Tola reclined in his seat, hands clasped against each other as he let his eyes roam the entire length of his roomy office. He felt like a stranger behind this huge mahogany table that shone from the constant burnishing of Steve, his office assistant.
“How did it come to this?” he soliloquised.
He had been asking himself the same question over and over without any tangible answer.
How did he become clueless all of a sudden? How had he become so bereft of ideas? So much that he missed his deadlines. And even when he didn’t, his concepts and ideas lacked the creative quality that pushed him up this ladder so quick. These days, they continually defined the word mediocrity in really strong terms.
Since he lost Moni, his wife of three years, over a year ago, he had tried all his best to pick himself up and move on. It had been very difficult for him at the beginning. He could swear that he still loved her to the tiniest bit. Even in death, she looked prettier than ever. He had been a living ghost all those times. But then 3M Communications had weighed in with a lifeline. They sponsored a month long vacation, after the funeral, that took him across beautiful cities in Europe. The objective was to help him get over his loss – to reinvigorate him.
His gaze shifted back to the pile of neatly arranged files on his table. Right in front of him laid his latest worry, a file jacket labelled ‘The BMG Brief’. Without turning the cover to look into the sheets it held, Tola knew exactly what it was all about.
He had gotten a call late last night asking him to report to Tim’s office first thing in the morning. Tim was the one who ran 3M. He had just landed the account of the BMG Group. BMG was a leading manufacturing conglomerate looking to launch a new line of health and beauty products. They had contacted the agency to help develop strategies and concepts for advertising that would whip up the public’s awareness of their brand, and ultimately earn them a formidable share of the local cosmetic market. As the Creative Director of the Agency, that burden of responsibility fell on his shoulders.
He knew he was waist-deep in this. He had never seen Tim as upset as he was at the meeting. In fact, Tim had gone on to read the riot act in the presence of other top level management staff only a few hours ago.
“Toor-la, my friend…” he spat out in his foreign accent that sounded so sickening.
“…we have waited on you long enough. Now is the time for you to deliver or face the consequence!”
The agency apparently had had enough of his ineptitude that they decided the BMG case was his last opportunity to lay legitimate claim to his position as the creative brain of the agency.
Tola sighed heavily as he tapped a button on the intercom just beside his clasped hands. He had waited too long for his office assistant who he asked to bring him coffee.
“Stevo, how long does it take to get a cup of coffee?”, he felt the wave of frustration in his voice travel through the line, crashing viciously against the tympanum of his affable and loyal assistant.
“Sorry Sah! I wan de bring am already”
Minutes later, while sipping on the hot black liquid that had been brought in, Tola’s face suddenly lit up. He thought he may just have found himself a face-saving solution. He wouldn’t wait around to be ridiculed with a sack or demotion letter. He would chicken out instead.
His idea of chickening out was to quit this very demanding job for one that would afford him the chance to operate perfunctorily, like a mechanical device that was all about efficiency and no innovation. But first, he knew he had to talk to Kenneth. Kenneth was his go-to guy. They had been friends for almost an eternity. They always ran ideas and potential decisions by each other. Besides, if there was anyone who could hook him up with a job in the shortest possible time, Kenneth was the man. As a top notch Human Resources officer with one of the foreign multinationals, he knew people who knew people with influence.
It was bright and sunny, early on Saturday morning – a rude departure from the weather that had seen the rains storm the coastal city of Lagos all through the week. Kenneth had arrived at the beach quite on time. He had been so happy that he almost jumped out of his skin when Tola called him two days ago.
“Ken Bro, Can we do the beach this weekend? I could really use some fresh air.”
“Sure!” He had exclaimed, his voice laden with sudden excitement.
It had been interesting proposition for him; a welcome development considering the fact that he had been the one trying to drag Tola out there all these months.
Until a year ago, the Coconut Beach was their favourite hangout spot. They would come in every other weekend to ride horses and play kick-arse. They both had a thing for horsebacks and sunburns. They would jog, run and play around the seaside till they became knackered – it was their way of working out, to keep trim. And on days when they didn’t bring their families along, they would almost sit the whole day, taking in the sight of semi-nude beauties; assessing, grading and criticising the good, bad and the ugly. Though they played the game they fondly referred to as Sneaking-in-on-sleek-Chicks often, Tola never joined him in the flirting that followed. Instead, he would sit and gloat about how Moni’s figure made the other ladies look like caricatures.
Then everything changed after Moni died. Tola recoiled into a shell. He remained withdrawn despite efforts made by friends to pull him out of his grief.
Kenneth hoped the call he received two days back would mark the resurrection of his dear friend – the Tola he used to know before twelve months ago.
A few hundred metres away, there was a persistent honk. Kenneth looked up and immediately recognised the plush Mercedes Benz 4matic. The metallic grey Limited Edition model still retained its pristine beauty even after two years of reckless use. He waved at Tola who by now had alighted and was making gestures at him only a few yards away. Spotting a plain blue polo vest along with a pair of sporty beach knickers, he cut the picture of an unusual widower; young, single and free.
“Ol’ boy, na you be this?” Kenneth exclaimed.
“See how old you look all of a sudden.”
“I see worry lines all over your face; then your greying beard too. Even your hairline don dey recede. Ol’ boy na baldness don dey creep in be that o.”
“Guy, will you shut up, please?!” Tola retorted playfully. He was fully aware of Kenneth’s innate ability to spin jokes out of nothing. How could he forget? It was this same quality that won him all the pretty girls back on campus.
“The last time you saw me was three weeks ago. How then can I age so much in that short time?” Tola continued.
“Ok, maybe you don’t appear that old. In fact, I’m the balding one here, not you. But the truth is you look quite stressed. You could really use a dose of my special anti-stress therapy. Kenneth said beckoning to the boys who rode their horses past, looking for patrons.
