I took a long drag of the cigarette in my slender hands and exhaled. The best part of smoking by the ocean was the view. Tiny ships dotted the horizon like sitting ducks in a pond. Whether they were going or coming I couldn’t tell.
The downside of smoking by the ocean, your cigarette burned out faster than Kelly Hansome’s music career. I yelped in pain, tossing the cigarette butt into the ocean and raising my finger to my mouth to soothe the burn.
Slightly miffed, I prepared to light another one. The perks of my firm’s new building being located on the beachfront were numerous. Proximity to a steady supply of weed, proximity to the best strip club in Lagos and proximity to the ocean were just a few.
If office location was everything, we’d certainly won the lottery.
Freeing the last button of my suit jacket hastily with one hand, I returned to getting my cigarette lighter to work. I stilled when I sensed a presence behind me.
Great, I thought to myself. This office was becoming a bloody showroom. One couldn’t even smoke in peace.
“You don’t look like a smoker” he said.
I paused halfway through another impatient flick of my lighter eyeing the short man in front of me. I was 5’9 without heels. Nearly every man seemed short in comparison. And I loved my heels.
He was cute in a way. Too bad about the potbelly. And the acne. And the lack of facial hair. Okay I’ll stop now.
The recruitment age in my audit firm was dropping lower than our standards, I thought to myself as my eyes scanned his boyish face.
Recognition dawned on me after a few minutes. ‘Short stuff’ was either in the Advisory or Tax Unit. I was sure we’d ridden the elevator together before.
“Do smokers have a look?” I asked finally, lazily even.
I was in my fuck the world mode. This was almost usually followed by two cups of Cafe Neo Hazelnut latte and a crazed workaholic mode. But I had time yet. I knew well to enjoy my temporary nonchalance.
“Well, not really. But I know that they don’t look like runway models/corporate sharks and they don’t win ‘Most Valuable employee’ two years in a row”
I smiled. I did look like a corporate shark in my button up suit. It was a Monday after all.
After two hours sitting in that office with the palpable tension in the air I’d known I had to get out.
Why couldn’t I be on a client site? I wanted to moan.
Being available sucked balls.
“That Most valuable employee award is a scam. I usually just rally all the people in my business unit to get them to vote for me” I said with a careless shrug. “Besides if your partners can smoke so can I”
“What brings you out here anyhow? You don’t strike me as a smoker either” I added blowing smoke rings lazily. The lighter had finally cooperated.
“I’m running away. It’s past 4 and there’s no email on the promotion list yet. People in my unit are going batshit crazy” he groaned. “Now I wish I was a smoker”.
I saw him stare enviously at my cigarette. I wasn’t in a sharing mood. At all.
“What unit are you in?” I asked.
“Financial services” he replied.
Oh.My assumptions were definitely wrong.
“I heard people were yelling and screaming at your moderation. They also supposedly brought tribalism into it. Favoritism. Nepotism” I said in hushed tones even though we were by the ocean and the only people in sight were fishermen and weed sellers.
“What do you expect? You gather a bunch of people together and ask them to give a fair critique of another individual’s performance during the year and you don’t expect bias?. Ha! ” he said in an incredulous tone.
I shrugged. “I don’t care”
He laughed again. “I actually think you do. Why else are you out here smoking instead of closing early. This isn’t busy season. They’re no jobs. Admit it. The tension is killing you as well”
I narrowed my eyes at him, hoping that his acne spread.
“No one thinks there’ll even be a promotion list with the budget cuts, inflation rate, increased expenditure last year. I’m not sure they can afford to pay an increased salary men” he continued.
I tossed the cigarette butt aside and dug it into the sand with the heel of my flats.
“Okay that’s it for me. I’m going back inside” I said turning towards the office building.
I did not feel like listening to ‘short stuff’ feed my anxiety. Walking briskly towards the looming office building, I took out a tiny bottle of perfume from the breastpocket of my jacket and sprayed myselfwithout breaking stride.
The elevator ride up to the third floor where my business unit was seemed infinitesmally long.
As soon as the doors opened I knew something had changed since I left.
I inhaled sharply as I walked towards my seat with a sense of calm I was far from feeling.
“Hey Ndidi. Everyone just heard the sad news”
I groaned inwardly as I turned to face Oreoluwa, performer extraordinaire to everyone but office bitch to me.
She had graduated from Covenant University with a first class in Banking and Finance, had 15k followers on Instagram, ran a wig business on the side, always looked like Doranne Beauty did her makeup everyday before work and still managed to get a minimum rating of 2 on all her performance appraisals. I hated her.
I often imagined her as the mean girl in high school. Her barbs were often disguised as sweet words. Honey laced with venom.
“It’s just sad that all your late nights working would be rewarded like this. Or was it not office work that you and Joshua were working on every night for two months?” she said. Her face was a mask of pity.
You see! Such a bitch.
I ignored her because I could not be bothered to dredge up diplomacy. Instead I sank into my chair and unlocked the screen of my Lenovo laptop computer. The Windows homepage came up at an alarmingly slow pace and the cursor hovered like a pregnant snail.
When I finally got to my email application, my palms were slightly sweaty. My eyes darted across the list on my screen in a frenzy as I scanned for my name.
I even checked under all other departments in case I’d been reassigned without my knowledge.
Nope. No promotion for me.
I rose from my seat slowly like someone in a trance, picking up my phones and water flask in swift motions. My laptop had already been secured with a laptop lock. All I had to do was lock the screen.
“Ndidi” I could hear someone call as I walked towards the elevator.
I did not turn. All I wanted was a pack of Switch, a good bottle of Shiraz and some Kendrick Lamar while I pondered my career progression.
Twenty months as an associate. Wasn’t that enough to deserve a promotion?
“Ndidi!!” the voice persisted.
The elevator had finally arrived and luckily there was no one in it.
I turned to see who was calling and rolled my eyes when I saw ‘short stuff’. My hand was already hovering over the ‘Close’ button for the elevator doors.
“Hi” he said panting. “I just came to check on you. I saw the list..”
My middle finger came up on its own volition and I flipped him the bird as the elevator doors closed.
I chuckled when I caught sight of his shocked expression. Now, on to that Shiraz.