Nothing could be more timely than a business retreat coming in the wake of a backbreaking project execution. For as long as I could remember, Mondays through Fridays were as grueling and demanding as a seven-hour marathon.
Work, in these days of abundant skilled manpower requires so much depth in knowledge, otherwise a little ignorance could alter one's employment status. Tasks over here were designed for individual expertise and then the combination of each individual role makes for the team work. And so, a little lapse and you're found out.
I didn't have that allowance for lapses. In my country, you don't slip, especially if you're not a privileged breed(that circle was small). Acknowledging my less than average background meant extra. Extra qualifications, extra work, extra of everything and all things.
So Today was a good day, one that I didn't have to be extra, except maybe for Tana.
Tana was my fantasy. Mind you, she was very real, as real as two office spaces away from mine, but she was best suited for fantasy because we were conditioned to work like horses; tasks, deadlines, more tasks and then no time.
Lunch breaks existed only on our schedule sheets but that was it. You eat when you remember, that's if you have the leverage to leave your desk and sprint to the canteen and teleport back with lunch. Then you only remember you ate when the dispensable food pack constitutes a sizeable mess on your work space.
That was the routine, so Tana stayed as fantasy.
To be honest, I had made real efforts to submit my interest. My gaze always fixed on her during meetings. I used to see her cringe in shyness when she notices, and amidst blushes she would try to avoid any further glances. That was progress, I would acknowledge, encouraging my efforts.
Tana was brown skin, she was suave and looked delicate(like she could crack on mild contact). It seemed she had been well shielded from the real Nigerian experience. She reeked of privilege, nobility and grace. And she was beauty. Not beautiful, she was the noun.
And somehow I felt I should protect her, like it was my responsibility. Maybe that was what I existed for(I joked in my mind sometimes).
I was quite muscular, I could pride myself as tough. I should be, nobody shielded me from the harsh realities of being a third-world-er. And by the contrast of our seeming physical and gender stances, I felt we were well complemented.
So today should be a perfect time to make her see me, I decided. I wanted her to know she needed me.
Many thanks to the location of the excursion that would precede the retreat. That site wasn't for the delicate. And there was no better place for Tana to see the rock that I believed I was. I was going to be available for her to throw her weight on—if need be.
Whatever had made management chose that site was welcomed. Besides, a logistics service outfit for a crude oil corporation could well use an excursion to an exploration site. And yes, it was a rocky area.
Adrenaline enthusiast like me and a couple of my coworkers would take this as a treat, but I doubt Tana would. Well, that was were I came in, I could carry her all the way through if she would oblige me, I grinned long with this thought.
That morning, I shadowed Tana like a hawk until we were seated side by side in the company's bus. Well, there is a story to this feat.
Tope, a fellow coworker had glued to her for the most part of that morning. I had watched them chat away nonstop. They had obviously bonded. When did they get the time to bond? I wondered.
Then the subtle me decided it was time to play.
I made sure to project a nonchalant front. My face held a fabricated cloud that told tales of fatigue and stress. I feigned absent-mindedness. Anyone watching me would think I was half-dozing, but I was waiting, lurking, and then suddenly I found a window. The kind of window that closes in a blink. Tope stepped away for a second and I immediately launched...
The Story Continues