Against The Tide (Episode 1)

Remember the story by Sifa, You’re The Boss (Read Here), about a Nigerian girl in a relationship with her boss, who is a white man? Well, this is a part of that story . . . from the point of view of the white man boss. Enjoy.

*

Moving to Nigeria had never been part of my original plan. As much as I wanted to travel the world and perhaps even do a stint in Africa, I always thought it would be South Africa or Kenya . . . not Nigeria. But that is where I found myself. I had been sent, courtesy of the Union Jack and in service to Her Majesty, to a non-governmental organization in partnership with the Nigerian government.

Thus I began work with a sense of trepidation. I suppose I did well enough at my new workplace and soon learned the ‘Naija’ way of doing things. One was expected to attend rather tedious meetings and launchings; all of which I did with aplomb. One thing I did learn to enjoy were Nigerian parties, especially weddings. They could be atrociously loud and in many ways disorganized but the merriment was infectious and the food spicy and piquant.

I also found a few stray Brits and other Europeans to spend some of my free time (when I had any) with, stopping by the British Club for a pint or two after work. Some of them were tiresome to hang around with but I felt it was worth having a laugh or two.

About six months into my stay in Nigeria, my Personal Assistant, Mrs. Ogundipe, had to resign for personal reasons and I was more or less left stranded. I needed a PA and I needed one fast! Suitable applicants were rounded up and expected to turn up for interviews, which for me was annoying as I have always hated conducting interviews. I spent three days interviewing candidates and was not particularly struck by any of them.

I was starting to get rather despondent. Then she turned up.

I knew she was different from the moment Aisha walked in the door. Taller than average, with short dark hair, makeup tastefully applied and well fitted trouser suit, she commanded attention as she walked in. Her obvious self confidence wasn’t a deterrent, quite the contrary. She extended her hand and greeted me with a rather clipped “Good afternoon, sir. My name is Aisha Chittuh and I…” and she went on and on.

Not that I paid much attention. She was easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen; her skin, the color of warm mocha seemed to shimmer as she moved. I felt like someone had reached into my gut and yanked hard. I  don’t think I really heard her rattle off her qualifications because as far as I was concerned, she already had the job. I know it wasn’t ‘ethical’ of me to hire someone based on an instant appraisal, so to speak. I make no attempt to justify my decision. I just knew I wanted to be near her.

And so she began work as my Personal Assistant. To be honest, I think I spent the first few weeks calling for her to ‘run errands’ for me just so I could see her. She was extremely efficient and so I felt as though I could easily feel justified in hiring her. The truth is that even if her skill stopped at being able to do the polka in a hooped skirt with an eye patch, I still would have found a way to have her near me.

I was quite aware of the fact that as an ‘oyinbo’, there were perks that came with my life, one of them being my ability to attract women, not for my looks and charisma (if indeed I possessed any), but based on the illusion of a life of ease ‘abroad’, well lubricated by ‘endless cash flow’. At least this was what I was told by my fellow foreigners.

“These girls will do anything to get a white guy,’ Graham, one of my fellow Brits, said as he gulped down yet another beer on one of our regular ‘boys’ outings at the bar in Nicon Luxury Suites. Graham was a large fellow, built like a rugby player with a nose so crooked it looked like a tap. He quite fancied himself a lady’s man and felt that he was irresistible to all the women in Abuja.

His comment was met with raucous laughter and he took it as a cue to continue. “Now mind you, I’m not complaining because these natives really are quite…interesting if you catch my drift, mate. I’m not against having fun with them. We’re men, after all and you know that saying, ‘the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice’” He leaned over toward me with a leering glint in his eye.

I felt like retching, and I wasn’t sure if it was due to his sour breath or his equally sour comments.

“Ja,” countered Hans. “Vell, I think the girls here are very nice and very friendly and –”

“Oh yes, they are indeed very friendly.” Graham laughed at his own joke, his innuendo clear.

Hans pinched his lips together.

“All the Nigerian girlfriends I’ve had have been great and I haven’t had any problems,” said Jack, a soft-spoken and mild-mannered American.

“Nice? Of course they’re great…until they get their claws into you. They’ll do things to you that you’ve only dreamed of and then they swoop in for the kill. Most of them are gold diggers, you know…”

“Have you ever considered that maybe only you attract that kind? We’ve got gold diggers everywhere, Graham, even in England.” I don’t really know why I felt I had to respond, but I did.

“Come off it, mate,” he said, flinging his hand in a dismissive gesture. “You can’t say you’ve never had a go at one of them before. Like that pretty piece you’ve got in your office.”

I felt my face go hot at his insinuation. Graham was starting to irritate me in no small way.

