I knew two things to be true: People lie and lies can be hidden truths. Our meeting was scheduled for midday. I had arrived half an hour earlier and took to assessing the stationery aisle in Uchumi Supermarket. I was tempted to visit the Tile and Carpet store upstairs, but I could not stand being depressed by the price tags of home accessories I would die for. I bought three blue pens, one green gel pen and a dozen pencils.
The cashier smiled and asked, “Are you a teacher?”
“You always buy a dozen pencils when you come here. I thought maybe they are for your pupils, but sijui, just guessing.”
“I am not a Teacher, I just love pencils.” Even as soon as I had thought of those words, I knew them to be wrong. I do not love pencils. I collect pencils. There is a difference. There is the thrill of twisting a pencil through the sharpener’s blade to reveal a sharp tip. It’s glorious I tell you, makes me wonder why we used ‘Panda’ blades in primary school to sharpen pencils when sharpeners could do such a fine job!
My phone rang as soon as I stepped out of the supermarket, “Hey, am at the Food Court in Tuff-Foam Mall, si we meet there, I will be distracted by the Wi-Fi at Java!”
“Sawa, na come.”
So, I crossed the road, walked from one mall to the other and climbed all the stairs that led me to where she was. She was the client. I was the Consultant, but even as I approached her table I knew that this would end in an emotional war where none of us could win.
First rule of professional service: If it hits close to home, stay away, and get someone to clean up the mess.
I had no one. I had five: two guys, three women, none were well trained to handle her kind of drama, besides she reached out to me. You do not turn away a crying woman. If there are streams on her face, you sit and listen and wipe them clean and ensure she goes back with a smile on her face. I sat opposite her and smiled. She ordered fresh juice for us. Mango for me and Passion for her. She removed her sunglasses and threw them in her black leather bag. I looked at the buildings around us, towers of silence.
“I do not know where to start. I just needed to get away.” I nodded and looked at her lips. She was wearing red lipstick, a first for her. Her colors were purple and brown, nothing bold and bright. She smiled and then leaned forward, her necklace settling on my hand which was on the table. “Promise me that you will not tell anyone about our meeting and even if you see something, please do not speak up. I know you can keep secrets. It’s why I trust you, but please…I don’t know where to start, God! I just wish that things never got this far.”
The Waiter returned with our drinks. He placed the passion before me and the mango before her. She smiled and swapped the drinks before I could dip my straw into the passion juice. She thought I had room in my conscience for another secret. Yes, here is the confidentiality agreement. Sign here, here and here. You will keep a copy and I stay with one, for future reference I mean. Yes, that would work out so well- and you go away smiling and my attic of secrets is open to another one that could destroy our family. Well, thanks but no thanks.
“Hey, are you listening?”
“Yes, I am. Drink up, we’ll talk some more.”
“Thanks, I knew I could count on you.”