“Good evening, MultiChoice customer service, how can I help you?”
“This thing of yours is useless.”
“Calm down sir and please tell me the issue you’re having so that I can be able to assist?”
“Why am I paying so much money for something that is not working?”
“Sir, calm down, what is the issue?”
“Small boy, do you know what I can do with 8,000 bob, eh? Do you know?”
Brian heaves a sigh. He’s been imprisoned on his desk from morning to evening with very few breaks and his voice feels raspier than a phone-sex operator after two double shifts. He deals with three types of clients: clueless, rude and educated but today, he’s been getting all the nasty ones. Turns out the mudslinging was about an E63 error that was fixed by restarting the decoder. He removes his headphones to take a breather and sees the mischievous smile his colleague is wearing and grins.
His colleague is the nosy type who likes to know what everybody is doing. Just recently she formed a WhatsApp group to discuss other colleagues. She had added him but he left because he couldn’t stand the balderdash. Also, she is still holding a grudge, if the coffee she spilled on his shirt earlier under the pretence of tripping is anything to go by.
He looks over his shoulder to see if his immediate boss is around and from his periphery he can see her applying makeup. The rumour mill is that she’s sleeping with the manager, that’s why she can come and leave whenever she pleases. She also doesn’t like competition even though she’s built like a medieval queen; tall with a wasp waist and a round bum. She won’t hire anyone who remotely has those features.
Brian gets back to hammering his computer keyboard. He looks at the points he’s accumulated for the day. A call should last for a maximum of three minutes. You should have sorted out your client in that time, anything more and you’re deducted points. He scratches his scalp and pulls his afro which is big enough to hide a baby hippo. His last call spilled over with ten minutes.
“What’s wrong there, Afro? Flirting at work?”
It’s Susan, the girl with the WhatsApp group. Oh, how hate boils up in him when she opens her small lip-glossed mouth to speak. This one must have slipped through the cracks and escaped the beauty filter of madam boss because she’s as pretty as a flower, with delicate, smooth unembellished features.
“Why don’t you mind your own biashara, Suzie?”
“Is she your girlfriend or just a stranger trying to get under your trouser in the pretence of fixing her decoder?”
“Don’t you have a job to get back to?”
“You could be catfished you know, get there and find the she is a he.”
“You’re telling me the story of your life aren’t you?”
That gets to her and she coils away into her work station to cook up a comeback.
“Just be careful, that’s all I’m saying?”
“What’s in it for you?”
“I have seen these men we call clients, they don’t deserve you, Afro. You deserve someone who loves you for you, not your ‘E63 error’ solving skills.”
Brian gets back to punishing his keyboard without really doing anything besides thinking of how much he hates Suzie. Their boss gets up from her chair and her tower high heels make that cling-clang noise and within a blink of an eye she’s standing beside their work station holding her handbag ready to go.
“If anybody asks, I’m away on a business meeting. Here is some cash for Uber Chap Chap, Suzie. Pick up Robert from school for me, sweetie.” Suzie nods her head rapidly. “You’re a complete sweetheart.”
Suzie goes on to laugh sheepishly because she’s an absolute suck-up when it comes to their boss and Brian has a feeling she wants to be exactly like her.
“Customer service and chief nanny reporting for duty, huh!” Brian coughs and mumbles into his computer screen.
“You know it’s not your job.”
“What if I like doing it?”
“Nobody likes to end their work only to start work they’re not being paid for; let her take care of her own kid.”
“Mind your own business.”
“Doormat,” He coughs into his computer screen again and Suzie gets up and punches him on the arm.
“Why don’t you get back to flirting with your man and leave me alone,” she whispers before dissolving back to her seat, leaving her jasmine scent staining Brian’s nose.
“What are you going to tell your group chat today, eh, that you picked up her son out of spite?”
“Or you can just tell them the truth, that you’re obsessed with her and that’s why you can’t stop talking about her and that’s why everything she does is news to you. You really want to be like her don’t you?”
“I won’t dignify your question with an answer.”
She always says that when she’s losing.
That night Brian dreams about Suzie, because there is a thin line between hate and love. He dreams about her embrace and the ghost of her that clings to him after the embrace. She dreams of her moist lips on his neck. The hot steam giving him goosebumps and he jars out of sleep.
“We hate Suzie. We don’t like Suzie. Suzie is not our friend.” He speaks in third person as he prepares for work. He picks up his satchel and looks forward to his job for the first time in a while.
Brian reports to work and finds his boss giving Suzie a lecture on parenting.
“Suzie darling, Robert told me he had fun yesterday. You didn’t buy him sweets, did you? He was restless the entire night.”
“No sweets, he’s just a kid who loves jokes and laughter.”
“Jokes? I always thought all he liked to do was play video games. Suzie darling I’ll be stepping out at brunch, please pick my dry cleaning for me at this address at lunch time.”
She extends her hand which spots thousands of rings and bracelets while changing the topic as if she were talking about an insignificant commodity and not her son.
“I’m sorry I can’t run that errand, I’ll be going for lunch at that time.”
“It’s ok darling you can do it after lunch.”
“I can’t do it after lunch either, I will be here working.”
She rolls her eyes, bruised and starts teetering to her office before stopping.
“And Suzie, lets tone down on the miniskirts and makeup, you wouldn’t want to violate our company’s dress code now, would you?” She blurts and walks away in her cherry red tennis skirt which would make it impossible for her to climb a step without showing her knickers.
Brian stares at his computer and coughs.
“Have you caught something?”
“You’re always coughing into your computer screen, or did you go to fix your boyfriend’s decoder and he gave you something?”
At noon they find themselves in the lift while going for lunch, their hands brush and they look at each other and smile.
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