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.

***

Thank you for reading us. Check on us again next week on Friday! Share, and let us know what you think about this diary. 

Written by Mauryn Okunga

Xander turned out to be a perfect lover.

He was sad that I’d lost my very first job because of him; however, he was relieved that he didn’t have to share me with the world since no one else was walking in on me at the reception.

We travelled all over Africa but never to another continent. At the time, it didn’t matter. I had him whenever I needed him. He paid all my bills and more. I had a stipend for my old folks and enough to spend on my friends.

Xander introduced me to the world I’d only read in Mills & Boon novels. He also introduced me to all tribes of liquor. Partying all night and sleeping all day became a norm for me whenever he was in town.

When we started talking about life beyond forever, I never wanted what we had to end. Then it did. Xander was re-assigned to another continent. He was going to Asia. He tried to get me a visa to travel with him but fate was against us. There was no reason strong enough for any European or Asian country to allow me into their land. Xander was no longer ready for marriage and the forever we had talked about.

That Sunday morning, when he boarded the plane to his next destination, we both knew we were saying the final goodbye. He took my forever with him aboard a Malaysian Airways. I was devastated to say the least.

***

My best friend Susan dragged me to party after party, introduced me to man after man. I don’t remember how many colours, shapes and sizes of men she threw my way. But none of them was Xander. I had to do something drastic when I was confronted by the rent bill.  Su was no longer an option. Instead of lending me money for rent (which she could afford), she left me at a restaurant with a man old enough to be my father.

I had to accept that there was only one Xander but bills had to be paid somehow.

Sserumaga had the energy of five juvenile horses. It’s a wonder my hip bones never got dislocated. His money was a welcome relief but there was no genuine affection coming through. I quickly learned that we were a means to an end for each other. His conjugal rights had been withdrawn by his wife for a reason I didn’t care for, while I needed my bills paid.

With Sserumaga came others. Much as his wallet was deep enough for my bills, I needed some semblance of affection. So, I hunted when he was away at work. I easily got bored with my catches. None of them got close to Xander. I dated ministers, sons of permanent secretaries, top businessmen but kept my Sserumaga. He never asked questions and never expected questions.

Well, that was until one of my younger forevers over-dozed on cocaine in my apartment. I never used any drugs but never stopped anyone from using. Matter of fact, I had dealers’ numbers saved in my phonebook, just in case my people were out of supply.

On the fateful day that Josh over-dozed in my apartment, Su’s phone was conveniently off. I had to either do something drastic and quick or watch Josh die in my presence. I called Sserumaga and gave him an abridged version of what was happening. He came with a doctor and Josh was taken away.

I never saw Josh again and never heard from Sserumaga. He never sent me my weekly stipend and wouldn’t answer my phone calls or reply my text messages. He stopped showing up at his usual bars and hotels. I missed him. No. I missed being taken care of. I later learnt that Josh was Sserumaga’s first born. I was glad he didn’t chop off my head for doing both father and son.

On one of my Sserumaga stalking nights, I met Eva. She saw me sitting by myself and barely touching my drink. She walked up to me and struck up a conversation. She was a fun girl to talk to. She invited me to her table from where she was waiting for her bae. We talked and laughed like old girlfriends. Eva’s bae showed up and I had to excuse myself. We exchanged numbers and I went home where I called Su and told her all about Eva. Su wasn’t amused because she knew Eva as a bad girl around the hood. I was happy that night so I didn’t pay heed to Su’s insecurities.  

Eva and I became inseparable, that is how I ended up with her stepfather, Mugisha aka George Mason. The guy with a perfect set of teeth!

By the time I started searching for a job, Mugisha had threatened all sorts of violence against me. He was an obsessive and stingy lover. Eva had to threaten him with a police case for sexual harassment (he’d abused her when he married her mother) before he backed off. 

***

So, here I am at UT University, with a boss whose intentions are ambiguous to say the least and clients I am scared of. To think that at one point I might have to meet more than half of the 3,000 student population, is a difficult reality to face.

*

Thank you for reading us! Part IV will come out next Friday. Don't miss! Tell a friend, share the story and let us know your thoughts. 

 

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.”

“I’m so…”

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.

 

Written by Mauryn Okunga

I sat opposite the minister. Not opposite opposite but one table away. I fidgeted with my bottle of water, trying to peel the polythene wrap on the lid, without much success.

I stole glances at him and cursed under my breath why he couldn’t be a gentleman, bring his a** over to my table and do the needful!

When he eventually got up and started towards my direction, I sighed in relief.

Well, hello! What took you so long!

I wore my most timid face as he smiled, sweetly at me.

