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!”
“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!