The computer was on when I left the office to get some hot water from the kitchenette. Mama Chai, the lady who serves us tea and snacks, reached out for the green thermos beside me. She gave me one of her famous half smiles. I don’t want to know. I do want to know but it won’t pay my bills.
She placed her thermos beside the bowl of fruits on her trolley, adjusted her apron and left. The scent of soap followed her just as the gloom did me. Silence that could slash your vocal chords. She walks in at six. She walks out at six. She preserves her poison in that green vacuum and slowly dishes out a dose of it down every willing throat but mine. Those who believe that she has three grandchildren and slaves daily for them fill their cups with her poison.
I know this much about tea; it’s brewed.
It is served black with either lemon or two teaspoons of sugar. So when I walked in on her boiling milk and adding some water and throwing the tea leaves that first day of work, I knew she was up to no good. Telling my Father that story marked the beginning of my paranoia. Don’t be fooled by what she says or how she appeases the spirits in your stomach, there is something about that woman. Mama Chai. Francis, my brother who can quote the scripture like a child singing the alphabet, insists that I project my feelings of disappointment as induced by our mother on her. The woman he calls our mother left us with our father for another man. He owned three sugarcane plantations and a blue Peugeot back then. And onto these blessings he had two wives of whom my mother joined to become the third. Francis was three years then. Raphael was four and I was six. Francis sees the romantic version of things while I understand the horrific version of it. They woke up at seven found tea and warm water for their baths ready.
So, Mama Chai is doing what she knows best. I can give her that much, but my hesitation towards embracing her warmth has nothing to do with the woman Francis calls our Mother. I was looking out the window when I heard voices behind me.Two interns in oversized trousers came in after the woman suddenly losing their voices when they saw me by the sink.
Working here was like walking in the dark. No matter how much you widened your eyes, you still saw nothing. I washed the cup and served myself some hot water from the water dispenser and walked back to my office. Nancy, one of the Assistants, said hello adding that my scarf would look beautiful around her neck. I told her she could come for it at the end of the week.
I pushed my office door using my left hand and saw the blue file behind my tray. There were two pages missing from the file. It was not the first time this had happened here, but with a boss like the one we had, work was a race. My first year involved summons to the office and botched presentations that miraculously gained other employees a thumbs up from the boss. Being assigned this project with a huge cash bonus and holiday package meant a fight, but with my exams and my dad’s illness it was proving to be a worthless battle. The desire to match up to Martin’s office overwhelmed me. I would yell at him or turn his desk upside down. I added a teabag and sugar to the hot water I had and stirred it. What was it with Martin and stealing my thunder? The way things stood I could:
- Be friends with him
- Turn his desk upside down
- Ignore him
- Work away from the office
- Use a different email address, something the IT boy,who stays in the same hood as Martin, could not access.
- Definitely turn his desk upside down.
- Tell him to back off
- Upload a virus on his computer
- Choke him and turn his desk upside down and shred his files.
- Drink tea and forget the loser!