…I observe with innocence, as he curves his palm into a slight scoop. With subtle dexterity, he extends his thumb and index finger, stooping to pick it. The infant continues, his face screaming with euphoria as he picks the flat object, yet again. each time, he would run and hurl it; not in a particular direction. It amuses me, how it means different things to both of us. I recoil from my crouched state and look again at the child; smug and plump, oblivious of my existence, unwary of my searching eyes. His eyes glow with admiration for his toy; clueless- mine pale from the realization that, “knowledge is power”, or not. I walk towards my car, and attempt to yank it open. The shrill alarm rebukes my absent-mindedness. With disgust, my thumb slides over a silver-colored button and quells the attention-seeker. Nodding apologetically to the old gardener behind me, I slide inside, slamming the door of my 2003 model Jaguar XKR Coupe. The sound of leather covers scrubbed by the buttocks of my cotton pant trousers has always granted solace. Between the hours of 12 and 1 pm each Friday, I would visit this Park, a recluse for my battered head and mind. I would crouch on the grass and watch the children run and play on the grass. They were so beautiful; and clueless. They would inspire me, make me reflect on each week’s work.
I now relieve the pressure on my gas pedal. I had been driving at 80 km/h. Now conscious of my laden thoughts, my feet play a literal diminuendo, stroking each pedal accordingly. I let my eyes flutter over the transparent screen of my time piece, as I approach a pair of brightly colored gates : ‘John Hale Solicitors’, each character painted in white across them. A stout man in a security officer’s uniform appears before me.
“Thank you, Jefferey. did the Chief ask for me?”
He nods, “yes, sir”.
The gates part hesitantly, rolling in opposite directions, borne by poorly greased metal tires. The heavy gates squeal; an ode, as if to Heartbreak. I anxiously observe my time piece: ” 1: 24 p.m.” The Chief despises lateness. I walk briskly up the lobby, past the finely seasoned wooden floors, past the pretty receptionist-she greets heartily, but I only mutter a reply. I punch the number ‘8’ and ease myself through the steel doors of the elevator. The steel often reminds me of the chief. Mr John Hale had always been cold and strict, unbending; steel. But he made good money. Basically, my job is to ensure that he continues to make good money, so I recruit the best blood: graduates from ‘lag’, the University of Lagos; the University of Ibadan…I was rightly bemused by his request for me. I arrive at the Mahogany door labelled “John Hale”, and knock.
The voice is cold and hard; the usual. i find the pale colored man savoring a cigar. beneath his eyebrows are beady eyeballs, piercing me.
“Good Morning, Sir.”
He hands me a file. “Review this.”
Outside the Chief’s office, I read the name on the file: “Jefferey Shobade.”
What did the old man do? I take a left, adjacent the chief’s door. I’m frantic, reaching for the handle to the door of my office. I allow myself the luxury of my couch, teasing my weary body. as I run my fingers across the name on the file, I toy with an evil thought. Maybe I should have been a comedian. I have seen so many different human expressions, that I now despise emoticons. This is the joke. I’m quite bewildered by how one statement summons so many expressions: “…I’m sorry sir, but this firm will no longer require your services…i hate to tell you this, ma’am, but this firm will no longer require your services…”
Many times, I think I am Death itself- only with a conscience. At exactly 4: 05 p.m. I invite Jeffery to my office. I hand him an envelope and observe his countenance. The fifty four year old man does not twitch. I reflect from the fluorescent light in my office. His hair is receding, withdrawing to nothingness; paled by age. His forehead is wrinkled; a gourd carved with parallel lines across it- the first is finely grooved, but the second is one traced by years of worry. It could literally hold a broom-stick. His eyebrows are Gothic Archs; unflinching, as if that were their default position- they had seen so many evils that, they would not raise in surprise anymore. His eyelids half-squint, shielding eyes that have lost their luster. His lower lip resembles a pregnant millipede; swollen halfway. His chin is a sagging replica of defiant glory.
“…I’m sorry, but this firm will no longer require your services…”
There. All said.
“…however, you will find in that envelope a sum of…”
The chair creaks, as he slowly ascends, staring at the wall behind me. He shifts his gaze to me, examining; gawking. He then turns and leaves the room. He forgot something. He forgot to take his aura with him.
My name is Yusuf Bashir. I am head of HR. I do not fear Death. I have probably brought it to many before Jefferey. What I fear is my Conscience. Burning and pricking; die-hard. A Cockroach. I pick it again. I run, I hurl it. It returns. Yet again. It always returns. Boomerang.