Up close, Minister Mugisha wasn’t as good looking as he does from his pictures in the newspapers. But there was a kindness in his eyes. His wedding band was missing that day. Strange, given that Red Pepper had recently branded him a family man.

“Here you go miss.”

“Thank you sir.”

I smiled coyly at him.

“Do you mind if I sit here while I wait for my daughter?” he asked, taking the seat next to mine before I could say yes. “She seems to be running late and she is never late,” he added, apprehension in his voice.

This is going better than I thought.

“Please sit, sir. We could even share my water just like they share cock in those TV crazy commercials.”

He laughed and I stopped thinking, staring at his sparkly teeth.

**

“Maureen, do you get my point?”

The voice of my new boss yanked me from my day dream, back to office. It was my first day at work, after five years of joblessness. I am employed as a counsellor of students who are just baking their future as they navigate life at UT University.

I had spent the last years living off pockets of other people, people like minister Mugisha, who helped me sail through joblessness without feeling the pinch. But the last few months had been hard! The meaning of BROKENESS sank in, deep.

By the time I got this job, debt had comfortably lapped me up to knee level.

My boss John is going on and on about the importance of eye contact and the right body language, but I’m thinking about minister Mugisha’s white teeth and the dozens of phone calls I’ll get from debtors once they learn about my new job.

“Yes sir,” I said.  

“Listen to the clients until they are done talking and encourage them to talk more,” he continued.

“We should however never give them the illusion that they have the whole day in our office. Much as they are our priority, there are others in the queue, so we have to close each counselling session without rushing through it, but in the shortest possible time,” I added, slowly.  

“That’s it. That’s it.” 

My boss then proceeded to explain how the documentation process works, who reports to who, the timelines for each activity…but in my mind I was at Tipsy Restaurant once again, with minister Mugisha.

Remembering his smile and how it melted my knees, made me realise why Eva had persistently pushed me to her step father’s arms. I have a thing for perfect white teeth and deep, smiling eyes that speak more than mouths. Eva always joked about how I must have been a dentist in my previous life or a toothbrush.

“My name is George. George Mason,” he said.

Liar! I almost blurted out, but I played along.

 “Nice to meet you George.”

“Nice to meet you. And, I am sorry for invading your space but my daughter seems to be taking her time getting here yet I have a meeting in two hours. It’s her birthday,” he said, the thought bringing out a smile to his face again.

“Really? That’s so nice…”

“She made me promise to take her shopping for a new gadget whose name I can’t seem to remember,” he said, laughing. I laughed with him.

Well, your name is not George Mason but you will be for now. And your daughter Eva will not show up because she is busy with her bae Peter. I know that because she told me where you’d be. Your daughter spoke so highly of your generosity and right now, I could use that.

“My name is Maureen,” I smiled, holding out my hand to him. “I needed a drink so bad and this restaurant looked at me kindly so I walked in, only for the bottle of water to reject me! What would I have done if you hadn’t rescued me?”

He laughed, and I think I saw him blush too. My knees got weak again, but I needed to focus. His teeth were distracting me from my mission. His teeth! And not only did he laugh with his teeth, he laughed with his eyes too. Lord!

“Well Maureen, what do you do for a living?”

“I work with people. I talk to people for a living.”

“Huh! Are you some sort of counsellor?”

“In a way, yes. It’s a hobby. I love listening to people talk. I love making up my own stories from the stories people tell me about themselves.”

“Interesting. What other hobbies do you have? You seem to be my daughter’s age, quite young and yet you speak so…very articulate.”

“Thank you. My hobbies, hmmm they vary. So varied, I sometimes want to disown myself and move to another universe where I would not have to look at myself ever!”

He laughed.

“See, you are laughing at me already. Would you like some soda?”

“Let’s have some food instead while you tell me about your varied hobbies,” he offered, calling the waitress for a menu.

**

“So, that’s it for today’s briefing,” John said, tapping my table hard enough to yank me back to office again.

“My extension is 105, do not hesitate to call or walk into my office if you have any issue.”

“Okay sir, thank you.”

“Please call me John. And, stay back for a few minutes after work, okay?”

Lord! Am I in trouble on my first day at work?

“Dear Lord, I need this job more than I need my next draw of oxygen. Please let him keep me here. I need this job,” I silently mumbled a prayer.

I also need a new bit of forever. My previous forevers had not lasted as long as they were meant to. The next one needs to last longer.

When the clock struck 5 pm, I dashed to the washroom to freshen up my face. Took a deep breath and walked into John’s office, wearing my most gentle smile, giving him my deepest, gentlest gaze.

**

Look out for Part II of the series on Friday, next week. Thank you for reading us! 

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