Missed It? Read EPISODE 1 here
The boardroom always felt like a different world. You took on a new attitude as you entered to bask in the extra cool temperature and the formal smell of corporate royalty. For the boardroom is a corporate palace and the place where the royals in their sharp suits and costly cufflinks hold court. In the boardroom, you became a royal.
Gregg and his fellow royals filed into the room, exchanging pleasantries. Most had not seen the others in weeks. Every kind of expensive fragrance was in the air, each striving for significance over the other like their wearers. They had all settled into the supple leather seats when the Chairman of the Board strolled in, surrounded by the highest level of Cyragon Management – the Managing Director and his Deputy. Gregg watched a younger lady walk in with them. Hers was a new face, he had never seen her around, but well, it was a large company. There was no seat for this lady at the table, confirming that her presence was not anticipated. An assistant dashed off to get a seat.
“Oh, no seat for my daughter?” The Chairman questioned, to no one in particular. Then he searched around the room,
“Where is he? Where is Gregg?”
“Aha! Gregg, this is my daughter Keysa. I brought her to this meeting because of you. Like you, she is unmarried and very intelligent. I just thought you might be interested.”
The room was engulfed in the hearty laughter of the royals and Gregg kept from looking at the poor lady. How embarrassing it must be to have such a brash man for a father.
The meeting was devoid of tension. Laughter came easily even when they had to discuss shutting down a division in faraway Port-Harcourt. Over two hundred staffers would be asked to leave, but the Chairman joked that losing their jobs would give them enough time to decide on which candidate to vote in the coming presidential election.
Everyone was grateful for his presence. On days the board meeting was chaired by the Managing Director or any other top ranking sadist, even a decision to triple staff salaries would be made with solemnity. Today, they could all breathe, sadists and non-sadists alike.
Gregg was not allowed to make his presentation. The Chairman said he had to hear it privately before presenting it to the board.
“You will say it to me and my daughter first, Gregg.” Laughter again.
She ran up to him on his way out of the boardroom. He was viewing an email on his phone and did not see her coming until she slightly gripped his arm.
“Excuse me.” She smiled, looking directly into his face, searching to see if he was embarrassed.
“Oh hi, Keysa.”
“I’m really sorry about my father’s conduct. He tends to take humor beyond its limits. But I have come to understand that he means no harm most of the time. Please do not take offence.”
Her tone was clear and crisp, typical of people who had lived both in Nigeria and Europe or America.
“No offence taken. I am very familiar with Chairman. If you ask around, it’s always a delight having him around. It can be painful to be the object of his jests though, but anyhow.”
“I am glad we cleared that up. I look forward to your presentation. Dad goes on about your brilliance and I’m sure he’s right. And yeah, please don’t be under any pressure to marry me.”
She laughed and patted Gregg on the shoulder like a coach would her team player. Before Gregg could join in, she stretched out her hand for a handshake.
“Thank you for your time Gregg.”
Her palm was soft and petite. Gregg resisted staring as she walked away.
“Now I want to marry her.”
He took off his jacket as my secretary showed him in and flung it across the floor. He did same to himself, landing instead on the couch.
His eyes were shut but he wore a broad smile and his breathing was audible. I watched him and made notes. My secretary was waiting to ask him what he would like to drink but I signalled to her and we were left alone. A drink was definitely not a concern to my client at the time.
Mine is just like in the movies, we ask clients if they’d like coffee, tea, water or juice. Alcohol is out of the question given that they have to speak from clear minds. Some of the alcoholic types would just sit still for a few minutes, sober. I ask my questions and they cannot rake up the strength to respond. They just sit there, unable to think. Then they thank me and walk out, only to return the next day with the same story.
“How much did you have to drink last night?” I’d ask.
“A lot”, they’d reply. And we would sit there in silence, both sure what the problem was, that their demon was the type people gulped.
Gregg just lay there, but he had not gulped his demons. They were memories that claimed ownership of his past and present. His future had luckily escaped thus far.
“I like her. There’s just something about her that I don’t want to run away from. I feel drawn to it.”
“But you cannot. And you know why.”
“Don’t say I cannot. I can and that’s why I am here. We just have to work it out.”
So Gregg met a new girl.
It was a surprising development and a huge deviation from the pattern of our previous sessions. I was beginning to get fond of his dark narrative. The untold stories of where his young face had been, stories of a time when he did not wear fancy suits, pricey leather shoes and tangible fragrances. For a person less than three decades old, the past is pretty recent though the new clothes and deluxe job made it seem like it all happened in a previous life.
He thought so too for a while and focused on software engineering. The little ideas started making big waves and big money and the fancy stuff came unbidden. The old life appeared drowned, the new money purchased further training and certifications abroad and those hauled in more money, then a one year stint in Silicon Valley. He was soon a hotly chased expert; corporate head hunters thronged him before he settled in with Cyragon and the money promised never to go away.
But the past was just yesterday and not a former life. It tapped his shoulder ever so often; a grim reminder as he looked back at its horrors.
Gregg exhaled hard as the words trickled out
“I was 13 the first time. And I only watched.”
The story continues…
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