In Bits of Forever, Part IV.

Written by Mauryn Okunga

I can perform my tasks at UT with eyes closed. Everything is routine. From the early morning briefing in John's office before work officially starts, the lunchtime recap of who counselled what kind of students, the afternoon of more work, to the whispered plans in washrooms when it clocks 5pm.

The money I get at the end of the month can barely cater for my expenses. There are just a few furniture and personal effects I’ve bought in the past three months. But I still dream of filling up my two-roomed rented apartment with fancy stuff. That’s probably why I show up every morning at UT and leave after all my team mates have long gone.

I miss the soft life and extra pocket money from my previous forevers, but the satisfaction of knowing that everything I have wasn’t acquired lying on my back, keeps me going.   

***

Today is different. My contract is up for review. I’ll know in an hour whether I have been excelling in the past two years, or if I’ll be thrown back into a life of joblessness.

Suddenly I’m thinking of options. Would I offer a bit of myself if John decides he wants to be my forever in exchange for renewing my contract? I have caught him ogling at my boobs more than once. He surely must be attracted to my body. Would I have to go back to living off pockets of random heavy pocketed men? 

“Dear Lord, this job is not the ultimate but I need it,” I silently mumble as I leave home.

As soon as I walk into office, a meeting to decide my fate is convened. The meeting is done in less than 30 minutes and I dash to the washroom to catch my breath.

In the washroom, I congratulate my reflection in the mirror as the news of my promotion to Assistant Manager in my department, sinks in. The meeting was the perfect definition of surreal. The Managing Director praised the reports he'd received about me from eighty percent of the staff and said the Board had seconded my promotion, and a pay raise. 

A part of me must have died of sweet surprise at the meeting because my response to the news of my promotion and the praises that followed, were too calm. I requested to remain in the current office, and for my promotion not to be announced to other staff members. John’s open-mouthed surprise at my request nearly got me giggling. He looked at me like I was a rare species that must have survived extinction from poachers.

‘Maureen!” The receptionist called from outside the washroom door, “There are two students waiting for you. Hurry up!”

I’m taken aback by the curtness.  Clearly she hasn’t got the memo of my promotion. But because I decided to keep my new title hidden, I ignore the order in her voice and dash out.

There indeed are two students waiting for me. One of them needs guidance on what subjects to major in and the other – Christian - is making a statement.

Christian is one of the very first students I counselled when I’d just joined UT. He’d walked in just after I had finished talking to a disgruntled parent. I almost asked to reschedule his session but something about his body and eyes made me re-consider.

He slumped into his seat and kept wringing his hands, his eyes fixed on his feet all through the session. He was barely audible. His girlfriend of three years had just aborted their baby and with it, the relationship. He was devastated.

I recommended a counselling session with a qualified psychiatrist because my area of expertise is course and subject choices, not emotional and relationship battles. But he pleaded and told me how everybody at UT thought I was a good listener and problem solver.

He was contemplating dropping out of his Master’s class because life didn’t mean anything after the loss of his baby and girlfriend. He went on and on and I listened. It was the end of day and apart from my empty apartment, I had no one waiting for me. By the end of the session, he was willing to give school and life another chance. I indulged him further by letting him talk about his girlfriend.

The more he talked about her, the more his tensed-up body relaxed. We talked about forgiveness and expectations. By the time we were done with the session, he’d made eye contact and smiled.

As he left my office, he stopped momentarily at the door, turned, and winked at me.

***

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