“No, I haven’t had one of them before and especially not Aisha. She’s my PA and nothing more. Besides, I don’t have a problem having a relationship with someone outside my race.”

“Oh, Aisha, is it? A relationship outside your race, is it? You needn’t be so bloody politically correct, mate. It’s just us boys here. As for your Aisha…it’s only a matter of time before you sample the goods. My advice to you is that when you’re done, toss it and don’t look back. And when that time comes, do let me know so I can be there to…er, ’comfort’ her.”

I felt my brows furrow in disapproval and noticed Hans give me a look, shaking his head almost imperceptibly. I left soon after, making a mental note to stay as far away from Graham as I could.

I thought about Graham’s comments as I looked at her when she came into my office to sort out some issue or other. Was she really like he had described Nigerian women to be? Was I a closet racist without knowing it? Was that even possible? Did I have some sort of superiority complex I wasn’t aware of? Was my attraction to her truly some sort of hidden ‘Tarzan and Jane’ fantasy?

As an aside: there are times in life when one steps over the threshold of the mundane into the extraordinary. Many times those incidents slip by almost unnoticed by all but a few people. Only a select few take the time to realize that season in their lives and can fully grasp its importance and then seize the moment.

One day, that moment came and it was a ‘now or never, speak or forever hold your peace, Mark’ moment. She was about to leave my office after picking something up and I spoke. “Aisha…what do you do after work during your free time…for leisure?”

She stopped looking through her sheaf of papers, and turned her incredible eyes straight at me. For a moment I regretted asking her that. It was unethical, yet again. I made a mental note to myself: I really must learn to be more careful or I could get myself in professional hot water.

Her eyebrows came together in concentration and she hesitated before responding. “Uhm…well, when I’m not at home or doing some church activity, I hang out with my friends.”

“Oh really?” I asked with feigned nonchalance.

Aisha looked at me and then she smiled slowly. “Yes…Why do you ask, Sir?”stock-footage-lovers-holding-hands-in-bed

I had no answer. I felt my face flame up and my eyes widened just a little bit, but not enough, I’m sure, to hide my discomfort. I was mortified. Here I was, a fully grown man – stiff upper lipped British gent no less – and I was blushing like a school boy. I looked down at my laptop screen in a bid to let the light from the screen hide my embarrassment. “Err…no reason. Just curious.”

She looked at me with a hint of disbelief and then shrugged as she walked out.

The rest of the day went quickly and soon enough it was time to close. I decided to drive myself home. I needed to think and I thought that would help me clear my mind. As I approached the car park, I saw Aisha standing there, looking agitated.

“What’s wrong? Why are you still here?” I asked her, a little patronizingly, I admit.

“My car is at the workshop and my friend who was to pick me up called to say she’d be late.”

“I’ll give you a lift home then,” I said without thinking. She hesitated. I decided to cover my tracks. “Or you could just stay here and wait for goodness-knows-how long if you’d prefer. It’s all the same to me.” I excused my flippant tone, reasoning that a man has to have some Alpha male pride and not appear too keen.

She shook her head and I reached over to open the door. We were out of the office complex and right smack in the middle of Abuja traffic soon enough. I asked her where she lived and she murmured a reply. It was almost at the opposite side of town from where I lived.

“I hope it’s not out of your way, sir,” she said quietly.

“No…well, I have someone to see there anyway so I’ll drop you off before then.” Lie. Big lie. I seemed to have formed quite the habit in the previous half hour. It would take me at least 30 minutes to get from side of town to mine but I didn’t mind.

“Sir, really you could just drop me off at the next junction and I’ll find my way.”

“Nonsense,” I said, putting on my best haughty British impression. “I said I would drop you off and I will keep my word.”

Keep my word? I couldn’t believe I had just delivered an archaic line from historical romance novel.

She smiled, thanked me and turned her head to look out of the window. We were silent for some time, she with her eyes closed and leaning back, probably in fatigue, and me wondering what in the blazes I had been thinking to offer my extremely appealing, velvet-skinned secretary/PA a lift home. And I couldn’t believe my brain had come up with the adjective ‘velvet-skinned’.

“Sir?” she said, hesitantly.

This ‘sir’ thing was starting to grate on my nerves. I had grown weary of hearing it all day long, everywhere I went. I disliked the obeisance and ingratiating way it was used to address me, as though I were some sort of pre-colonial lord. I especially hated hearing it from her, at least after working hours.

“We are no longer in the office, Aisha. You have permission to address me by my name, you know.” I was sounding more like a pompous fool with each sentence that came out of my mouth.

She chuckled. “Okay then, Mr. Callister. Sir.” I smiled and she continued to speak. “Uhm…there’s this place I buy wonderful suya just a few metres from where I live. Do you mind stopping so I could get some for dinner? I really don’t feel up to cooking this evening.”

