farida. You sleep with everyone, from bosses to uncles and teachers. There are no boundaries with you. You hurt people in the process and do not seem to realise that your actions have consequences. I guess its not your fault, after all your mother is a slut who slept with rich married men…’ said Nafisat maliciously

‘Haba hold up Naf, I hurt you but do not bring my mother into this…’ said Farida, her voice rising from her whispers

‘Why shouldn’t I? All of a sudden we have boundaries? I will talk to you like the low life prostitute that you are. Your mother is a whore and you are following in her exact path, if you look at it through nature or nurture, the apple doesn’t fall far…’ said Nafisat her voice getting louder in response

 ‘You self-centred bitch’ said Farida getting up from the edge of her bed ‘You know what, I am so fed up with your arrogance and self riotousness. You are a fucking hypocrite and I will not sit down and have you belittle me. You have had every single thing in your life handed to you. You have not had to want or struggle for anything, yet you somehow think that you are better than people who have had difficult cards dealt to them and have managed to find a way. You think you are better than me because I have used what I have to achieve my goals? You think my mother is a slut because she was abandoned by my father and chose to stay with a married man who liked her despite her having a child out of wedlock? A man who had enough money to change our lives forever without blinking? A man who cared enough to take care of another man’s child? According to your ‘principles’ she should have chosen instead to be upright and poor right? Let me educate you since you do not know, there is absolutely no dignity in being poor. In wanting everyday, in begging and in perpetual struggle. You cannot even begin to fathom what it is like to have to make the choices that people make. I may not get along with my mother for several other reasons, but don’t you dare call her any names. She is twice the woman you will ever be Nafisat. And for your information, I know that you are sleeping with Bayo. You did not tell me because you did not want to admit to me that you are not as principled as you make out to be. You suddenly realised that all the judgement you have been passing on me applied to you as well because you are a cheat. A lying, hypocritical cheat for that matter.’ Farida busted out her, voice getting louder as she progressed.

 Nafisat stared at her in utter disbelief. She had wanted to hurt Farida with her words, but Farida’s outburst had knocked her out.

 ‘Get out of my house Farida, and don’t you ever come back’ replied Nafisat coldly, looking directly into her eyes

 ‘Gladly. I am really sorry about Nabil. I genuinely did not set out to hurt you, but I love him and we are going to be together’ said Farida as she picked up her black Prada back to leave the room.

It was the exact same as Nafisat’s and Nabil had also bought it for her from their trip to Paris. Farida walked out of the room quickly, and shut the door firmly behind her.

 Xoxo Miss B