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Near and Dear – Episode II

Near and Dear is a fictional story of Ikenna Obi Okonkwo, a college graduate who neglected the opportunities of picking up usable skills alongside academics while in college in Nigeria—where a college degree alone no longer makes the bold promise of placing food on the table. His graduation was an awakening to the ugly realities of societal difficulties. Could he ever get a chance at life, save a miracle of some sort happened? Clenching tenaciously to reverence, honor, morals, values, and persistence, he caught a break via newfound relationships, love, and lessons as he began to breathe a new air of success and relief. You want to know more, follow along.

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Meanwhile, I thought to myself to hang around and wait, roll down the seat and grab a quick nap. Or, better still, relax in a particular popular eatery on the other side of the road and pass the time in the company of my mobile phone and all the entertainment it offers. I also thought of reading a book…doing just anything to while away the time. However, there was another option, but I judged it would be perceived of me as being desperate.

“They were dressed to impress, effusing a touch of class that made first-time guests to Ipsone wonder in admiration.”

I favored waiting in the restaurant. Therefore, I parked my car and walked casually past a couple of blocks further down Markson Eze street, which terminated into the famous MTN road, where the restaurant was, upon taking a left turn.

To my chagrins, the eatery’s doors were uncharacteristically locked—an inscription hanging loosely on the handle, which dangled this way and that way in sympathy to the chilly early January morning breeze— “Sorry, we are closed,” warned me off.

“Sorry, we are closed,” warned me off.

Adjacent to the magnificent ten-story edifice—Ipsone Consultant Limited—the interview rendezvous point was an expanded open space serving as the company’s parking lot. Meaning that it was easy for me to see both the gate and parking of the company clearly from the spot I stood momentarily to task my head for the next move since other options had appeared obsolete.

I could see workers’ exotic cars in their hundreds, gliding into the parking lot. A few moments later, their owners would emerge, handing their car keys to the company valet men, who gave them a token for the easy retrieval of their cars later in the day. The valets were all dressed in black suits, clinically clean white shirts, a black tie, and were all adorned with white silk gloves. They were dressed to impress, effusing a touch of class that made first-time guests to Ipsone wonder in admiration. They all wore a smile on their faces—they were having a field day doing their jobs. The valets now proceeded with moving the vehicles into the apportioned slots.

Happy Ipsone worker arriving to work and handing her car keys to the valet.

While their cars were being aligned adequately according to a uniform parking pattern, the preponderance of the owners stood at a safe distance, either buttoning down or tucking in shirts, knotting ties, or getting into their suit jackets.

The owners’ preponderance was clearly evident, while their cars were being aligned adequately according to a uniform parking pattern. They stood at a safe distance, either buttoning down or tucking in shirts, knotting ties, or getting into their suit jackets. Some of the ladies took the last gaze in their make-up mirrors. Some glossed their lips with their lipsticks, elegantly dressed for the day’s work in view. 

Welcome in, Ms. Stephanie, and good morning, bawoni? We will take it from here—we’ll take good care of your car while you are at work. 

Soon, they would take delivery of their keys. Others, clutching a couple of files and/or food packs from the men in uniform, bowed politely and faded off sight in the opposite direction of their bosses. As I stood and gazed, much of me was gone to the parking lot where I imagined a man in uniform parking my car while I got busy with my dressing too, getting ready for work.

I prayed—in a deep breath, “Dear God, please, it is this time.” Over a hundred meters or three hundred and twenty-eight feet from the park where I had gotten to, an air ladened with a delightful fragrance greeted my nose as a worker approached my direction. He walked past, another followed, oozed of a different yet appealing smell. This continued at regular intervals until that bunch all walked past and went into the Ipsone premises.

Ipsone worker leaving work.

Then came this man, who had an iPad clawed to his left hand which he swung mildly and rhythmically with the pace of his steps, which appeared he carefully took with grace; and car keys tenaciously ringed around the index finger of the same left hand.

His right hand held up his shimmering black jacket across his shoulders, an ear pod fastened onto his left ear, and he hummed a soft tone every step he took. I stole a glance at the watch on my wrist, and it was only 7:05 AM.

“Really, the unfolding of the day has literally been inhibited by some forces,” I concluded.

On an impulse, I decided to stroll down the street, hoping that that would help channel my mind away from disappointments, especially that of the refusal of the time to tick away to 8 AM. Like one who had the weight of the world on his shoulders, I dragged myself lazily through the street downwards. It was not long before I became grateful I did—I found a host of activities that helped distract me.

“What is art if you don’t document and mirror society….so this art is now a throwback because of govt regulations on bikes.” — Chamberlin Ukenedo; Art Credit: Chamberlin Ukenedo.

