Everybody called her Ms. Kemi; I thought it was because they found it difficult to pronounce her full name. I had been looking forward to meeting her as she was my direct supervisor, and also because we were the only Africans working for the company. So it was with excitement that I went to her office on the first day she resumed work.
“Good morning Ma, my name is Akua. I am the new writer on the block” I said, grinning widely.
“Call me – Ms. Kemi” she answered brusquely without taking her eyes off her computer screen.
Nonetheless, that did not throw me off and I continued.
“Ok, Ms. Kemi. So how was your vacation?” I asked.
“Good” and she said nothing else afterwards.
I stood there smiling and thinking about what next to say that will lead the conversation on.
“I hear you are from Nigeria; I am Ghanaian. We are both West Africans” I said, hoping this would do some magic. After a brief moment of silence, she looked at me for the first and asked – “Why are you standing there looking at me like that? Have you got nothing to do this morning or are you a lesbian?”
I was taken aback. I muttered a quick apology and headed back to my office feeling sad but I did not mention the episode to any of my colleagues.
The next day, I had to submit my first piece of writing to her. My first encounter with Ms. Kemi had not been pleasurable, but I was sure that my freshly written article would impress her. I had been working on it for a while now and it was the best I had written in my life. I went into her office feeling confident that morning as I greeted her and handed over my work to her. I did not wait for a response as it was a four-page article and so she would need some time to read through it. As I approached the door, she said “Hold on” and then picked up the article. She glanced at it and within a minute, she handed the article back to me saying “I have seen better.” I was bewildered. “Are you saying that it is not good?” I asked in a shaky, voice, trying my best to keep calm and not to sound rude. “I said that I have read better. That means you should get me a new piece. Tomorrow. Please close the door behind you.”
I left her office with my article, feeling much worse than I did the day before. She had not even bothered to read the paper and yet she had asked for another one. It was then that I concluded that Ms. Kemi disliked me. However, within some weeks I realised that it was not only me that she treated in that manner and that she was just a queer lady. My other colleagues, most of who were friendly, had learned to ignore her personality issues. “You will eventually get used to her” they said to me, after I had brought up the topic again one day during our lunch break but I did not want to get used to that kind of behaviour. I wanted to understand Ms. Kemi and possibly help her overcome whatever problems she might have. “What about her family or husband? Do they come around sometimes?” I asked, still curious to find a solution. “She’s not married and does not have any children, at least none that we know of” one of them answered.
“Ahan, that is obviously the problem! How can a woman who is obviously in her forties not be married nor have kids? Let us find her a man!” I said enthusiastically but nobody else shared that feeling with me. After trying but failing to convince anyone of the benefits of my plan, I decided to opt for a pet instead. So I bought her a kitten and even though nobody else contributed to the cost, I included a card saying that it was from all of us.
I had never seen Ms. Kemi as excited as the day I gave her the kitten. She was in a great mood for the next few days. The next week she was off work, sick and when she returned, she called a brief meeting for the junior staff.
“Whose idea was it to give me a cat?” she asked.
“It was mostly mine” I replied, unsure of what was to follow.
“My doctor says I have cat allergies; that is why I have been ill. Were you trying to kill me, because I have a feeling that you did it on purpose?” I stood there speechless.
After that day, Ms. Kemi disliked me even more and my life at the office became so miserable that I started nurturing the idea of quitting my new job. She made me re-write most of my articles for no apparent reason and sometimes, I had to work late to meet up with her ridiculous deadlines.
It was on one of the days that I had returned to the office to work late that I saw Ms. Kemi and her boss, Mr. Johnson having sex in her office. I had not meant to pry but I was surprised that her lights were still on by 7pm, so I went to have a look. Our eyes met. The next morning, I received my letter of appointment termination, quoting “incompetency at work” as one of the main reasons for firing me. I said nothing, picked my bag and went home to think about what next to do with my life.
The next week, I was back at work like nothing had happened. Ms. Kemi was surprised and called me into her office.
“Were you not fired last week?” she asked.
“I don’t think so. You tried to fire me because I caught you with Mr. Johnson but I’m sure you wouldn’t want anyone else to know about it” I answered with a poker face.
“Oh, I saw this coming. You have no proof so I’m not afraid” she smiled.
“Ooh, I also saw that coming so I had you followed and now, I have evidence.” I smiled back brandishing a tape I had in my hands. She looked shock and after moments of consideration, she offered my job back if I gave her the tape.
“That would not be necessary as I have duplicates. However, I can assure that I will not release it or let anyone else know, as long as I keep my job.”
We signed an agreement and I resumed work immediately. Thereafter, Ms. Kemi became most agreeable to me; it was almost like I was her best friend. If only she knew that the tape was empty and that I really had no evidence against her! As for her personality issues, just like my colleagues, I decided that it was none of my business.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Spwidoff