It starts with her perfume. She sat next to me on the bus and I couldn’t help but notice her perfume. It had a pungent scent that smelled of sunshine (whatever that smells like). I wanted to turn to her and tell her I like her perfume then I hesitated. Well, because I recalled a tweet that explained what I sometimes feel about striking conversations in a bus. The tweet went something like this, ‘I can hold a wet soap better than I can hold a conversation.’ Especially with total strangers like this lady right here.
She was paying me no mind. Her eyes were glued to the mathree’s TV screen jamming to some songs blaring from the speaker on our way to the CBD. I turned to her, tapped her lightly and gave the compliment, ‘I like your cologne.’ I must have startled her with amazement. She gave a shy – ‘oh! thank you’ – and I could tell from her body language then on, she was ready to have a conversation. Too bad I had moved on from it. Well, not entirely.
My mind drifted to some place and I found her there. I started asking myself, who is this lady? What’s she up to? What does she do for a living? Is she happy with her life? Or is the cologne a part of her daily escape to evade the misery of what life sometimes turns out to be? Does she like her boss? What about her boyfriend? How long ago did she get that hairstyle?
On and on it went. I imagined her name to be Bev. She struck me as one of those ladies in a technical field, something like accounting. But her true passion is singing. To let lose all that’s inside of her to a crowd through a mic in a packed stadium. She must have plenty of Adele’s video performances stored in her phone. She likes to cook too. The boyfie praises her for it.
I imagined she is getting tired with the whole accounting life. It was her Dad’s idea in the first place. The Dad is not the dialogue type. What he says goes. And that’s how she ended up in accounting. In high school, she had to do what she had to do to make her parents happy. She chose all sciences. Dropped home science – her best subject – because the Dad would disapprove of it. She aced her exams. Well, it was more of a necessity than she considered it a personal achievement.
At the office, she has work piled up waiting for her. But she doesn’t want to think about it yet, until she’s in that office that now feels like a prison. She’s caged up and just like that Nyashinski song, she wants to be Free! Don’t we all?
I picture her having packed breakfast and some left over supreme chicken she made last night, for lunch. When she sits at her desk, she feels deflated. She’ll have breakfast first before starting her computer, all the while listening to some melodic tunes on her earphones coming from her phone. Though the work drains the life out of her, saps her passion, she is good at it. She has mastered the art of getting it done regardless of what she feels. More like taking food without salt or seasoning because you need to feed. That’s what the salary does to her, she can live comfortably having paid the bills. But there is no life in her.
Who wants to quit a job and struggle to make ends meets trying to build a career from your passion? Well, she must be the only one. A few weekends ago she had a sleepover with the girls. Someone floated the question of whether to pursue your struggling passion versus keeping a secure job with a salary. She went overboard expressing herself. So much that she stepped on one of the girl’s toes with her remarks, Mercy. They are not talking to each other yet. No worries, Mercy will come around.
She’s done with breakfast now. The laptop is switched on. She skims through her emails. Makes notes on her notebook of things to achieve today. She gets down to work. Work which sometimes feels sluggish, like ketchup leaving its base in the bottle. Her days are made of this sloppy feeling and it’s a mystery how much food, can uplift one’s spirits. She looks forward to lunch hour, when she gets to warm her meal and sits by Kate, the admin girl, gossiping and talking about the latest this and that in town. The one hour always feels rushed. And before you know it, she’s back to the cage. Doing what needs to be done to get that cheque and pay the bills. Such is life.
Maybe one day she will get all mighty tired of this traffic madness, this lethargic work life and get her ass up and leave it all behind. Be fierce enough to chase after something that fulfils her. It might not be an easy path but it’ll definitely be a fulfilling one for that matter. Then she’ll look back and curse the days she was afraid of making the leap of faith but for now, she dwells in the cage until she finally breaks free.
The bus makes it’s turn on University Way and I have to alight. I want to wish Bev a good day ahead but I argue that it’ll sound corny. I leave it at that. I alight the bus and make my way to the office. My own cage.
I’m done imagining that people like me have it rough. That people like me want so badly to be free. I’m done consoling myself for the lack of what I really need – purposeful living with a higher reward that money can never quite get you.
When I finally get to the office, it will me my last time to switch on the laptop. I’ll write one last email and just like that, I’ll be done. Done for good.
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