02 January 2011

One Man Too Many by Oyindamola H. Affinnih

The advert placement on TV had been quite convincing. Since graduation two years ago and I was still without a job, I thought of giving in to my one-time passion- writing. Perhaps if I put my mind to it, chances are that I may not be as bad as I thought. At least with a little grooming and concentration, it may not be too long before my name starts rolling at the end credits of films, or even if I got luckier, television dramas. Much as I loved reading novels, I knew that wasn’t my forte, and as for poems? Ugh! So scripts it had to be. So upon seeing the placement on the TV some days ago right after a popular drama, I secretly, when my flatmates weren’t looking, scribbled the name, address and telephone number of the production outfit before they discouraged me. Maybe I could start with giving that talent my best shot, like writing a very promising application and then updating and submitting a copy of one of my many scripts which lay under her bed.

The building of the production outfit was in one of the suburbs of Lagos. It stood on a single brown storey, with part of the paints already peeling off. Only last week I had come to submit my works for scrutiny, and nice as the front-desk officer was, there was a tinge of shock I saw in her eyes that discomforted me. However she had collected the bulky envelope I offered, smiled and dismissed me. A couple of days later, an invite had come from Bluebird Network which had stupefied me. So here I was.

Inside, there was a long arrangement of occupied chairs in the reception. Was it an audition? I wondered... but I thought we who had a knack for writing are usually not as many as those who wanted to act! I scolded myself for foolishly thinking my writing prowess had awed the Producer when there was still this embarrassing queue? How many trainee writers did they actually need? It looked like a complete waste of time. I must have been gaping foolishly until the lady manning the desk came over to tap me on the shoulder.

“Hello?”

“Hello.” I snapped out of my reverie. “I... got a call to come for...”

“You are late!” The lady almost screamed. “It’ll be sad if they have called your name already because there’s nothing I can do about it.”

How about that for courtesy! I turned to the audience who were waiting to be called. The bulk of them already had scripts they were reading from, and then it occurred to me.

“I’m not an actress. I applied for the script-training session...”

“You should have told me naw!” Her voice shot up a decibel.

Did you ask? I almost flung back at her, but stuck with a wrung out smile.

“This way.” She called and I chased after her. With the way she was marching arrogantly ahead, it’d be easy to miss her if I didn’t tag along fast enough. She stopped at a huge brass door with me following meekly. “Go in.”

But was it that easy? I nudged my head, asking the hostile lady again and she gave a devilish smile, like she was so certain I wasn’t going to come out whole.

The blast from the air conditioner first hit me full throttle, next came the man seated at the head of the table, who didn’t as much as glance up to see who had come in. He must have just eaten something because he was wiping his fingers with a serviette. The room had to be the board room of the organisation, else how could one explain the array of chairs tucked neatly along the large table.

“Good morning sir.” No response. I tried again, louder this time. “Good morning Sir.” I was almost smiling that I had finally got his attention until from his expression it occurred to me that I just intruded on whatever it was he had been doing on his laptop. I had the opportunity of explaining myself or getting out. Even as he glanced at me, his fingers did not stop punching vigorously at his keyboard. Upon getting his supposed attention, words failed me. “Good morning Sir.” I tried again.

“That’s the third time I’m hearing that in the space of what...” he inquired from the expensive watch which lay on his right wrist. My eyes followed his every move. “...Three minutes. That’s not the reason you are here. I suppose?”

Besides the touch of greying temples that marked him a member of the senior set, it’d have been hard for anyone to know he was elderly. He was dressed casually, a yellow polo t-shirt was all I could see from my vantage position. He had the skin of one who didn’t spend the bulk of his time in any harsh weather. His lips were moving, I discovered, only I hadn’t heard a word of anything he said until he motioned for me to sit, which I promptly did, clutching at my bag for support.

“You are?”

“Toke Benson.”

For the first time, he cast a suspicious glare at me. What in the world told me to apply? I wondered. His next question hit me below the belt.

“What in the world were you thinking when you sent your entry?”

I couldn’t believe I was about to be dissed. “What?” My lips trembled. His eyes were on my lips.

“What modern writer submits hard copies of her work? You ever heard about computers? Flash drives? Emails?” his eyes bored into mine. “You could have done better than sending that stack of pile to us. We are professionals here, not some bunch of amateurs who stumbled into the industry.”

I noticed his dentition was perfect. Nothing out of place.

“You’re doing a very bad job of passing a message and I’m sure you know it sir. Don’t you think it would have been more ideal telling me gently that I don’t qualify?”

His eyes went from narrow to thin slits, matching the militant tilt to my chin. I started to get up for fear that he might get really loud and order me out when without a knock, the door burst open. A chubby woman in her mid thirties peeked in, frowning mischievously at me. He rose to his six feet plus, straight and debonair. “My producer!” he hailed.

That was her!

“Deji! Hope you enjoyed your trip to Nigeria? It’s so good to have you on board again.” She asked.

“Anytime. Oh! Please meet Toke Benson, our trainee writer!” replied Deji.

