‘Hello?‘ Edwin’s voice was thick with sleep.
‘Hello. How are you?‘
He took the phone from his ear to see who the caller was.
‘Adetutu… Adetutu…‘ He puzzled, and then it came to him. ‘Oh, Adetutu!’
Leaving the hotel after his interview, Edwin met two other candidates, both female. He said hello and made to walk on, but one of them asked him how his interview went.
He slowed down to keep pace with them.
‘It went okay, I guess.‘ He said. ‘The maths was crazy though. Imagine, nine people from my class failed.‘
‘Hmm. That’s small.‘ The taller of the two said. She was wearing a cream coloured blouse over brown skirt, but it was her shoes that caught his eye. Grey and navy with side buckles and low heels.
‘I heard that all the candidates of one class failed the maths stage.‘ She continued.
‘No way!‘ Edwin exclaimed.
‘It was crazy.‘ Her partner said.
At the gate the taller of the two asked for his number.
‘At least we can keep in touch.‘
They exchanged numbers and names.
‘Adetutu,’ Edwin repeated her name. ‘I’ll call you when I get home.‘ He said, not meaning to.
‘I’m good Tutu, thanks.‘ He shook his head to clear the cobwebs. ‘I hope I can call you Tutu.’
‘Yes you can. I hope I am not disturbing you,‘
‘No, not at all.’ He lied despite having been woken up by the ringing of the phone.
‘I know I should have called you, but I only just got home.‘ He said.
‘Really? Is your house that far? Where do you live?‘
‘Let’s just say I live close to Lagos.‘
‘Oh, that is far. Have you heard from them?‘ She asked.
‘Not a word, but then we only just did our interview today.‘
‘Okay then. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.‘
‘Me too.‘ He replied.
‘Take care then, bye.’ She said and hung up.
Bruce had not gone swimming since his NYSC in Kano two years before, and even then he only got two lessons, so could not claim to be any kind of swimmer.
He had no idea what the pool looked like normally, but it looked busy to him for a weekday.
He stood by the entrance and surveyed the pool area and saw that most of the tables were taken. He saw a lounger under the sun and went for it.
He was not drawn to it by his love for the sun; it was the lady lying on the sun lounger next to it that caught his eye.
She had the lightest skin kissed by the sun. The wide brimmed hat she wore cast a shadow over her face, but Bruce was sure she had to be beautiful.
He flung my backpack onto the empty lounger and said hello. She looked up then and smiled and his my heart bucked.
A little self-conscious, Bruce shed his clothes till he was left with his trunks.
With one foot he tested the water temperature before jumping into the shallow end, crouching as he went in so that he was immersed to his neck. The water felt good.
He leaned against the pool edge and watched the others in the water. Most of them were struggling; one or two would not put their heads under water. Encouraged by them, Bruce kicked out from the water’s edge.
One stroke, two strokes, three strokes, four… And he burst out from the water, his lungs screaming.
This is going to be hard.
Is she looking at me?
He tried a few more times, coughing and spluttering, until he decided it was enough. He came out of the water and returned to his bag. Two children, a boy and a girl both dressed in swimming outfits had joined her.
She patted them dry in turn with a big fluffy towel, then she reached out left-handed for a bag on the table beside her and her rings flashed in the sun.
Bruce felt something sink inside him. It landed with a thud in the pit of his stomach.
She was married.
He returned to the pool and, a few tries later, washed the chlorine off his body and left.
The next morning he returned to the pool. He saw a few people from the previous day, there was a lady being instructed by a man he later found out was her fiance, but not the light–skinned lady with her kids.
Perhaps I’m too early.
She had not come by the time Bruce left the pool that afternoon, but there was a marked improvement in his swimming; he could hold his breath for longer so he could swim farther.
He was still unable to raise his head while he swam so the distance he travelled depended on his endurance.
That was what he worked on for the rest of the week.
He made friends and found out, as he suspected, that most of the regulars were fellow hopefuls from the interview.
Bruce was in the pool trying to keep his head above water when she walked in and made her way to the loungers he had come to think of as theirs. He got out and followed behind her.
She turned around, startled.
‘Oh, hi.‘ She smiled. ‘I didn’t see you there.‘
‘I just came out of the water,‘ he smiled back, looking for the rings and found them.
‘How are your children?‘ He asked.
She frowned and regarded him closer.
‘Forgive me, my name’s Bruce. We said hi the other day. You came with your children. They are your children, right?‘
‘Oh, that was you?‘ The frown disappeared. ‘I was just wondering how you knew about my children. They are fine, thank you.‘
‘Are you a guest at the hotel?‘
‘No,‘ she said with a small throaty laugh. ‘I’m here to practice my swimming.‘
‘For the airline interview? Me too.‘
‘What did you say your name was again? I’m sorry.‘
‘I’m Inem. I haven’t been in the water for a very long time and every muscle in my body ached after that day, that’s why I haven’t come since then.‘
‘I thought I was the only one. I couldn’t move my arms the next morning, and my thigh muscles screamed everytime I walked.‘ The memory made Bruce wince. ‘ I even ached in places I didn’t know I had muscles.‘
That got her laughing. They sat down and talked about the interview and swimming till his phone rang.
‘Excuse me,‘ he said holding up a finger. He did not recognise the number that was calling.
‘Hello good afternoon,‘ he said into the phone.
‘Good afternoon sir, is this Bruce Nwokolo?‘
In that instant he knew.
It was someone from the airline calling to tell him he was scheduled for the next round of interviews in three days.
He thanked her and got off the phone.
‘From the airline?‘ Inem asked.
‘Yes. My interview is in three days.‘
‘Mine’s the day after tomorrow.‘ Inem said.
Enveloped in a bubble that was equal parts excitement and anxiety, he wished Inem luck at her interview, packed his things and left the pool.