The commercial motorcycle riders had, in their usual manner, filed out. They all costumed themselves into looking like something in the neighborhood of masquerades from the East in their hooded sweaters and head warmers. They catcalled and beckoned on anyone who peered from other less boisterous streets in an attempt to woo their patronage. “Oga mi, you dey go?” They yelled.

Most of them had their headlights turned on, and their indicators blinked, which ostensibly constituted a pretty sight in a way. You could visibly see the thick mist escaping their mouth and nostrils when they spoke and or exhaled. It was cold. It was always cold here from December down to March and occasionally in the mornings and evenings because the Atlantic Ocean hedges the city.

A view of the Tarkwa Bay Beach/Eko Atlantic from the shoreline.

The local tea shops had lined up their benches on the walkway, so also were their patronizers lined-up, waiting in expectation for their purchase. Each one anticipated the next cup as it got handed to them by the restauranteur’s attendant, a relish for their morning breakfast to help wash down their agege bread. It was only 7:12 AM, and I presumed the need for a cup of tea was more of heat generation and warmth than hunger. At the thought of hunger, my intestines churned, and I remembered I hadn’t eaten the night before.

I sauntered to the spot and ran my eyes through those seated. I was trying to gauge and decide my following action. There were still a few people who were waiting to get a copious shot of their morning tea. I guess those who crave a cup of morning tea or a cup of Joe go across borders. In the United States, its people lining up for their lattes, blonde, medium, or dark roasts at Starbucks. For us, it’s the local tea shops in action. I glanced at my watch and tried to map out how long I would be willing to wait to get served before I would hurry back to the interview, whether I got served or not.

Street tea barrister at work. 

The tea seller, I could tell, had exhausted the syllabus for skills anyone could employ in tea making. The speed with which he opened the tin, dish out an equal volume as the previous, the mixing—which particularly baffled me—were all done with seasoned dexterity. The local African barrister could give Starbucks barristers a run for their money if the comparison were apples to apples.

At a point, the entire liquid was entirely out of the two cups in either of his expanded hand. The tea made a parabolic arc in space between the two cups. It was like watching a circus performer in action, yet not a drop of tea missed its way away from the second cup held almost at his knee while the other, above his head. Talk about the power of dexterity hewn to perfection by the power of repetition raised to the power five. 

A cup of tea ready to go.

I got served, eventually. As I sat sipping the hot tea, a thought came to me, and I doodled it on a piece of paper that I had in the inner pocket of my suit— “You only fail when you stop trying.” That was my motivational nugget of the day. I had paid three hundred and fifty naira for the supposed breakfast, which I had to abandon halfway, and I believe you understand why. No… It was not yet time for the interview. The tea was rather more Lipton than tea, and the taste was too lemony for healthy consumption. 

But do not take this for a complaint; it may be just the adrenaline in me speaking as the interview time drew closer. After all, it was almost 7:45 AM, and I had just about a five-minute walk to hurry back to the Ipsone. Brisk was my walk back to Ipsone; I think the tea did its bit in warming up my blood in the chilly morn. 

Brisk was my walk back to Ipsone; I think the tea did its bit in warming up my blood in the chilly morn.

At the interview hall, the sitting arrangement allowed an interviewee to stand in a decently long but narrow space of about twenty to thirty meters (i.e., about sixty-six to almost hundred feet), with a panel seated across the table along its length. I tapped on the door softly, three times in a gapped succession, opened it in response to a lone booming voice from the other side.

“You only fail when you stop trying.”

I walked in as confidently as I could and bellowed greetings. It wasn’t reciprocated… not by one person, but by all of them in a funny unison that was certainly awkward for the setting. It forced a giggle off me, which I, however, managed to trim to a short, broad smile.

…to be continued.

Watch out for Near and Dear – Episode III on Oaekpost.

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Caleb Ogbonna Onwe is a guest contributor of Oaekpost LLC, a US-based online media company. He is a seasoned on-air personality, a communication expert, an entrepreneur, and a writer specializing in the prose genre. He recreates experiences using fictional tales in the hope to impact, alter and influence character positively. His area of specialty on Oaekpost are the categories, Fiction and Good News. You can reach him at cogb.onwe.gc@oaekpost.com.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Nnanna Okereke

    March 18, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    This is awesome.

    • Caleb Onwe Ogbonna

      May 10, 2021 at 1:21 pm

      I am glad you think such about the story.
      Thank you Nnanna.

  2. Ani Chijioke

    March 19, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Interesting!!!

    • Caleb Onwe Ogbonna

      May 10, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      Buckle up for more Chijioke.
      Thanks for your time.

  3. Eze Matthew C.

    March 23, 2021 at 2:28 am

    Bravo.

    • Caleb Onwe Ogbonna

      May 10, 2021 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you so much Matth.

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