Nothing I couldn’t handle!
That was my huge mistake. If I’d known what events would unfold after that afternoon, I’d never have uttered those fateful words. In doing that, I broke Murphy’s Law and dared the Fates.
The noble gentleman and the sister Greek goddesses of destiny decided to do something about my smugness. Clotho spun out the thread of my life, Lachesis carelessly measured out the amount equivalent to my cheekiness and Atropos snipped the damn thing. Then good old Murphy, with nothing else to do, bit me in the arse.
I might as well have looked up to God and sassily asked him, “What else could happen?”
The answer was: a lot, a whole lot more than I could handle.
The first thing I couldn’t handle was the sight of weeping Prisca. She was sitting in the lounge, in the same position she’d been in when Jemima and I had left for lunch. Her back was straight, her posture proud even. But she was crying…had been crying in that silent, stiff-upper-lip way that made her tears hardly noticeable until you looked into her eyes.
Which she made sure you didn’t.
Her eyes were hidden behind fashionably dark Giorgio Armani glasses that cost more than her entire outfit. I went past her without a word. My acknowledgement of her presence was only a slight tilt of my gaze in her direction. Other than that, she might not have existed at all for me.
But she did.
It was a struggle to concentrate while my computer resumed from hibernation. My eyes went around my office, taking in the credenza by the wall stacked with journals in guidance and counselling, some of them brown with age, others still fairly new. A smaller stack of them sat on one end of my desk; the computer took the other end. The middle was left mostly bare, with the exception of a clutch of papers and some paperweights to keep them in place and a penholder filled with different colour pens. They gave my office character, my character, much my own apartment reeked of the stamp of my essence. Each bit could tell a bit of my story.
The story of Stanley Mala in a Thousand Objects.
Appropriate enough title, but I wasn’t immersed in those objects of mine. Prisca, without being present at that moment in my office, held my attention. For as long as I remained in my office, she was all I thought about. Specifically, her situation.
The name is Prisca Braithwaite.
And I have a sex problem.
A bold stunning declaration I never thought possible until Prisca chanced into my office. People never spoke such words out loud. They’d die before they admitted having a sex problem. I am yet to come across a real case in all my counselling years, and years of study at university have given me only textual allusions to supposedly real-life scenarios.
Yes, every college student at Kontagora had problems…problems about career choices, about electives to take—by which they really meant which electives required the least work or which lecturers gave students the least hard time or none at all. Those weren’t problems to lose sleep over. Certainly none had walked into my office with their eyes puffy and red from sleep deprivation. By contrast, they seemed bright, chirpy and zingy when they laid their “problems” before me.
I am undermining their situations. One thing I have learnt is perspectives mattered. Every human was a kettle, a pot and blackened at the same time. you just had to look harder or scratch deeper. Was the glass half full or empty? It was full to some and empty to others, depending on their perspectives. But it was always half.
People did not willingly admit to psychological problems, let alone psychiatric ones. Which was what I had pointedly suggested to Prisca. But she hadn’t minded one bit, insisting instead she had a sex problem.
Exactly what she meant by that, I wasn’t sure, hadn’t been patient enough to find out. But it had been strong enough to reduce her to tears. Girls in tears weren’t a new sight. The weapon of disarmament was ancient, well tried and tested, confirmed effective.
Nothing like the sight of a weeping woman to undo the hardest man. It worked every time. And it didn’t fail on me because I walked to my door office and opened it.
Prisca was outside it, having abandoned the lounge. She had stopped crying, but her eyes were still wet and red.
“What are you still doing hanging around here?” The question came out wrong but I didn’t bother.
“You have to help me,” she pleaded.
It was an urgent request, simple and profound. It was also unexpected.
“You have no idea what is happening to me,” she went on. “And why I need this help. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t serious. My life…my whole life depends on you. If you don’t help me…”
I heard myself say something to her. I am not sure what, but whatever it was, it stopped what she thought was going to happen to her if I didn’t help her.
“Really?” she asked.
I nodded, then stood aside. She bowed her head slightly low in acceptance, took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and crossed the threshold once more. I watched the top of her head go past my face and then the truth of what I had said struck me.
After my unsympathetic attempt to throw Prisca out of my office, I had thrown the door wide open and actually said the words, “Come in.”