Toronto, November 2015
“Your resume tells me that until a month ago, you lived in Nigeria. Is that correct?” Stacy, my interviewer asked with a curious expression on her face.
“That is correct.” Dolapo responded with a smile.
“So, what brings you to Toronto?” She asked.
“Interesting question that.” Dolapo gave a small laugh.
Even if it was cliche, the answer really was simple. She was running from her past.
But she couldn’t say that because it just screamed too much baggage. Sort of like when someone asks ‘how are you?’. You say ‘fine’ even if you’re not because people don’t really want to hear about your drama – especially when you’re asking them for a job.
So she smiled and gave the rehearsed response she readily handed out whenever she got asked why she moved to Canada.
“The opportunity to move here came up just at a point when I was looking for a new challenge and I thought why not? So, voila! Here I am!”. Dolapo finished with the animated flourish of someone who’d practiced her answer many times in front of the mirror.
She saw Dee sit up from her couch with a look of approval on her face. She gives Dolapo a thumbs up sign and says, “That’s the spirit Missy! Adventurous and super cool , that’s the vibe we want”. She reclined again and pops another potato chip in her mouth.
Stacy nodded her head and smiled, as if in sync with Dee.
“That is so brave of you. And welcome to Canada! We are really nice people, much nicer than Americans, I tell you. I’m sure you’ll love it here – well, maybe not so much in winter though,” They both laugh.
An hour and a couple of questions later, the interview came to an end with a promise for feedback in a few days.
Dolapo reflected on Stacy’s comment as she waited in the lobby for her taxi home. The Uber app showed that her driver was 6 minutes out. It was just after 3:30 PM and the afternoon traffic was starting to build up. She found the rush outside comforting, the buzz reminded her of the vibrant city of Lagos – affectionately called Lasgidi by her people. She’d called it home for the past twenty eight years of her life.
Stacy was certainly not the first person to label her brave. She however didn’t feel brave for deciding to run halfway across the world because she couldn’t face her guilt.
It’s not your fault. Their lips had said.
It’s your fault! Their eyes screamed.
No. She certainly was not feeling brave.
Lagos – December 2014
“Hmm! You and this your secret admirer. I go love o” Dolapo’s colleague, Joke teased.
Dolapo stared at the bouquet of red roses sitting on her desk and wanted to scream. The soft floral scent was so sickening she felt bile rising in her throat.
“So, are you ever going to tell me who keeps sending you these flowers? You have been getting them every week for how many months now? Joke probed.
Once every week for the past six months, Dolapo silently responded. She didn’t care to admit it out loud. She reached for the card, although she already knew what it said.
I love you Bunny.
You’re mine alone.
All my Heart, J
A freaking letter was all it took to rattle her to her core.
“It’s nobody.” She mumbled to Joke’s question.
She picked up the flowers and dumped them in the bin beside her desk. Knowing it was not beyond Joke to dive into the bin to feed her curiosity, she stuck the card in the pocket of her grey pants.
“I don’t know why you always waste the flowers. It’s a romantic gesture that a lot of girls would kill for.” Joke grumbled, a bit of envy leaking through her smiling facade.
“Well, the lot of girls are welcome to them” Dolapo snapped, giving Joke a look that said leave me alone now.
“Whatever.” Joke retorted and turned to her laptop, typing away irritably.
When Dolapo had first received the flowers, she’d thought they were from her boyfriend, James. After all, the card was signed ‘J’.
“What’s the occasion?” she’d asked when she called him
“Occasion? What do you mean? he’d sounded confused.
“You know. You sent me flowers at work. Not that I mind or anything but it’s not like you.” He had never been one for fluffy romantic gestures.
“What flowers? I didn’t send any flowers.”
“Come on. The card was signed ‘J’. As in J for James.” She rolled her eyes as if he could see her. “I should tell you though, you do not get points for being mysterious.” A thought occurred to her.
“Wait. This isn’t leading up to a proposal, is it?”
Whatever he was eating or drinking went down the wrong way. In between his coughing bout, he croaked out. “What proposal? I didn’t send any flowers!”
“Wow” she said dryly. “You really don’t wanna get married, do ya? I thought you were gonna expire just now”
“Do you?” he asked.
She thought about it. She loved James and they’d been dating for about a year. But the thought of getting married freaked her out a bit. She wasn’t sure why – her parents had a good marriage and she hoped to have one too someday. Just not now.
“You can breathe easy mister. I’m not ready.” she laughed. “But don’t get too comfortable, because I apparently have a secret admirer named J who sent me flowers”
She’d never had a secret admirer before and the whole thing felt novel.
Then the phone calls started. “Hello Bunny” a raspy voice would say and then stay silent. All she would hear was breathing.
She’d first been creeped out. Then she got angry.
The fear kicked in when she started getting the flowers at home. She’d gone into full blown panic mode when she came home one day and found a single rose placed on her pillow.