THE TREASURE I AM
By : Uzezi Ekere.
I descended. The applaud grew. My smiles were more beautiful than that of Janet Jackson. They remained on their feet, still applauding, until I was well seated. After I was seated, they sat down. I took it all in graciously. I took in all the honour and respect and relaxed to see the show to the end. The next to grace the stage was just too oratorical for my satisfaction. He was trying desperately to be obsequious to me. All I did was smile. The rejected stone now the most wanted.
As much as I prepared for this new life of mine, I never anticipated this side of my past so dear. I remember that afternoon when I had arrived home to the unwanted news. There was an invitation for me to be special guest of honour at a book lunch. I had sat down and soused myself in reverie, quickly becoming oblivious of my ambience.
It now seems like ages, but it really was a few years back. My new life happened in the twinkle of an eye. It wasn’t what I had intended for myself. It was something that came in through the open door and claimed my utmost attention, and my dear life was changed forever.
I had just become a journalist, and I was restless and thirsty – like a soldier’s hunger for battle, I wanted action. Around me and everywhere I went, the multitude of the unemployed was conspicuous in no little way. And I was young and without experience; another minus. Still, I never gave up. I tripped every media house I knew of. Finally, the door opened for me – though later, I realized my delusion.
First and foremost, I had to begin as a test candidate. No salary. I was okay with it. I needed the experience. Along the line, my attention became divided. A promiscuous friendship I developed with a co-worker. I didn’t fail to notice he’s been giving me the eye any beautiful young lady would be flattered to receive. On my part, I became gentle with him. Because I am the type to put all I’ve got into something, I did just that, believing that I’d found something better than a free gift. In my air castle I arranged all sort of beautiful scenes for the both of us. Nothing reminded me of the undulating realities of relationships. Nothing prepared me for the events of despondency that rained from heaven unto my laps. Poignantly, I took it all, but refused to be daunted. People always have trying times. Could have been one of mine. Like the fool led by an invisible fool, I went for the bull’s horn, and I was thrown. I landed on my heart and it bled.
I always knew I was strong. Nothing so painful could restrain me from standing again. No amount of objurgating could hinder my determination, when I’m all focused.
I wasn’t surprised I didn’t get the job I’d been testing for. I’d learnt by then to be ready for all the unexpected. Never lay high hopes on mere mortals else you would be wounded terribly.
My road to fame and fortune started one morning. I had woken up surprisingly in the best of moods. I just felt gay and I couldn’t explain why. I had gotten ready and had once again ventured into the streets of Lagos in search of employment. From my place of residence all the way to the bus stop, I had greeted all I’m acquainted with and I had smiled at beautiful faces. At the bus stop, there had been a crowd awaiting transportation. I joined under the scourging sun. I hadn’t noticed anything until a tap fell on my shoulder. On turning, I stared into unfamiliar dark glasses.
He had passed in a car, and had noticed me. According to him, the scenario had seemed like a very beautiful piece of art; with me posed and so conspicuous in the midst of others. According to him, the others all had worried countenance and they all seemed restless. I urged him on, wondering where he was headed. He had said in the midst of the sun and time and condition of the standard of living, I had exhibited a free spirit, without a care in the world, as though I were living just for that moment only. Then the business side came in. Am I a model? I had answered in the negative. I was then beginning to get restless. We somehow attracted other eyes. On learning I was unemployed ‘would I consider modeling?’ He inquired. Sensing it was a wrong place, he asked me into his car, parked a few feet from the bus stop. I thanked him and turned him down. I wasn’t going to be the next ritual victim. Maybe he understood, so he left his complimentary card and left. I quickly perused it and tore it up, after offering some sweet curses on him. I did that for the benefit of the vultures’ eyes. I didn’t want the other passengers thinking me to be a loose girl or a JJC. Immediately the pieces hit the floor, I overheard someone say ‘better.’ They had no idea of knowing that the telephone number was stored in my memory. He did seem very interesting.
Two days later, I had visited his office. I had seen so many girls. Really beautiful, but his attention was for me only. I had unseen potentials and I was dead curious to discover the me he sees so clearly. Hard to believe but true, I started work. It began with a TV commercial. A role for a home video dropped in. Then surprisingly enough, my agent – the guy who got me started – dropped the big one. A local designer, who was going international, wanted me on his team. I had turned it down. Catwalk? I couldn’t. I was pushed, and I went for classes. Eventually, we jetted for London. I never knew I could enjoy it the way I did. I was contemplating how to show my gratitude to my agent. Though he was making money out of me, I never would have been where I was without him. I was still contemplating, when the designer told me my service was needed. Somehow, I was traded for really big money to a notorious designer. My new home became between London – Paris – New York – Hollywood, to name a few.
Then, I would gaze at the reflection of my face to find what they see without success. My gracing the covers of magazines was a wonder to me. What do they all see in me that I couldn’t see? The media seem to concentrate on me. My contracts kept growing, as well as my reputation as the Slim, Sweet, and Sexy Queen of the catwalk. Magazines kept queuing for me to be interviewed. Cameo roles in Hollywood movies fell at my feet, for no small price, just to help the producers sell better. I was that popular.
After a brief shooting of my cameo role in another movie in Sydney, I had settled in my first class cabin on my way to my Manhattan apartment, in New York City. My next appointment was a month away in Chicago. I needed time off.
So, I had gotten home, to discover the invitation. The book lunch was two weeks away in Lagos. I couldn’t believe it. In five years, I hadn’t touched Nigerian soil. I had not been prepared for it, but I knew I couldn’t refuse. The guy who discovered me, who was once my agent, had put together stories on fashion and stuffs like that. He wanted my presence. I tried not to notice the names of the other guest speakers without success. His name was right under mine. A stone from my past. A fling thing I had with a co-worker who broke my heart. Somehow, I picked up the phone and I booked my flight myself. If I had asked my personal assistance, she would have informed the press. I needed a break from all the razzmatazz.
He paused in his delivery and our eyes met. I feared he was going to forget the reason he was up there delivery a speech. I never believed I would be so comfortable in his sight, but I was.
After the show, he walked up to me before I boarded the waiting car. I said thanks to all his compliments and we fell silent. I had nothing to say to him. Then I laughed in his face when he said he missed me. He said he didn’t realize how important I was until I left. He was trying to locate me, and then he found me on a TV commercial and then the home video. He had gone to the producer, nobody had my address.
I stopped him before he went too far. I thanked him for breaking my heart and giving me a chance into someplace new. I’m happy and in love. I know his children and grandchildren will hear the name, Onome, in years to come.
For now, I have found joy. Let the world keep celebrating Onome, the Slim, Sweet, and Sexy Queen of the catwalk.