“Ken, will you quit fooling around?” Tola replied.
“I just want to sit and talk serious business. I’m in a mess”
He signalled to Steve, who often acted as his chaperon on weekends, to get his files from the car. They got talking as soon as they secured seats close to the only pepper soup spot around.
Tola spoke at length about how the BMG brief had been the last straw that proved he no longer had what it took to stay on his job. He reeled out his frustration and cut a sorry figure in the eyes of Kenneth while doing so. He wanted out badly.
Kenneth tried to talk him out of his decision to quit 3M.
“Remember, this is what you love doing.”
Tola shrugged: “Loved… you mean? I can’t stand it anymore.”
Going by the fact that Tola had just shown him a draft of his resignation letter, it appeared his mind was made up already. So they went on to discussing about how they would get him a new job.
“I know a number of Blue Chip Companies that will jump at the idea of having you in their fold” Kenneth said, lapping up his drink with a sense of urgency.
They had been discussing for much of the last hour when he noticed his friend had suddenly gone mute. He had in fact not spoken in five minutes. He turned to see Tola fixated with his mouth agape. He apparently had been staring at something that lay just beyond them.
Then Kenneth also caught the sight of the figure – a young woman who appeared to be in her late twenties lounging lazily in the scorching sun. She was alluring with a unique skin tone. She was of average height and had a body to die for, with flesh only in the right places. The very revealing beachwear she wore was not helping the case of their manhoods. Her hair which seemed natural flew around her shoulders while she bent over to pick something up.
She immediately got him thinking about words like Hot. Sexy. Buxom. Shapely. Curvy. Luscious. Sensual. Tempting.
But Kenneth could swear Tola had thought up two dozen more of such words, since he sat there staring at her.
Of course, that was why he was the creative bastard. He smirked.
Gently, he aimed a plastic bottle at Tola, who still appeared caught up in the moment.
“Isn’t she just amazing? Tola smiled wryly. He remained transfixed, his eyes feeding so intensely on the lady, who had just lain down, face up.
“Every lady wants to look this stunning. If only I could tell a story, or better still, paint a picture.”
He then picked up the resignation letter, shred it in bits, and looked up at Kenneth who was standing over him now.
“Dude, I just may be back in”
He turned to Steve who had been busy munching and chewing fishbone from his plate of pepper soup.
“Stevo, please get my notepad from the car.”
A visibly reluctant Steve who was bent on enjoying the delicacy on his plate replied:
“Oga, the thing no dey with your files for there?”
“You and your moronic tendencies! You never fail to lose your senses whenever you have a plate in front of you. Would I be asking you to get it if it was here?” Tola retorted.
Steve then ran off to get the notepad.
Seconds later, Tola was absorbed in scribbling, drawing rough sketches and mapping out ideas that went from simple to complex in only a few minutes.
It was a Tuesday evening – a night of Champions’ League football. Kenneth and Tola arrived at the SWE Bar on the Island, just in time for the game to begin. They usually loved to see big games like this outside the comforts of their home. That way, they had more fun watching. The said game was one between two of the biggest footballing rivals in Spain. Loud commentaries boomed out of speakers just as they took their seats.
The Oyinbo voice on the commentary spoke:
Good evening, everyone and welcome to the Nou Camp!
Tonight promises to be explosive as we wait on both teams to emerge from the dugout. Don’t forget this is a game between Real Madrid and Barcelona. I urge you all to brace up for some edge-of-the-seat action.
“Kenneth!” Tola interrupted, raising his voice.
“Tim thinks we just might be on to something really big with BMG. He thought my concepts on the brief were unbelievable. And then he said he couldn’t wait for us to tie up all the loose ends so that he could bring them up to speed. ”
“Awesome! So that means the Great Confucius is definitely back in business”, Kenneth replied flashing a broad smile.
“Yeah, I’d like to think so”
“But to think I have that mystery angel at the beach to thank for it still beats my imagination”
“Actually, there is more…” Kenneth grinned in his typically mischievous manner.
“Trust me and my devious ways now. While you were busy scribbling away, back at the beach, I stepped up to Tiwa. Yes, that’s the name of the mystery angel. I made sure I got her contact, just in case you’d need it.”
“…She seemed quite impressed with the fact that she had inspired you, and to be truthful, she barely stopped short of saying she also found you attractive”
Tola was puzzled by Ken’s revelations.
“Bro! Are you nuts? Did you really tell her she was the reason I was acting all maniacal, talking to myself and squiggling so fast?”
“Yes, I did! But that is not even the issue now. You have to promise me you’d go on and finish what you have started”
Kenneth was glad Tola had gotten back into the groove at 3M. But he wanted more. More than anything else, he wanted to see Tola, his friend of fifteen years, get laid. What better way to do that than having Tiwa the sexy goddess. He was sure she had awoken something in him back there; something that had to do with his libido. He was also double sure Tola had been celibate in the last twelve months, since the passing of Moni. That was the biggest difference between them; that is aside from Tola being a big Barcelona supporter; and he a loyal Real Madrid fan. Tola was born a serial monogamist – he remained faithful even in death – while he happened to have an eclectic taste for women; no disrespect to Juliet, his beautiful wife and mother of his babies.
He couldn’t wait to play ‘sneaking on sleek chicks’ with his bosom friend again. He adjusted in his seat for the umpteenth time. This time, he was sure he would gladly listen to Tola gloat about this new girl as long as it meant they could go horse riding and loafing on the beach again.
“Name: Oshagbemi Oluwatosin
Bio: 24 year old Scientist, Writer and Art enthusiast who loves to paint vivid pictures with words.
Resident in Lagos, Nigeria ”