Jyoti was looking at the stars again. Did that girl never learn? Her convictions made me think of her like an animal that was so used to being caged, that it did not realize it could walk out of the cage anytime. The animal had the power all along but they thought someone else did. She was in a self-inflicted prison. A victim of her own convictions if you like. She was so confined by her confidence in the star signs that I simply wanted to shake her until she stirred or something. I did not. I smiled, she shrugged and I walked away. It was almost 8am anyway, had to put in an honest day’s work.

I knew those things were fake because she shared the same star sign as Chacha, and yet they always had very different outcomes at the end of each day. See, I like studying people and things. Especially things that don’t add up. Like the time the boss said that we come on Saturdays so that we can do our weekly reports. That didn’t make any sense to me. I wondered why we could not hand in our reports on Friday. Supposedly, it was because Saturday was nice and quiet and we could concentrate on our reports better. (Eye roll) I knew it was purely bs for he wants to milk our time for all its worth. He just wants to show us he owns us. I never even do my report on Saturdays. All I do for the 4 hours is browse, download movies, and play Mafia Wars on Facebook. I downloaded so many movies am thinking of giving that Chinese guy at our street corner a run for his money. After all, he sells his bootleg movies at Tshs 2,000. If I sold mine at Tshs. 1,000 I would add a lot of money to my kitty! 

I digress. I was talking about Jyoti and Chacha. I noticed Jyoti was odd from the day she joined. I thought there was something off about that girl. She had owl-like eyes. They were big and round and she always looked like she was seeing further than anybody and no, she didn’t look wise. Just kooky. She was tiny and wore black platform shoes. (It turned out she wore this every day!) She had to compensate for her vertical challenge in some way I guess. The problem is that the shoes made her look very awkward. Being chunky, they gave the impression they were heavier than she is as if she cannot handle them. Her black silky hair was tied in a ponytail with a side part in the front. Made her look severe; especially now that she didn’t smile much. (Still doesn’t). She wore big round earrings, a short skirt, and a nice fitting boyfriend shirt. I remember thinking that the shirt and skirt were the only part of the outfit she had gotten right. The Boss took her around the office and I never once saw her smile. I remember turning to Warda and whispering to her ‘Dr. Strange’ and she was in stitches. I liked making Warda laugh. The boss turned and I gave him an innocent look but he knew.

Warda thought that I was jumping into conclusions as usual, but after a month she too agreed with my appraisal. Warda was very outgoing and made friends quickly. So she tried to invite Jyoti to have lunch with us but Jyoti never once accepted. She either rushed home for lunch or had the maid bring her some food when she had to work over lunch.

Then one Thursday morning, I came to the office and I couldn’t find The Express. Everyone in our cozy office knew that I loved to read The Express first thing. It came out exclusively on Thursday’s and it was the only paper I read! Since I could see the other newspapers; The Citizen, The Guardian, Tanzania and Daily News, I assumed perhaps The Express was delayed. It happened sometimes, so I relaxed and started wandering around the office to find out who had beat me to it on that particular day. The office had 4 rooms that is excluding the kitchen of course.

The last person I expected to find was Jyoti! Up till then, she had never early to the office. She always waltzed in around 730am. Imagine my surprise to not only find its Jyoti who beat me to it but also that she was reading The Express and was crying. It’s not like we had any beef between us or anything, it’s just that we weren’t that close yet. Since she hadn’t heard me approaching, I wanted to quickly turn away to avoid any awkwardness, but I guess I was late and bam! Her eyes met mine and yep, it was awkward.

I felt it was the polite thing to find out what the problem was. She said that she had been reading ‘Your Stars’ section and it said that she would fight with a good friend that week and that the fight would lead to parting ways. She said her best friend was Ashok her boyfriend whom she had known since High School. They had been having problems lately. This meant that he would leave her and so her tears were a presentiment of the future.

Now I knew people read ‘Your Stars’ I just hadn’t met anyone who took what was written there for the gospel truth. I, Warda, and Chacha would sometimes read thru and laugh ourselves silly at all the nonsense that was usually written there. We would do this at the end of the day just to blow off steam. That’s how I knew that Chacha and Jyoti shared the same Star sign, after that encounter with Jyoti. However this was hardly the time to roll my eyes or sigh audibly, or even show how her how absurd I thought the whole thing was, so I scratched my head looking for something kind to say to her.

You can appreciate how awkward that situation was for me. Here is someone who is in pain with tears to cap it off for something that is yet to happen, and then there's me -The clown. The best I could do was not laugh (knowing me, this was a lot of effort for me), and tell her pole sana (Pronounced paw-lay sana like-nana- no equivalent for that in the English language. It is deeper than am sorry) I even managed a ‘Perhaps you should try and talk things out to ensure he doesn’t leave you.’ And got ‘What’s the point? Everything I read in Your Stars always happens. Believe me, this will happen’ in return. It was really all I could do, not to respond back to her that it was just a self-fulfilling prophecy –think Rhonda Byrne- but figured that it wasn’t the time for that yet.

