One Friday evening, Mum came back from work ecstatic. She was barely through the door when she announced to us (well, actually, to Dad; Dami and I just happened to be there), “God has done it! The constant thorn in our flesh is leaving! We serve a faithful God, after all!”
That evening was the most relaxed I had seen Mum in a while. Later on, that evening, from eavesdropping at Mum and Dad’s bedroom door, I would learn that Mum’s boss was being let go of due to what the bank termed “inappropriate behaviour in an organization aiming to be world-class in the 21st century”. According to Mum, most people in their branch appeared to be finding what was playing out funny: her boss had been “a horrible person to work under” for years, in different branches of the bank, under the noses of ‘the powers that were’ in the bank. In fact she was seen in the light of one who no one dared go against. So, what had changed?
Mum told that the rumour making the rounds was that one of Mum’s colleagues had lodged a formal statement with the bank’s headquarters, detailing the abuse that they had had to endure for much too long. Who this brave person (or foolish person, depending on how things turned out) was, no one could say for certain although people had their suspicions. The statement had somehow, for reasons best known to the bank’s handlers, translated into an investigation into the employee’s claims. The investigation had been on for a couple of months. Mum said that most people in the branch had seemed to think that it would yield no far-reaching results favourable to ‘the masses’. But, apparently, whoever had spoken up had done so clearly and audibly. “It can only be God! It can only be God!”, Mum rounded up her narration to Dad. I tip-toed back to my room that night, happy that Mum would no longer be returning from work always unhappy. That night, before going to bed, I knelt and prayed to God: “Thank you, God, for fighting for Mum and her colleagues at work.”
The next day – Saturday – after Mum’s announcement, Mum had to go pick up something she had forgotten at work on Friday. She took Dami and me along with her. It was late morning on a weekend and Dad and Uncle Wale were not at home. When we got to the office, I was surprised to see a number of persons at work. I asked Mum why. She said some had to be there to make sure that the bank’s customers remained satisfied while others were there to tidy up urgent work they had been unable to finish during the week-days. While Mum headed to her desk, I headed to the ladies’. There had been a lot of traffic on the way to Mum’s place of work and I was feeling pressed. I had been to the bank a couple of times before and so I could find my way to the ladies’. I met a lady in the restroom. When I entered she was holding her phone mid-air as though she had paused a phone-call when she had heard my footsteps approaching from up the passage. I greeted her and she waved back, smiling, “Hi, there!” I went into one of the toilets, flushed it before use and wiped the seat properly with the toilet-roll before sitting on it, just as Mum had taught me. While in the toilet, I could hear the lady continue with her phone-call, apparently not threatened by what a kid would hear.
“Yes, Dear, our boss will be leaving by month’s end.”
“Finally, we can all work without constantly feeling uneasy at work.”
“I looked around and saw what we were all going through, and I knew I had to do something about it. Every other person here seemed so afraid of what the repercussions could be, even the macho men of the team. They preferred to live in misery than face up to their fears. I could not continue like that. You know me.”
“Hahaha, fuck you! Fuck you, you hear? Hahaha.”
“Okay then, Dear. Will call you later when I’m done in the office. Take care.”
When I came out of the toilet she was checking herself out in the mirror. She was twenty-something or thirty-something, brown-skinned, beautiful but not in a conventional way, petite and bespectacled.
I stared at her puzzled. When she noticed me staring at her, she turned to me and said, “Hi, there, again.”
I asked her, “Are you God?”
She laughed and said, “That’s a strange question to ask, my little friend. Why do you ask?”
“Because my mum said that it was God that delivered her and her colleagues from their difficult boss. So, are you God?”
She seemed to think about it and then said “Maybe” with a wink. “But don’t tell anyone, yeah? Let it be our little secret.” She bent down, touched my chin, winked again and then left the restroom.
When I went back to Mum, I told her that I had met God in the ladies’. She laughed and told me that that was not possible. Remembering that God had told me to keep our meeting a secret, I decided not to say more. Knowing was enough. Of course as I got older, I realized that that lady was not God – not literally, at least. As I got older, I also came to understand that not a few “miraculous” turn-arounds in circumstances in our lives, that we get and rush to slap on the label of “God did it!”, are the outcomes of other people – brave people – choosing to act, risking their lives or careers or reputations or finances for the good of others and themselves. Of course, this does not mean that God did not do it (for those of us who believe in a God), but a choice and a will to act are also instrumental. I came to see that the rest of us – the not-so-brave, afraid-of-what-could-happen, often-waiting-on-divine-intervention ones – are quite often the unwitting beneficiaries of such persons’ bravery, whether it be in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces or in our country.
This is a work of fiction.
Photo by Kirian Agu on Unsplash