Written by Mauryn Okunga
“I’m happy you stayed behind, Maureen. Please take a seat,” John says as soon as I am at his office door.
There is something different about his tone which I can’t quite figure out, but I keep smiling. My mind as usual plays several scenarios of how this meeting will end. I wonder whether I should seduce him. He seems like such an easy lay but his lips tell of a long relationship with tobacco or something along those lines.
I choose the seat farthest from his desk. From where I am, I have a clear view of his office and his body posture. Body language is important after all.
In one corner of his desk is a picture of two little boys. Could they be his sons, nephews? He has neither a wedding band nor a picture of a female anywhere in his office. Everything else on his desk is organized. I could almost swear they are colour coded.
“Do you always drift off when someone is talking to you?” John says, pulling me back to the meeting.
“Uh um, I am very sorry Sir. It has been a very strange first day and my nerves seem to be having a panic party today.”
Truth is, I am not sure how I’ll manage daily progress reports, early mornings and late evenings at office.
“Please keep your day dreams at bay for at least thirty minutes from now. I don’t plan on keeping you longer than that here.” The calmness in his voice sounds forced but I ignore it.
“See Maureen, I always interview everybody before they are accepted onto my team. You came by when I was engaged with a family emergency.”
He is married…
“However, everyone on the panel says you were the best candidate. You somehow managed to wow everyone yet here you are, travelling miles away in thought when you should be present with me.”
His hand is up in a flash to shush me before I can say sorry. I lean back into the chair, and take a deep silent breath.
“I could make or break you. And that is not a threat. I suggest you keep your wits around you the moment you walk into the university gates every morning. Whatever extracurricular activities your mind conjures up should remain under your pillow each morning. Pick them up when you get back home.”
John speaks with his hands too. They go higher or swing about faster when he’s putting emphasis on an issue.
I watch him in silence, even when he has stopped talking. He has made it clear that he is the boss and wants to be treated as such. All should be well for me if I do as he pleases.
“Sir, what is a normal day like around here?” I finally ask, a question that seems to tip him off balance, softening his demeanour a little.
Thirty minutes later, when the meeting that had turned out to be a tirade about rules, regulations and commands ended, I was none the wiser as to whether John will be an ally or whether I will have to really work hard at this job.
I am not lazy. I could have found a job much earlier on in life. Matter of fact, I sat for a job interview before my graduation although my soon to be boss at MZ & Associates wanted another interview on the carpet.
I had heard stories of bosses soliciting or even demanding sex from desperate job applicants, in exchange for juicy work positions. I needed the job just because it was the right thing to do. My Mom would’ve appreciated a new pair of shoes and my little brother who had recently joined secondary school, would’ve loved an extra packet of biscuits on visitation day. My virginity, was, however too precious to get soiled by a man I barely knew.
I politely but firmly told Mr. Byamugisha that I would not sleep with him for a job and thanked him for the interview opportunity. He must have taken that as a challenge because he casually said I’d passed the interview for the position of receptionist.
“But if you change your mind about…you know, the position of Personal Assistant to the CEO will still be available,” she said, winking at me.
I didn’t care for the benefits that came with the PA position, so I started work as a receptionist while I waited for graduation and my official transcript.
For a whole 15 days, I worked at MZ & Associates until a client - Alexander Prince - swept me off my feet. I didn’t care that he was a foreigner with a strange accent. I didn’t care that he seemed a decade older than me. I knew the moment he walked into our office that mid-morning, that we had a future together.
His eyes were sharp but kind. He had this Hollywood aura around him that could get the toughest of nuns melting in an instant in the Antarctica. He was polite to a fault. I remember walking him to Mr. Byamugisha’s office with a light step and hanging around until Mr. Byamugisha ordered me back to my work station.
The next time Alexander came to office, he asked for my name and a phone number. I had a name but no phone number. He laughed and asked if I had time for a cup of coffee after my shift ended. Of course I did.
Mr. Byamugisha must have noticed my affection for Alexander, because three days after the Alexander invasion, he called me to his office and terminated my contract. He claimed it was due to my “incompetence” and the fact that I was not really a graduate. It was almost audit time and there was no way he was going to explain away an unqualified employee to the auditors. All this he said in the presence of a very sympathetic-looking HR officer.
While the HR officer went back to get my severance cheque ready, Mr. Byamugisha told me why he was really firing me. Alexander Prince!
He told of his disgust at how smitten I looked whenever Alexander walked into office. He wasn’t going to look on while a foreigner took what was meant to be his. However, if I stopped seeing Alexander, he would find me another job at a friend’s law firm.
The HR officer walked in at that moment before I could put Mr. Byamugisha in his place.
That would be my first and last job for many years.
Look out for Part III of the diary next Friday. Thank you for passing by.