Needless to say, I didn’t share this information with Warda or Chacha until a week later. Jyoti’s break-up was common knowledge as she had predicted. My question was; had the same thing happened to Chacha? I asked Chacha if he had fought with any of his best friends the week before, and he gave me a look that said; why the strange question Zawadi. After he realized I wasn’t going to talk until he responded, he told me exactly what I was hoping or rather expecting to hear. He hadn’t fought with anyone over the past week and all his friendships were intact, even though sometimes he did think of dropping some of his friends like me. We had a hearty laugh but not before I had shouted “Yes!”

Chacha was sure it was one of my theories again and wanted to know about it. I gladly shared my insights with him. He asked me why I was bothered by such things that didn’t really matter. ‘Why indeed?’ I responded and left him hanging.

Chacha would never know my real passion. My real passion was getting to know what made people tick. In another life, I would have been a psychologist. I even took notes of my ‘studies.’ Chacha did not know how fulfilling it was when people came to me for advice or just a listening ear and left with pearls of wisdom. Chacha did not know that I was like the glue that held people together. For instance, he would never know how much I defended him to our boss when he underperformed, all because I was privy to some of the challenges he went through. He only saw the clownish side of me that I portrayed to the world. Even though he himself confided in me about his problems, he had no idea that this was a privilege enjoyed by many others too. I wasn’t going to enlighten him.

No one knew that I was saving money so I could take psychology classes and one day practice my true passion. I wanted to have a Psy.D. or Ph.D attached to my name so I could truly help people. I knew pain, quite a bit actually, and that’s why I laughed and clowned around. It was the only way I knew to cope with pain.

Jyoti and Chacha were some of my current ‘case studies.’ I was even planning to help Jyoti. I was determined that she and Ashok would get back together and perhaps that I would further succeed to help her cure her addiction to ‘Your Stars.’ A tall order that, but I was up to the challenge.

I soon got the opportunity to talk to her privately. I wanted to prove to her how unnecessary her break-up was. I could tell I was getting through to her when she tearfully told me that in her mind she knew I was right, but she was so addicted to “Your Stars” she didn’t know how to live without it. I said to her it was very simple, it was either she lives without it or without Ashok. She admitted that after reading that prediction, she had gone and started a big fight just so she could dump Ashok before he dumped her. She wasn’t even sure why she had dumped him apart from the fact that she had read it from The Express.

Considering the prediction had said ‘a good friend’ I wondered why she would jump first to the boyfriend and not any other friend. All the same, no need for overkill, I reminded myself. Indeed, that was enough progress and I advised her to call Ashok and makeup.

A few weeks later, Jyoti and Ashok got back together, and for the first time, I saw Jyoti smile (not bad at all!) when she gave me the news. That was indeed progress!

I moved on with my other ‘case studies’ and even forgot about Jyoti for a while. Our small office did keep me quite busy. There was no shortage of material ;-) Chacha was having domestic issues. Once again he was suspecting his wife was cheating on him. There was Happiness who had baby daddy complications (this was very taxing for my brain). It was also whispered that Consolata’s hubby was cheating on her because she was barren. No one had the courage to tell her and Warda was bugging me to do the unsavory deed. No one ever shot the messenger she kept reminding me. What Warda didn't know was that Consolata had been confiding in me about her suspicions, but I wasn't one to break confidences. There was still Omari and Moody who had mentioned they needed to talk to me too privately. Sometimes I wondered how I was still able to deliver at my day job.

Being that busy must have contributed to me missing the subtle changes in Jyoti. Warda is the one who brought it to my attention. We were having lunch and goofing around as usual when she commented that Jyoti looked unhappy. I casually teased her that she was now the one jumping into conclusions and she quickly retorted with facts to back up her assessment. I started mentally going through the last few days data and realized that Warda had a point. Jyoti had been cautiously avoiding me. Warda’s guess was that there was trouble in paradise. For some reason, I wasn’t so inclined. I suspected otherwise but wasn’t ready to share my thoughts with Warda yet. So I asked about her brother. I had a crush on him and I knew this would lead to lots of teasing and change of topic, which is what I really wanted.

After confirming that Jyoti and Ashok were okay, I started prudently watching Jyoti in the morning when she came in. She was quite alert, and after a fortnight, I almost gave up. Mind you, I wasn’t able to watch her each morning as it would have been creepy, and very time-consuming. What saved the day was I noticed a pattern emerging on the days I was able to shadow her. She would go to the kitchen, make some tea, and then go to her desk and have her breakfast. Mary, the clerk, would then walk into the kitchen with an A3 envelope. The minute she did, like clockwork, Jyoti would go to the kitchen to supposedly return her dishes. (This was pretty strange because Mary always went around collecting dirty dishes). Jyoti would then go to the bathroom. The bathroom was adjacent to the kitchen. These two tiny rooms were accessed through the corridor, which was at the end of the office. They were hidden, and due to the absence of space, only 1 or 2 people would be together in the corridor at any one time.

On this day Mary was called by the boss, so I took advantage and went to the kitchen pretending I needed to warm my (already warm) coffee. I found Jyoti bent on the kitchen counter. The empty A3 envelope was beside her. It was just as I had presumed. Jyoti looked up and our eyes met. I smiled and despite herself, she pressed her lips together, gave me a half-smile while raising her eyebrows, and shrugged. Jyoti was looking at ‘Your Stars’ again this time from the Citizen.

May 01, 2020 04:43

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