Talking is therapeutic for me. As I narrated my experience, it sounds like a story even to me but it calms my nerves. I tried to keep my mind on the road but it flashes past so fast that I cannot remember anything because the stretch of grassland looks the same. The man was nodding as I spoke, either out of pity or understanding or sage wisdom, I cannot tell. We took a turn off the major road at some point and I stopped talking. Was a bit scared since all I could see on both side of the street we were on were long metal gates with tall non-descript buildings behind them. I looked left and right so fast to try to gain a better understanding of my environment and I almost sprained my neck but the man was quiet. I wondered where we were since no noise could be heard through the closed windows except the soft hum of the engine.
“Please sir, where is this place?”, I asked with a little tremor in my voice.
“Ohh… I need to do a little office work first”, he said as if that explained it.
“Okay sir. Please I need a description on how to get to the park. I need to go if I am to go to Cotonou at all today.”
“Yes, the park”, he repeated as if he had forgotten why I was even in his car in the first place. I was beginning to move from gratitude for his help to anger gradually but I was working hard to make sure it did not show on my face. I realised I could not have walked the distance the car had just covered. I have never been sarcastic in my life and I believed (till now) that I did not have a sarcastic bone in my body but I was doubting that now. I had to clamp down on it so that it did not rear its head and I realised he was talking.
“… clear up a few things”, he concluded.
“I need to clear my desk for the week and I was wondering if you would like to work for me. My wife needs help around the house and you might like working for her but if not you are free to go. I know it is a lot to take in at once, you escaping and all that and then the offer of a job out of the blue”, he waved his hand dismissively and trailed off.
Thoughts of everything spun unbidden in my head. What if I was kidnapped by him? For the second time. I knew nothing about this man except that he had helped me get far away from where I was. What if he was making things up and he was a ritualist in reality? What if he was taking me to where I would be slaughtered? What if his wife was disagreeable? All the what ifs rioted in my head with no traffic warden to direct the flow. Why would he even offer me a job? It’s not like if he knew me and I was more familiar with struggling on my own than having to depend on someone which is what it would come to if I accepted the job. And then he voiced my fears.
“What if you don’t find your mother? I mean you have only a picture and a description of her last known address. What if you somehow find her and she doesn’t accept you?”, he paused to allow it sink in as if he found my search for my mother impossible. “Besides, it would take you a long time to find her with just a picture and I assume you are short on cash so consider this as an opportunity to make more money. You don’t have to accept but I would advice you to take the offer while it stands. I am not a ritualist nor a kidnapper. I won’t sell you out and I assure you that my intentions are honourable.”
He had addressed all my concerns before I had a chance to even ask. “Emm…can-“
“I can give you my business card if you want to think about it later”, he said as the gates to wherever we were opened and allowed us in.
I was going over all the options in my head as we manoeuvred into a marked parking space. This meant that he was a big man in the company if he could have a parking space clearly reserved for him even though the parking lot was filled with cars squeezed close together. The dashboard said it was 10:43 and if I did not hurry (if I was still to go), I had to make a decision. He sounded genuine and he had voiced my fears as if he knew what the trouble was. While I was debating, he opened the door on his side and stepped out of the car.
“Let me know when you have made a decision”, he said and closed the door behind him. I just sat there staring dumbly at the card he had given me. My head was aching gradually and after a while I noticed the driver had turned off the A.C and wound down the windows. He was giving me furtive glances through the mirror and I thought perhaps he was trying to tell me something. After a while of trying to avoid his gaze, I spoke.
“Please kindly let me use your phone”, I said with a sigh.