My eyes were the size of halos.

“Wonderful. I see you’ve met the head-writer. Have you been given the schedule?” she asked.

“No ma. I...”

“Never mind. I’ll get it for you.”

My lips were shut tightly together, because I couldn’t trust not gasping if I let them loose. Looking up at him, his eyes were still cold and downright unfriendly.

“I’ll see you Saturday.” he said, it was meant to be a threat and it sounded like one.

*


Two weeks later, we resumed work. Nothing I contributed to the script conference ever went down well with Mr. Deji. He didn’t show outright rude signs or embarrass me further like I had thought he would. But he kept me at some distance, which I didn’t like. It was apparent he had worked with the other writers before so it was easier to mingle with them than me. Out of the twenty-six episodes, I was only entrusted to write one and even that, he had made look like I was being given a rare opportunity. Besides his usual harsh editing when I mailed the first draft to him, his comments had been simple and professional.

The producer was an unforgivable gambler. She had promised to throw an after-party if she got all her scripts, well written, in a week. With all the scripts submitted to her and cheques issued, the party was in full swing with lots to eat, drink and smoke. I was still not exactly familiar with all the writers. One thing they all had in common was their mood swings. One moment they were friendly and funny, the next they carried long faces. I thought I must get used to the attitude if I wanted to remain a writer, but also whenever they were in their bubbling spirits, they talked dirty. Initially I had been so shocked and embarrassed, but later I pretended I didn’t understand a word of what was being said.

“Well, I see I’m not the only one who needs a breather?”

The voice couldn’t be mistaken. How he had crept up on me, I couldn’t explain. He was close. A breath away. But he was handsome. He had lazy eyes that rose reluctantly, eyes that had bored into me and the other writers whenever he was on the brink of getting upset by our slow pace.

“Good evening Mr. Deji. I didn’t hear you walk up.”

“Apparently. You were so engrossed in whatever it was you were thinking about. It’s the end of the session and surprisingly you have done well.”

I was awed into silence. A few minutes ago, I was just giving myself the very many reasons this should be my last attempt at screen-writing. And now this!

“You have been paid what you were promised, so this has nothing whatsoever with your being a trainee and me being the head writer.”

His lips fell on mine, gently, softly. He tasted warm. A hint of tobacco on his breath. A moan escaped my lips as he delved in, making love to me with his mouth. I tried to keep my hands off him because in spite of the havoc he was causing to my senses, he remained very well composed with his hands resting beside him. Then he went from gentle to possessive so that when we broke apart he was panting heavily and so was I.

“I’ve wanted to do this since the day you walked into the office, pardon me.” It didn’t sound like he was sorry.

I was quiet and plenty confused.

“Walk with me.” He ordered.

He appeared to be conversant with the surroundings and soon found a quiet spot where we sat, lapsing into an uncomfortable hush.

“If you ask whether I like you, I’d say... a lot. If you ask whether I want to kiss you again, I’d say... why, of course! You are a beautiful, desirable and intelligent young woman.” All the while he looked away. “I’m a married man, with kids. But I don’t deny myself a little pleasure here and there. Of course you are an adult and I can’t force you.” He slipped his phone into his pockets, sighing. “I’d be leaving back to the States tomorrow, would you come to my room later tonight?”

This time I couldn’t help gasping in shock. He was looking at me now and I matched him glare for glare. He looked away first. “For the sake of saneness and decorum, would you stop looking at me like that? I’d hate to take you on this floor. Please.”

Goose bumps grew on my flesh.

He got up, dusted the seat of his jeans trousers and made to go before turning back to me. “I’m in room 609.” He took a while to study my reaction to what he said before adding. “I’m not promising I won’t make love to you, if you come”, and he walked away.

*


The next morning, I woke up late even though I knew I was to check out of the hotel before noon. My body ached from the troubles of the past weeks. The image of Mr. Deji came to mind. His good-looking face and what had transpired the night before. He was one hell of a man. A man any woman could kill to have. So what was I going to do? I thought as I stepped into the tub.




One Man Too Many was written by Oyindamola H. Affinnih.

Copyright © Oyindamola H. Affinnih 2011.



Oyindamola Halima Affinnih was born in Nigeria in 1982. Her short stories have been published in magazines and newspapers. She also writes scripts for television. Two gone... still counting is her first novel.





5 comments:

chris chakwana said...

storyline real,characters familiar,this is a masterpiece!

gracefulglider said...

i was intrigued by the tale spun, i thought i would be a story of how the girl gets work then end... but the twist comes in ho wMr Deji treats her all through, first like he hates her then Voila!! he likes her....

this is definitely a story i relate too only too well. at work and at school.

Lovely read!

Thanks story time and Oyindamola.

Love and Light

tosyn said...

Nice Piece. When is this coimng out??????????

Sisi Eko said...

Thanks chris, gracefulglider and tosyn. Glad you liked it.
But this is what it really is Tosyn, a short story.

chris chakwana said...

storyline real,characters familiar,this is a masterpiece!

 
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