I turned the card in my hand repeatedly looking at the name and all the phone numbers on it. I only wish I could read something on it other than what was printed on it. Unfortunately, the e-mail addresses and phone numbers said nothing to me. The driver finally handed me his phone and he still did not say anything to me. He was mute as a statue and I wished he would at least hum a tune so that I would… I did not know what I would do. I dialled the first number on the card and a woman picked it up sounding very polite as she transferred my call to his office.
“Good afternoon sir”, I said.
“It’s me Tokunbo.”
“Yes, go on”, he sounded distracted.
“I’d take the job sir.”
“Oh yes, the job. I knew you would make a wise decision. Alright dear, give the phone to the driver”, he said. This man must be very forgetful I thought as I handed the phone to its owner, pointing to indicate the boss was still on the line. He answered in monosyllables and finally dropped the call. Then he spoke to me for the first time since I entered the car.
“Let’s go”, he said shortly and stepped out of the car.
“Thank you for letting me use your phone but where are we going?”, I asked without standing. I didn’t grow up without Lagos sense in my head! He just stood watching me till I finally stood up from the car.
“Canteen”, he answered finally with a look of impatience. I closed the car door and I didn’t see him press a remote but I only heard a ‘click’ sound. This was the first time in my life that I stepped into a private car. All my life I had hopped buses but it didn’t bother me.
“Oga won’t you lock the doors?” I asked as I trailed behind him.
He did not reply as he walked in front of me unhurriedly. Alright, I told myself, I would ask no further questions. He did not appear hostile nor did he appear friendly and I could not place him. He also did not talk a lot maybe just when necessary. We got to the canteen and he picked a table at the farthest corner. As soon as I sat he stood up to get food and I tapped my foot under the table praying that he would not order beans as part of my food. Thankfully he got me rice and plantain with beef and I said a silent prayer in my head. We ate in silence and returned to the car to wait for the boss.
The kind old Samaritan strolled to the car and I had the opportunity to observe his features. He had a pot belly that made his buba and sokotofit. I sat in front on the drive to my new house abi oga’s house praying that I was safe. The driver clipped my seat belt which was foreign to me and I held on to it tightly for fear that it would choke me. I saw him smile from the corner of my eyes for the first time and I turned my head to look outside the window till we got to the house. I waited outside while the boss went in and he sent for me shortly after.
“Good afternoon Madam”, I greeted with a curtsey. She looked at me from head to toe before responding.
“Afternoon dear. How are you?” she asked. She was well dressed in light pink lace and her dress was shining with studs. Her perfume was sweet too and I smiled as she gave me the once over.
“Go and drop your bag in the first room by your left just down that hall. I’m waiting for you here”, she pointed and I left them alone.
I was wondering what to make of her. She looked distant and yet I was not so sure. I knew she was going to interview me.
“What is your name?” she asked when I had returned.
“Tokunbo Toromagbe ma.” For sure her husband must have told her but I did not turn to see the expression on his face as he sat watching quietly.
“How old are you? Have you done this kind of work before?” she asked before I could answer.
“I’m twenty-two. I have not ma but I can work.”
“What kind of work did you do before now?”
I hung my head because I did not want to see the expressions on their face. “I sold ewa agonyi in my area.”
She was quiet and when she did not ask any other questions, I raised my head and found them staring at each other. “Come closer”, she finally said.
I moved close to her and my palms where sweaty where they were folded behind my back. I was confused when she stood up. She turned on the light on her phone although the lights in the parlour were all on.
“Open your mouth”, she said.
I stood watching her. “Are you deaf?” I opened my mouth and she examined my teeth, I wondered what she was looking for. Was she a doctor? Was she normal? I thought. When she was through inspecting my teeth, she looked at my face closely without comment while her husband still watched.
“Follow me”, she said when she had finished her inspection. She re-tied her wrapper as she went down the hall. She opened the room where I had dropped my bag and I closed the door behind me, standing close to it. She sat on the bed and I watched her movements wondering what she was going to do.
“Do you have any tattoos?”
“No ma”. This would count as a weird interview because I thought she was going to check my bag. I could leave the next morning since it was evening already, that is if I did not like it.
“Remove your scarf”, she instructed. I pulled it off and she just stared at me.
I wonder what she saw and then she stood up from where she sat on the bed and walked toward me. I thought she was going to touch my hair but she stretched a little above my shoulder to turn on the fan and sat back on the bed.
“Now I want you to remove your clothes”, she said so softly that I almost did not hear her. I shook my head. I must have walked into a horror movie…