by Sinmisola Ogúnyinka
The minute I saw the pile offloaded, I knew there would be trouble. Identical bags for everyone in the office? Who does that? Where do they do that in this new world of ours.
“You can decline, can’t you?” Pearl, my roommate, suggested when she realized how disoriented this single fact made me.
“That’s the point. I need this piece of free commodity.” I scratched my recently dyed-pink hair at the base. I must be reacting to the color product because I can’t stop scratching. “I think I have to wash out this stuff.”
Pearl ignored my distracting statement. “Then buy one, or is that not permitted?”
“It costs $150! I checked with the office manager.”
Pearl laughed. “That’s a pretty good free commodity! Then sew your name on it.”
I should have.
Each day I got into work with my cool new bookbag, because it was more of that to me than anything else, I saw fifteen other people walk in with that. Maybe more than fifteen. My workspace was as tidy as my scattered recently re-dyed-brown hair, constantly being tussled when I pore over policy paperwork at my web-developer job…why do we need so much paper, anyway?
Matt, my seat-mate is a geek if ever you have seen one, with his short cropped dark hair, thick-lensed glasses and a bounce he must have gotten while in school, maybe to assert himself as fashion-forward, I don’t know. My description is stereotypical, I know, and Pearl keeps warning me I’ll get into trouble one day with my African mind about everyone and everything. But Matt is really smart, my tidy-opposite, I wonder what he thinks when he looks at my side of the desk, and quite self-absorbed. He’s the type who lets his actions speak rather than words.
On the day of trouble, it was Matt, not me, who took the wrong book bag, which had never happened before. He was so organized. Thinking back, I wonder if he knew he had my bag. I doubt it. Why would he exchange with what he had…
“Matt, are you alright, buddy?
He snapped. “Yes, Cosmas. That’s the third time you’re asking.”
“You look–red.” His eyes and nose, and cheeks were. “Like you have a fever or something.”
Matt bobbed his head with every word. “I’m fine. Good. A cup of nitro with an extra dash of caffeine will make everything alright.”
Pearl walked into my room as she always did when I got back from work and sniffed.
I shrugged. “Nothing.”
She was my mother and father rolled in one most days. A friend of a friend when we just met but now the best mate ever. Sharing the apartment with her was the best choice for me.
Then I got it too. “Like burnt skin?”
Pearl looked at the bookbag I dropped on the floor, half-open from when I tossed my bottle into it. “Yes. I hope you didn’t get hurt.”
I followed her gaze. “It’s from my bag. I thought I could smell it in the car but I was so tired.”
She picked up the bag and dropped it like it hurt. “This is not your bag. You finally brought the wrong one home, Cosmas!”
“Matt must have left his own. This was where I keep mine. I’ve been careful.” Like a little child caught with their fingers in a cookie jar, I defended myself. My heart thudded. “Why would he–”
Pearl tucked her long blond hair behind her ears as she did when she wanted to get busy and picked up the bag. The stench increased when she opened it all the way. I peaked, and gasped.
“Oh, my goodness, Cosmas! Call 911!”
About the Author
Sinmisola Ogúnyinka is a pastor’s wife, mother, writer and movie producer. She has a university degree in Economics and is a Craftsman of Jerry B. Jenkins’ former Christian Writers’ Guild. Sinmi, as she is fondly called, blogs, teaches writing, and writes. She also has a day job in customer service. Sinmi lives with her family in Philadelphia, PA.
You can read Sinmisola’s “Flash Fiction” column on the 4th Tuesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.