Walter walked into The Restaurant two hours into his reporting time holding an umbrella. He made his way past the lounge, the kitchen and into the changing rooms. He put his bag down and set his umbrella by the wall leaving drops of water on the floor. He rubbed his palms together and checked his phone for messages before switching it off.
He started to remove his jacket when the Manager walked in. She greeted him and handed him his time sheet. There were two kinds of managers that Walter had worked under in the industry. The first was the one who listened and laughed with you or shared a cigarette only to submit a bad evaluation that got you fired. The second were like Priscah; chubby, round like ball gum, cute like a teddy bear but mean as that kid in class one who took your ice from you and beat you to the ground when you started to cry. The woman had been with them for a year and everyone stood still when they heard her heels announce her presence ‘tock, tock, tock!’
“What time have you written there Walter?” she asked.
“I see, and what time are you supposed to report here?”
“At seven o’clock.”
“Is there a reason why you are this late Walter? And is it a good one?”
“Yes, Madam, there is.”
“What is it?”
“My Mother was referred to Kenyatta Hospital for treatment, and I had to spend the night by her side. I apologize for being late today. I will see to it that she is taken care of by my cousin so I can be here on time.”
“I am sorry about your Mother Walter, but this is your job and customers cannot wait for you to come from Kenyatta to serve them tea. Get ready and take over from Maureen and Joseph.”
“Thank you, Madam.”
He watched her walk out of the room and released the breath he was holding. He looked around the changing room-they had two closets, one belonged to the men and the other the women.
Everything about the place put him on edge, from the lighting to the pay and the staff. His mother would have killed him for that, but he could not tell her that the reason he was late was because he was working on a proposal for that Equity bank loan he needed.
He had been here for two years and that was two years away from his dream.
It was eighteen minutes to ten o’clock when he walked out for one drag. He lit his cigarette and leaned against the wall for that moment of relief. It was still raining even as he smoked, and his old man came to mind for always saying that “women are like rain, if they decide to pour, you can seek shelter, or run, or try and cover yourself with an umbrella but they’ll still pour.”