Of course I didn’t mind and when we got there, I stopped. I sat in the car, windows rolled up and AC in full blast to combat the Abuja balmy weather; it was hot even in the evenings. She hopped out of the car and fairly danced to the suya stand. I couldn’t help but notice how curvaceous she was, not quite Venus de Milo, but more like an hourglass. What was it about Nigerian women that I found so totally engaging? They seemed to have some sort of spring to their step and an awareness of their innate appeal to the opposite gender; a confidence that shone for the outside world to see. Aisha was, to me, the epitome of that sort of beauty, everything about her vibrant and alive. I sometimes thought she was like a live wire buzzing with electricity. She was a woman in every sense of the word, reveling in her femininity with no hint of weakness in it.

She greeted the vendor and a few people around him as though they were old friends. I watched her laugh and gesture with her hands, her manner completely relaxed and carefree. This was a totally different side of her and I was intrigued by it, wanting to know more. She came into the car and the aroma of spicy, roasted meat filled the car interior. Then my stomach growled. Her eyes widened and she bit her lip to stifle a giggle.

If I thought I was embarrassed earlier on in the office, this sealed it. I realized then that I actually hadn’t eaten anything since my quick breakfast in the morning. She chuckled and raised her eyebrows, swinging the polythene bag on her forefinger.

“Hungry? Would you like to share some with me?” I started to refuse but she cut me off. “I’ll be very offended if you refuse. I’m Nigerian and we love to eat and drink with company.”

“Er…well, I suppose…I am a little, uhm,…”

“You’re starving,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone. She opened the bag, unrolled the paper and picked a piece up and ate it. I did the same.

In retrospect, I think she did it on purpose, just to gauge my reaction. I’m sure she got what she wanted because as soon as the meat landed on my tongue, my mouth burst into flames. My eyes widened and began to tear up; I coughed, gagged and started to breathe heavily. Somewhere in the throes of agony, I think I must have asked for water because she handed me some. I was vaguely aware of her laughter as I tried to put out the fire in my mouth, the roaring in my ears disguising all sounds in the car. After a while, when I was able to compose myself, I noticed she was chuckling.

“You did that on purpose,” I growled, my dignity washed away with the pepper in my mouth.

She shrugged. “Yes…yes, I did. And it was worth it. Are you going to sack me?”

I shook my head, smiling and still clearing my throat. “No…but I am still your boss…and you’re still coming to work tomorrow…and I will have my revenge,” I said in mock seriousness.

“No problem, sir.”

I dropped her off and that was that.

Written by Sifa Asani Gowon, blogger at http://sifushka.blogspot.com/

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19 Comments

  1. Maryann

     /  October 29, 2013

    Where is the spark o! When will it get to what I’m waiting for o!!

    Reply
  2. darlington

     /  October 29, 2013

    what happened next? what the heck happened next?

    Reply
  3. The thing is…

    The thing is.

    Okay. Next.

    Reply
  4. kachi

     /  October 29, 2013

    Ooohhhhmm!! Why did you have to leave the suspense there!? Of all places to end the story, there!!

    Reply
  5. elosiuba okechukwu

     /  October 29, 2013

    U stole my attention deliberately, nicely beating around the bush only to leave me hanging in the air…. Walter aw Cruel of you!!!

    Reply
  6. nik

     /  October 29, 2013

    safiya why did it have to hang there ?

    Reply
    • It doesnt end there: Walter just cut it in two. I guess he’ll put up the rest some other time. Oh and..er…it’s Sifa, not Safiya. 🙂

      Reply
      • nik

         /  October 30, 2013

        you know that feeling when you realize your spelling is wrong immediately you click the enter button? that is what happened.

  7. nice but I prefer them with a little pidgin.. too bad it’s a white’s perspective.

    must commend the writer. Black writing from a white’s point of view… as it should be. shows how versatile we are.

    anyways food wey go sweet go sweet no matter how e tey for fire.

    awaiting next episode

    Reply
  8. stotle

     /  October 29, 2013

    Nice write up…

    Reply
  9. Bella

     /  October 29, 2013

    Bia Walter,stop teasing….akpokwanu nke a gini? I go kii person ooo. Get on with the rest of the gist joor

    Reply
  10. Sifa Asani Gowon Nice o. Walter, why you cut the tori? E sweet o

    Reply
  11. Nurain

     /  November 6, 2013

    I like to call stories like this ‘3D stories.’ Clear in language and making me long for more.

    Reply
  1. Sifa Is ‘Playing By Her Rules’ In Her Upcoming Novel « MY MIND SNAPS
  2. Sifa Is ‘Playing By Her Rules’ In Her Upcoming Novel – My Mind Snaps

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