Damilare Atanda was a genius, a whiz kid of sorts in his chosen profession and career path. It always took less than five minutes with him to know that he was a computer nerd. He was standing in front of his office scratching his head as he stood beside his car. Something was not right with him and his posture suggested same.
He stood akimbo, head bowed. Something seriously was not right with him. He raised his head after a while and stared at the building for a while, and then he lifted his head at stared at the sky. He shook his head, ‘I can’t work like this.’ He produced his car keys from his pocket, pressed a button to unlock the car doors and got in. He turned on the ignition and drove out of the parking lot.
His boss – Mr Adenekan – watched as he drove out the gate. He shook his head in pity, he could empathize with Dare. It was always frustrating to be so close yet so far away from your desired goal. He let his window blind shut as he took his seat, the young man was an asset to the company yet his recent depression binge was hampering his creativity.
Mr Adenekan slouched on his chair, closed his eyes as he was lost in thought. He didn’t hear the knock on his door or the door opening.
He jerked upright, spied his secretary and frowned. ‘What is it?’ His tone was harsh.
‘Sir,’ she stated again, ‘the clients for the software that Damilare is developing are here for a test run of the software.’
He sighed heavily, waved off his secretary as it occurred to him instantly. Dare had decided to punk out of his meeting with the clients, and he was left holding the bag. He felt royally pissed. That boy would have a lot to answer for whenever he finally got back to the office. Mr Adenekan stood, straightened his jacket and proceeded out of the office; he was on a mission to salvage Dare.
Dare drove aimlessly for like an hour. Since he was driving against traffic, he wasn’t inhibited by the frustrating Lagos traffic. He was driving rather dangerously as he processed the thoughts weighing on his mind.
The first was the issue of his girlfriend and soon to be wife. She hadn’t rejected him when he proposed that day. No, she hadn’t. She had stylishly accepted his proposal and initiated the process for their official engagement. Her words to him had been, ‘talk to my father, whatever he says, goes.’
He remembered he had entered the house brimming with confidence that morning. But as he encountered her father, guilt washed over him. His confidence dried up and he had nothing to say to the man. He had simply greeted the man, dropped off Damilola‘s belongings and left cursing his cowardice.
He still hadn’t been worked up enough courage to face her father after that day. He had simply avoided going to her house. Then, there was the more pressing matter of the software he was developing at work. He had pitched the idea to some investors who had liked it and invested in the software.
He had started the development process, writing codes, and running tests. He was a mess back then, working endlessly like a maniac. Suddenly, he hit a brick wall, a test hadn’t gone as planned and he hadn’t been able to debug the program and solve the programming issue. To top that, the investors had been on him, haranguing him, asking for a live demonstration of the software’s capability.
He knew their representatives were waiting for him in the office and instead of going in to show them the progress he had made, he had simply gotten in his car, turned the ignition and driven out of the office. He shook his head sadly as his car sped along.
Finally, he slowed the car, peered out the window to determine where he was and was appalled to discover he had driven aimlessly to Idimu. He sighed as the thoughts bothering him lifted. He spied a restaurant ahead and the urge to drown himself in alcohol consumed him.
He slowed down and pulled into the parking area. If only he knew how much the decision to pull over would affect his life, he would have kept driving. He turned off the ignition, pulled the hand break and got out of his KIA Sportage car, whistling as he rolled his key in his hand, strolling into the bar.
He reneged on his decision to drink alcohol as he entered into the bar, he sat at the table and ordered for an energy drink. He was halfway through the drink when he saw the man.
He squinted and cleaned his eyes with the back of his hand. He was seeing clearly he determined. He took another sip of his drink and looked in the man’s general direction. Yup, that’s him, he convinced himself and grinned.
‘Jango! The man!’ The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them.
The man paused, inclined his head and turned to survey the bar, his eyes lit up as recognition dawned. ‘Dare!’ He stood from his seat smiling animated.
Both men covered the distance separating them. Their embrace was hearty and warm. They regarded themselves for a while then let go of themselves still brimming.
Jango – Ayomide Ayoola – was the first to speak. ‘Dude, you’ve grown fat mehn. How long has it been, seven years? What are you up to now?’
‘I’m good mehn, I’m good.’ That was all Dare offered. He couldn’t believe he was seeing Mide in flesh and blood. They had been hall mates back in school and Mide was a level behind him. The last he heard about Mide was that he had been killed in a police incident, ergo his earlier reaction of disbelief.
They all knew back in school that Mide was a member of one of the confraternities that haunted the school. Casting a shadow of terror on all the students as they all lived in fear. His surprise was evident and he asked, ‘is this really you?’
Mide stood there and smiled. ‘Everyone thought I had died, everyone. In actual fact, I went up north to see some friends, it was whilst there that my mother called my phone in tears. When I answered the phone she dropped it and refused to answer when I called her back. Funny woman,’ he mused shaking his head.
‘I called school to learn what was going on, and I was told Jango had been killed. Needless to say, I couldn’t go back to school to complete my programme. I came home, waited for another year to pass then reapplied to another school. I finished last year and I’ve been working with a family friend who runs a cleaning agency.
‘Wow!’ Dare said stunned. He grabbed the stool closest to him and sat on it. He couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. He had cried back then, and although he identify with the students who went on a solidarity walk to honour and decry the senseless killing of budding potentials, he had grieved. ‘Wow,’ he said again.
Mide was still smiling. I haven’t used that nickname since that incident, better to leave the ghost of the past buried don’t you think?’
Dare couldn’t agree more. He nodded. ‘So now you’re into the cleaning business?’
‘Yup!’ Mide’s response was automatic. ‘We clean the society, rid it of its dirt and filth.’
Dare had no idea that Mide’s speech was more figurative rather than literal. ‘Well, I’m a software developer now. I work with an IT firm and I ran away from a simulation software presentation this morning, that’s how I found myself here.’
‘Wow! That’s good news,’ Mide appeared genuine.
Dare took one long look at him, ‘thank Gd you’re alive mehn, thank God.’ He still couldn’t believe that he was speaking with the real Mide.
He spied his watch, grimaced and stood up. ‘I need to get back to the office, I’m in so much trouble as we speak.’
Mide nodded his understanding. ‘Okay, keep in touch bro.’ He started walking away.
‘Hey!’ Dare called, ‘give me your contact at least. Been a while, we just might need your services. You say you’re into cleaning…’
‘Yes, cleaning agents. We rid the society of its filth.’ He produced a complimentary card and exchanged with Dare.
Dare left in earnest, he had to get back to the office and face his boss. It wasn’t going to be a feel good meeting.
Mide watched him go, smiled pleasantly and shook his head. Finally, the fool had seen him. He couldn’t believe that someone who had a larger than life attitude on campus, was everywhere and saw everything could be reduced to seeing things in one way. Dare had developed a tunnel vision that was good for his job, but made him a social outcast, he couldn’t see.
Mide joined his crew who had been drinking and talking unperturbed by his absence. One of the men spoke up, regarding him. ‘Do we have our programmer?’
Instead of replying, Mide held up Dare’s card. The fool had thought he may bring business to the clan. Fool. He had no idea he had just been recruited. They had been following him for days, weeks even, shadowing his every move, still the guy was always focused on what he was doing or where he was going.
Mide wished he would complete the software application soon, it was the reason why they needed Dare, he didn’t care for the person Dare had become.