It felt weird on the first day at work. I was beginning my internship at the Nigerian Ports Authority, Marina and I left home early. I boarded the commercial vehicles but met traffic along the third mainland bridge. At the gate, a security man stopped me for a series of interrogations before I was allowed in when I showed him my letter of appointment in place of the assigned identity card. At the training office, I met two people whom I thought were interns, from other schools. My gaze flickered at the girl admiring her outfit. Her hair packed in a ponytail, strolling through her back, and her face straight glancing directly at the lady keeping a bunch of files in place.
“Good morning, Ma,” I said.
The lady nodded, continued flipping through the files, sometimes she would glance up in a reflex. For a few moments, she strolled up and down in the office before returning to the table to sign some documents. She turned to the girl and began the briefing. Soon, she was done with them and it was my turn. She prepared my files keenly before handing them to me. Her face had been exhausted, her eyelids dilated. “This one is for this department. This one… This…” she kept saying, then stopped, and said, “that’s all.”
Throughout, I did not stop watching her, observing her keenly.
“That’s all,” she said and her eyelashes flickered.
I nodded and walked out of the office. I was one of the three students out of many others, in the class of over a hundred, working in the firm. Most of the students settled to work in the institution farm, little fish farms around, and other non-paying firms except selected few that got a firm that paid a stipend. During the job hunting, I had some friends who tagged me a bad person because I didn’t connect them, little did they know I was not in charge. In my defense, I made it seem it was my uncle did.
I walked into the office with a girl. The words “Environment Department” were written boldly on the tag, stuck to the door. I was led by an old internship student from the University of Benin. A young slender girl. We had met in the manager’s office where I was filling some documents. I had submitted my last documents to the manager and after constant queries, the manager Mrs. Coker requested I was taken to the general office to get to know the people I would be working with. The girl majored in Environmental toxicology. I met some of the students in the training office.
The door creaked open and she walked in. I followed her closely, walking in and shutting the door. The office was beautiful, with new desks and chairs. It had cool ventilation with a calm atmosphere. I sighed, then my eyes sauntered around the office glaring at the workers. Some were busy with documents, hitting the keyboard buttons while a few busied themselves on their phone, chitchatting. “Good morning, Sirs. Good morning, Ma’s” I said. I heard some murmuring and chorusing in replies.
The girl turned towards him, feeling quite shy as she played and twisted her fingers. She wriggled her body trying to contain laughter from blurting aloud. “This is the office,” she said and stopped for a brief moment. She laughed, her head bent low.
She turned towards the workers. “He is the new IT student,” she said.
I let out a smile and nodded.
“You are welcome,” most of them chorused.
“What’s your name?” one asked.
“Femi Salako,” I replied.
“Great,” I said and paused. I glanced at the man sitting beside me. The man’s brow creased.
I swallowed saliva, feeling nervous. Somehow, I wished the ground would open and swallow my whole. My heart palpitated and the strand of hair on my body stood erect. The air condition in the room seared cold air into my body, deep into my pores, making me feel uneasy. I had the feeling the man knew me from somewhere judging from the way he stared keenly.
“Well, I know a particular Salako…” the man said, tripping in between words, grasping a paper on his table.
The door creaked open and a man walked in. I turned and glanced at him. I held some documents. He glanced at me and looked away. His gaze moved to the girl. “Who is Mrs. Halima?” he asked.
A woman at the other end turned and looked up. “It’s me,” she said.
The man walked towards her.
“You can have your seat,” the first man said to me as I was standing, swinging his hands to some of the seats at the extreme.
“I am going, Sir,” the girl said.
“Okay, Faridah,” she replied.
I nodded hearing the girl’s name for the first time.
“What school are you from?” the man asked.
“University of Lagos.”
He returned his laptop, began hitting the keyboard. I glanced at my phone’s screen. I had been informed the closing hour was four P.M and I left the office some minutes past four. The company’s assigned SIWES supervisor had gone on a fieldwork with other interns. They would return to the office if they finished early or they go home from there.
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Obinna Tony-Francis Ochem is a freelance writer, who navigates through gender, class, sexuality, climate change and shape shifting monsters. He is alumni of the Lolwe Fiction Workshop facilitated by Zukiswa Wanner and SpringNG '20 cohort writing mentorship programme. His works are published or forthcoming on Elseisy Blog, Kalahari Review, Rustintimes, LivingFreeUk, Punocracy Longlist '19 & 20, Tush Magazine essay finalist/winner, Chinụa Achebe Essay Anthology, SpringNG anthology, and The WorkBooth magazine. A finalist for Kalahari Review Igby Prize for Non-Fiction and longlisted for Second edition of Kitodiaries Prize for Literature. Also, a finalist for the '19 Quramo Writers' Prize for his manuscript, Deep Ocean, and Afire '19 Linda Ikeji Prize for Literature, for Living in the Ghetto. He is currently studying Marine Sciences at the University of Lagos and has a link to his works, https://linktr.ee/obynofranc. He tweets, @obynofranc.