On This Street, Part IV

Did you miss Part III? Read it here

*****

After rejuvenating for weeks, I counted the number of applications I had delivered to different offices. They were 14. I thought about following up on these letters. If I did, the first place I’d go to was Children’s Hope International, CHI, where Annah and I applied to work as volunteers before our friendship fell apart. 

Annah had assured me that we would get the job because her cousin was an accountant at the organization. She had a way with words. Soft spoken, tender and calm, Annah would lift your hopes even if you felt crushed. It was these traits that presented Annah as innocent and well-meaning. No wonder she fooled me for a long time. It must have been those same traits that made her boyfriend, Vince, strongly attached to her. Every time they broke up, they made up soon after, followed by a public make-up on social media with posts like “Taking care of my Queen”, accompanied by a picture of the two sharing an ice-cream or pork.

Whatever Annah swore upon never came to pass, but still, we believed her every word. So when Annah told me that her accountant cousin loved her very much and would give both of us the job, I believed her. “I only have to introduce you to her as my friend,” she said. That was before our end of semester exams.

That morning, I picked the 10,000 shillings my sister had entrusted me with for upkeep and used it to braid my hair. Using ‘second hand’ braids from my neighbor, the hair dresser used her talented hands to conceal my financial distress. The remaining task was to brave the hot afternoon sun to CHI. I reached CHI engulfed in my sister’s perfume and a pair of dusty legs. The irony was visible, if the look on the front desk lad’s face was anything to go by.

I asked to see the accountant since I couldn’t remember the name Annah had told me. She was either Lydia or Lillian. The receptionist showed me a metallic chair on which I sat as he disappeared in the hallway and returned shortly. Moments later, a giant appeared from the hallway and stood before me, his stare cold.

“Excuse me, he’s the accountant,” the receptionist said. I looked up at Mr. Gaint and informed him I wanted to see the female accountant.

“Lydia is no longer with us,” Mr. Giant said.

“I had sent my application through her sometime back, just in case you guys needed volunteers,” I replied, my palms sweaty.

Shaking his head vigorously, Mr. Giant, with a voice teeming with impatience and a tinge of anger, said, “An accountant is not in a position to influence human resource decisions. Neither Lydia nor I can do it”.

As if to emphasize that there is no hope for me in that place, he rapped further, “The volunteers recruited will start work next week. They are concluding their training in...”  

“Thank you, goodbye,” I cut in and got up to leave.

“G! G!” a male called out when I was about to step out the door. Finally someone knows me in this place! It was Ian. We were course mates at university. He was running towards me from the washroom side, his wet hands emitting a fragrance that must have been Aloe Vera hand wash.

“You look good! Where have you been hiding?”

“Oh Ian, I’m still jobless,” I said, trying to keep my voice even.

“But you’re sharp G. How come you’re still doing nothing?”

Noticing the irritation on my face, he slowed down. “Anyway, sometimes you need someone to push you somewhere,” he said.

“Do you have something permanent here?” I inquired.

“Not really, volunteering. Work starts next week,” he responded.

“How did you get the deal?”

“My uncle stood for me. He’s the accountant here.”

“The tall fat guy?” I asked.

“Yes!”

Ian suddenly held my hand, pulled me back towards the reception area, saying I should go say hello to his uncle. I said no, and didn’t bother to tell him my earlier encounter with his uncle. How would Mr. Giant react if he saw me with Ian, knowing well what he told me minutes earlier?

Plus, with Ian, anything was possible because he talked too much and asked a billion questions. By the time you are half way with an answer, he would have asked three more questions. I told him I was in a hurry.

Ian looked genuinely happy to see me but my happiness to see him lasted only a while. I had to mask my jealousy well so that he wouldn’t notice it.  Ian was a very jolly and helpful young man. But he was very dull too, perhaps the reason he asked so many questions. He was always the last to understand anything in class. Each time he sought to participate during lectures, the class burst out in laughter before he uttered a word. We all knew his bizarre points of view.

But when he graduated with a CGPA of 3.78, we were all surprised. It must have been luck; but his character could have worked in his favour too. He never ignored anyone in need. Word had it that he washed utensils for his sick roommates and one day he missed a test because he was taking care of his roommate’s mother! Where was the roommate? He was too drunk to take care of his mother on a Wednesday.

It was such kindness that took Ian places. Students revised his course works before submission, some even sat tests for him. How this happened under the watchful eyes of the lecturers, no one in our class could explain.

And there I was, supposedly brilliant but without a job, money, genuine friends or connections. I said goodbye to Ian, my head heavy with thought, my heart bleeding for my future, and my dusty feet aching.

End

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