During the period that I had worked in Lagos, people often mistook me for my boss’s wife, some going far to think that I was his mistress. At first, I was usually quick to defend myself, telling them that I was just working for him, that he was my employer. But my boss, a tricky and cunning middle-aged man would choose that moment to pull me close and try to complain that I was being distracted at work. The act always seemed too intimate, thereby nullifying my claims of being his employee. After many futile attempts, I had taken to ignoring their misunderstanding. He had made his interest clear many times, sometimes subtly, sometimes very obvious, but I pointedly ignored all his advances. When I discussed with my friend, Precious about which Chinese man I would choose to sleep with, I had chosen him. The only reason being that, he didn’t smoke and he didn’t smell like garlic. The only thing that disqualified him was his intense love for women. I use to suspect that he was carrying a disease that he wanted to spread round Nigerian, and of course it was through women that he would spread the illness round the country (Don’t shoot me). And so when I called her to tell her about Leon, she had been filled with curiosity, “Who is this man that has stolen your sense?” she had asked with wonder after listening to me gush about Leon.
Well, I knew that I was being too forward when I said that Leon was my boyfriend-to-be, especially when he said he had a girlfriend back in China. And from her picture, I knew that she was beautiful, short but beautiful. I didn’t care though, after-all I didn’t need a longterm relationship. I knew this infatuation of mine would die off at a point in time.
And so, as I did everyday, I followed my boss for her walk, and when we got to the Raw Material department, she entered inside to talk to one of the Chinese men who was from her hometown. I knew that she would spend up to 30 minutes with the man, so I was happy for the time to be spent with my crush. As usual, he was sitting by the door-side in front of a table filled with papers and documents. The AC above him was too low, and I felt a bit cold.
“Isn’t the AC too low?” I asked him, as I pulled a chair to the front of the desk and sat down.
“Are you uncomfortable?” he looked at me with scrunched eyebrows, though he picked up the remote and increased the temperature of the AC.
“How are you doing today? Those men, did they bully you?” I leaned closer to him as though sharing a secret.
He chuckled, “Nobody bullies me.”
I scoffed, “Even if you lie, your workers will always tell me. I heard they made you do both night and day shift yesterday?”
He shook his head with a smile, “I did it willingly.”
“That is what you will always say, as if it would change the fact that you would rather be in your room asleep rather than here chasing mosquitoes and dealing with a bunch of stubborn workers.” It was a well-known fact that night shift workers were always very stubborn. This was a trait that cut across all departments. I imagine that it was the reality that the Chinese would treat them more unfairly than the day workers. Sometimes extending their shift time to 8am in the morning. It was also common knowledge that night shift workers did drugs. Even during the day, you could see them in scattered groups sniffing one drug or the other, with dry gin accompanying it. There were some day shift workers that also did drugs, but they didn’t come to work smelling like it. But with the night shift workers, it was different, they did it right there, at their position of work, even the Chinese could do nothing to stop them, not when they themselves treasured their cigarettes. And so, the combination of the smell of machines and chemicals, cigarettes and hint of drugs usually filled the different departments in the factory. It always gave me headache.
“Hope you didn’t stress yourself too much?” I hoped the question didn’t sound as corny to him as it did to me. I was sure that by now he would have gotten the memo that I liked him, even the Nigerian workers had picked up on the cues that I was sending him. Why was he taking time to respond?
“No problem. My work is just to supervise. It is not difficult at all,” he pushed his spectacles higher on his nose.
“Better o! Nobody should suffer my boo-boo for me,” I said without much thought.
“What is ‘boo-boo’,” he asked bringing my attention to what I had said.
For a brief moment, I was struck dumb at the clueless look on his face as he waited for my answer, then I smiled, “Ask your Nigerian workers.” I smirked and stood up. It was at this time that my boss came out from the office, and I followed her out, waving cheekily at Leon. He had a cute smile as he waved me back. ‘So cute,’ I thought as we continued on our morning walk. I wondered how his expression would be when he was told the meaning of the word. I couldn’t wait for our evening exercise, maybe I could use the opportunity to really get him to be my boyfriend.