“Bead Work” by Caleb Adebayo
You are crazy. You are very crazy. You must be completely crazy to sit in that chair, so prim in this little office and listen to that woman hurl insults at you and your mother and do nothing. Just because you want a job? I am not crazy like you. I’m not. So I stand up to the woman sitting at the desk.
“Don’t you ever try that again. What nonsense! Who gives you the right to insult this woman and her mother?”
The woman shifts sideways to face me. She must wonder where I come from to be so daring. We have been sitting here for two hours. We’ve been waiting for this woman to check your file for a job at the Ministry of Environment.
You tug at my arm. You urge me to sit down, to let things calm down but I am not crazy like you. I won’t.
“How dare you?”
By now I have the attention of everyone in the room; some staff are sitting at the other end of the room in front of a computer and there are other people who have been waiting along with us. None of them interrupts. All eyes are on us. The woman stands up abruptly. She hurls fire with her eyes.
“Come on, onyeocha, who do you think you are? Are you the one looking for job, enh? I na nu kwa trouble!”
She claps her hands in mock excitement and lets out a short laugh.
“Now get out of my office. Get out!”
She looks over my head.
“’Next person, o!”
You are torn. This was a chance. At least you have gotten into the office. You plead. I hate that you are pleading. I hate that you look weak. You did nothing wrong. She was the one who hurled insults at your mother. Your mother Maami, the poor woman in the village who works so hard while you played hide and seek. You seek and government hides. You search and government jobs don’t come to you. I am infuriated. I’m angry at you and mad at the woman who can’t see us for what we have to offer.
“Anyway, that is how you all are.”
I’m trying to dismiss the woman by challenging her authority, by masking the fact that we are being kicked out.
“It’s my friend here that lets you insult her mother who should be blamed. Let’s get out of here, Temi.”
I take your hand and pull you, with your file and jacket and everything.
“Let’s go. You don’t need this.”
I hate government jobs. I hate government people. I hate thinking about the encounter I had at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There was no day I wasn’t at the ministry in those days, lugging files with me, pleading, making calls, sitting and waiting, sitting and waiting. And every moment I thought something positive was going to happen, someone would say there was an oga who had an oga whose hands would need to be greased before my file could move. My file never moved and I never got a study leave for Dada. But you say a government job is what you want so as to have time for your bead work. In the hallway, I pull you aside.
“You are crazy, you know that, right?’
You look at me like I am insane.
“Me? Did you have to shout like that? If anyone is crazy here, it is you. I’m the one who is looking for work, not you!”
You stop walking and face me.
“Do you know what you just did? You are just too…”
You sigh. You seem to be lost for words.
“Think, Temi. Think! Are you not the crazy one, sitting there and letting that woman insult Maami?”
“Those are just words. I don’t have to swallow them. Sometimes there are things you can take…sometimes. Just so you can get…”
I try to shut her down. It never works that way. If you don’t stand up to it one time, it just goes on. I just couldn’t let it go.
A woman approaches us, walking briskly. She is one of the other staff from the office.
She is shouting after us.
I wonder if she’s talking to me.
“No, not you.”
She waves me off. She is addressing you.
“I like that jewellery … the bead thing … the necklace, everything. Who does it for you?”
You speak up.
“Me. I make them myself.”
The woman’s eyes widen.
“All of them?”
“Yes. All of them.”
“Wow! So what are you doing looking for a job here?”
You look at me and then back at the woman who is now standing at arm’s length from us.
You laugh a small laugh. The woman smiles.
She sticks out her hand for a handshake.
“Sorry about my co-worker.”
I feel I should reply, but she focuses on you.
“Temi. I’m Temi.”
“Okay, Temi. I’m Ugochi. I think you have a job already, if you want one. Do you know Curion House?”
“My sister owns it. She’s been looking for someone to head up the bead-craft section. I think and I hope that I just found the person she needs. I mean, you’re good. That stuff is good.”
She points to the bead necklace that is shimmering with dignity.
“Here’s my number. Call me tomorrow morning, before nine. I’ll be waiting for your call.”
She turns to leave, then turns around again to face us.
“And I love your calm spirit. It will help you a lot.”
“Thank you,” you respond.
You turn to face me.
“It seems like I may just get a job. It seems like I will be doing bead work. And I didn’t have to shout at anyone for it. So who’s the crazy one now?”
Caleb Adebayo is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He hopes to explore the world of screenplays soon. He participated in the 2014 Writivism Workshop in Abuja and was mentored by Sylva Nze Ifedigbo. He was also recognized by the Nigerian government as the fourth best national essayist in the National Orientation Agency Essay Competition in 2014. In 2015, he won the Awele Creative Trust Prize for fiction. He is the founder of Creative Writers’ Niche, a campus hub for writers in Nigeria. His works have been published on Hackwriters, Miracle literary magazine, Bukrepublik and Muwado. He is a law graduate from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria.[twitter-follow screen_name=’JaladaAfrica’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]
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