REMEMBERING HELL

The thought of searching for a new job sapped him of energy, and filled his breathing space with steel. He remembered the hell before he got this lost job. The office doors he had knocked on, the patronising looks of saucy secretaries, the curt dismissals of half-educated managers, the false sincerity of relations (‘I will call you as soon as I hear anything’… ‘If only you studied accountancy!’); the mocking concern of the neighbours—‘You never get work?’ ‘I am still looking around’, bastard!

Now, he would be lonely as failure has no neighbourhood. People would pity him, and attempt minute conversations but he would be alone in his joblessness, bored with life, dissatisfied; then he would bow with frustration, then helplessness, then self-loathing; at this stage he would contemplate suicide more than once. He wouldn’t kill himself, not physically. But he would die, become invisible, shut out on his grave of failure. Like a corpse, he would drag his carcass to the construction site where a thousand youths were assembled, craws sharpened, ready to kill for one of the twelve slots to carry blocks; he would work if, luckily, the foreman was an ex-classmate.

‘Never again,’ he said aloud. He was walking on a busy street. ‘I will never allow that,’ he said even louder. Let them think I am mad, fools!

For the second or third time in his life he wished for the quick gratification of alcohol, he wished he could just stuff his troubles in the oceanic storehouse of drunkenness and forget it for hours, for a night, for now. But he couldn’t even if he wished. He didn’t have the money and he didn’t have the courage to sideline his woes for a minute—what if he returned to his senses and his woes had wrecked him?

He turned and began to walk back the way he came. He would go back to the newsroom and ponder in solitude for a moment or two, think reasons into his being. He wouldn’t go home now, the dreariness and bleak atmosphere in the house would maim him. No, he would go to his working place and be. He would sleep there if he had to.

James was angry to see Celine in the newsroom. She sat at her desk, a beautiful image,  sweating over a piece of paper she was writing on.

‘What are you doing here?’ He couldn’t hide his anger.

‘Sorry, I will soon leave your father’s house for you.’ She didn’t look up.

He turned to go.

‘James.’

The ice-cold of the call stopped him. He turned. ‘What is it?’

‘What is on your mind?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You know what I mean, James, you have something eating away your heart. Share it. A problem half-shared is a problem solved.’

He nearly smiled at her corruption of the ageless idiom. He unleashed his own cliché. ‘You won’t understand.’

‘Try me.’ She urged. ‘Does it have to do with your meeting with the editor?’

He looked at her. This girl was no fool. Of course not many of his colleagues believed him when he said the editor had only called to congratulate him over the impressive sale of the last edition. But not dull Celine, Celine shouldn’t have a clue!

‘Talk to me, boy.’

He didn’t mind the boy. He sat down and unburdened his heart in her ears. Talking to her was the guise to recounting the whole mess to himself, making sure, erecting bricks of reality in a fantastic yarn. He told her everything, nearly everything, how he suffered before he got this job, the pressures at home, the uncertainty, the absence of employment electrons inside of him to run the search for jobs. ‘Heck, I am thirty-two and should be talking about raising a family,’ he concluded.

She didn’t say anything for a long moment, and he sat, hunched on his desk, depressed, chewing himself and hating the vulnerability that he had opened himself to; one doesn’t tell one’s colleague everything or nearly everything; one…

She placed an affectionate hand on his shoulder. ‘I think I have something for you.’

He looked up, suspicious. ‘What?’

‘Let’s go talk in my place.’

He began saying no, indeed he did say no but didn’t say it out. The firm plea in her eyes stopped him, and the innocence in her face demanded obedience from him. But there was something dubious about her innocence, something worrying, like a warning…

‘Come.’

He stood up and followed her out.

Tweets to @Oke4chukwu .

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