That morning, I woke up very early and excited. It was my first day at work and I was super charged for it.
Months after graduation, I’d searched for jobs almost everywhere to no avail. With a degree in Theater and Film Studies one could work in almost anywhere, but in a country where the number of the unemployed are ten times the jobs available, and where favouritism came into play in almost everything we do, you can only be very grateful if you manage to get a well-paying job.
Yeah, I’ve passed job interviews and exams before, only to discover that their pay were way below my daily expenses, so I called it quits immediately.
My friend Juliet pressured me to join her in Lagos and I was glad I did because shortly after my arrival in Lagos, I got this job as a Human Resource Manager in the same place she worked. It was a new company that dealt in event management and branding.
There was rumor the owner had just returned from Switzerland where he used to work as a medical doctor until he won a lottery worth millions of dollars. He decided to return home and invest it in a business that he had always wanted to pursue.
“You will like the place I swear, it looks like heaven; everywhere is sparkling neat and the kind of technology we use, chai… I don’t think any other company in this Lagos uses it. We even manage events for top comedians and artistes in Lagos like AY, Basketmouth, WizKid and co. They come to our office sometimes,” Juliet had been talking since she picked me up from my place at Lekki. She seemed so proud of her place of work that one would think she was the new girl and not me.
“It’s okay already! Let’s get there first o.” I was pressing my phone, telling my friend Lauretta about the new job.
“Ah, this one there’s no traffic today, did they declare public holiday and we weren’t aware?” She slowed down and stopped by the traffic light. The light was red. She looked through her rearview mirror and adjusted her wig, it looked good on her. She said that her boyfriend got the wig for her from China and they cost N180,000. I believed her. Clearly she was living large here.
“I’m already tired of this hair. I’ll call Richard once he gets into the country today and request for a new one.” Could she read my mind?
But was it not this same Richard she told me had been avoiding her calls for some days now? How come she already believed that the young man was really not in the country at the moment? Ah… anyways, what’s my business?
“Lucky you.” I managed to smile.
The car was moving now. She took a right turn and after few more turns, I noticed the signpost: “Adeola Odeku St.”
“I’m gonna show you the new gateman that I told you has been hitting on me for a week now. Imagine o, me o.. mụnwa nke a. The guts!” She was gesticulating with her hands. I smiled sheepishly. I really did not know what to say. She is garrulous, and I’m not. Okay, scratch that… I talk but only when we have gotten very close and definitely not when I’m nervous… as I was that morning.
We got to the company and she blasted the horn like some psycho. “Where is that stupid gate man? Where has he gone to?
The gate opened revealing a young man probably in his early thirties. He was very tall and dark, not very dark though. I felt a tug in my heart for him immediately.
“Hello ma’am, welcome to work. Trust you had a good night’s rest,” he greeted politely, revealing a set of white sparkling teeth. Dayuuum!
“Hi,” Juliet managed to wave at him slowly driving into the compound.
She parked and we came down from the car.
“Good morning madam. I guess you’re new here. Do feel at home and good luck. ”
Okay, that was being too polite. TF!
“Good morning, and thank you,” I smiled at him and followed Juliet who didn’t even behave like there was a human before us.
“Thank you too,” he responded still smiling.
“Are you sure he’s not a robot?” I whispered to Juliet?
“Maybe o. That’s how he behaves all the time. Which gateman in Nigeria does that?” Juliet was laughing too.
“He’s very nice.”
“No, he’s just hitting on you.”
“Hitting on me? He doesn’t even know me.”
“Oya na, you’ll see.”
We walked into the reception and Juliet took me to meet the Manager.
After a short briefing, I was taken to my office and I settled down.
It’s been just five days since I started working at SPICE and two since I became very close friends with Damian. Yes, that’s his name, the gate man. Don’t look at me like that, he’s too good to be ignored, you know. And he’s nice too. From exchanging pleasantries every morning to little chats during lunch break and another when we were leaving in the evening. He said he likes me, I smiled and changed the topic the day. Oga is rushing the whole thing biko.
I noticed an accent in his English and when I asked him, he said he spent some time in UK. Wow! However he told me he was framed by his friend and was deported to Nigeria and since he didn’t want to go back home, he decided to stay in Lagos and work for some time and get enough money to finish his master’s degree program.
I had asked why become a gate man, but that was where the discussion ended that day before Juliet came to drag me back to work as I’d passed my lunch break.
This morning in particular, I was nervous. Juliet noticed it and stopped just before the last turn to the office. She parked by the side of the road.
“Oya spill it!” She was looking at me and smiling at the same time.
“Well, I’m not sure yet. Damian told me yesterday that I should prepare for a surprise today. I don’t know what it is though, but—”
“Whaaaat! Is he gonna ask you out?!” Juliet screamed so loud that I had to cover my ear.
“I don’t know. I’m too nervous to think that.”
“Awwwn… I’m happy for you o. At least since my relationship flopped, my best friend’s should work biko. Even if it’s with a gate man.” I noticed the sarcasm in the last sentence and ignored it.
Yes, Juliet’s relationship ended that same day I started working. She received news that her boyfriend was arrested. Apparently, he was a drug dealer and has been on the wanted list of most countries including Indonesia. He was caught by the Indonesia government at the airport on his way back to Nigeria.
That evening, it was even broadcasted on the news. I had to leave my place for Juliet’s to keep her company. She cried her eyes out and had to skip work the next day. But she’s fine now. Or so I thought.
We got to the office and the gate was open. Quite unusual. We entered the compound and noticed lots of cars all over the place.
“What is happening?” I asked Juliet and she spread her hand in an ‘I don’t know’ manner.
No one was outside, not even the gate man.
We entered the building and the receptionist told us to proceed to the conference room. That an important meeting was taking place there now.
We had to take the elevator.
Entering the conference room, we joined others just in time before the Manager started his speech. I looked around for Damian, he was nowhere to be seen. Is he okay?
“Good morning everyone. I called you all here today because of a very important announcement that I want to make. As you all know, it’s been six months since this company started its operations in Nigeria and so far we can boast of becoming one of the best in our field. This is because of everyone in this room today who has worked his or ass off to help support and move this company. You deserve some accolades.” There was an applause.
“Well, today I want to introduce to us the man behind the mask in this company. The reason why we are all here, the owner and CEO of this very company. Please help me welcome Dr Damian Okechukwu!”
At that instant, Damian my Damian walked in through the door and went to the podium. He looked different, too different that I wouldn’t have been able to recognise him if I didn’t look closer.
He was putting on a black suit and tie, a new hairstyle adorned his head giving him the look of a 20-year old CEO!
I was shocked. Everyone was. How? When? Where? That was what was going through everyone’s mind at the moment. No one expected this at the very least! Our own gateman was the CEO of this company? Wow!
The manager continued his speech. “Damian, as we all know has been our gate man, for two weeks now. He came into the country not too long ago and decided to start working from the very least position here for two weeks. He wanted to get to understand everyone here as he believes that will help him perform better as the CEO and Managing Director of this company. He also ha—”
At this point, I wasn’t listening anymore. So this was the surprise Damian talked about. What’s gonna happen now? Definitely we are not even on the same level. Will he even want to see me again? Does he still like me? Was this all a game? Was he using me to while away time or something? Oh God, how can I even face him after this? How can—?
A message dropped on my phone.
I opened it.
“Hey Chinyere, surprised? Well sorry I couldn’t tell you earlier. Wanted it to be a suprise. What do you say we go grab some dinner today? I still have one more surprise for you. Winks.”
I looked up and he was smiling at me. He winked, I started blushing and dropped my face on the ground.