"Eventually," she says.
Atlanta is more traditional and landlocked than she imagined it to be, with its concrete overpasses, greenery and red brick churches. She had envisaged a modern, aquatic city because of the name, which sounds similar to that futuristic series that was on television in the seventies, Man From Atlantis. Downtown, she counts three people who are mentally ill. The common signs are there: unkempt hair, layers of clothing and that irresolute demeanor whether they are crossing the median, rolling a pushcart up Ponce
de Leon or standing by a dusty windowpane. It is like London of the Thatcher years.
Her hotel is on Peachtree, some ten minutes away from the Atlanta office. Anne will shuttle her there and back tomorrow. She thanks Anne for giving her a lift from the airport and arranges to meet her in the lobby the next morning. At the reception area, she joins the line and checks into a single room with a queen-sized bed. She inspects the room after putting her suitcase down. She prods and rubs the furniture and unclasps her bra. She needs to buy new underwear. She knows a Nigerian couple in Atlanta she could call, but she finds them enamored with consumerismcars, houses, shops and credit cards. They brag about living in America, as if they need to make Nigerians elsewhere feel they have lost out.
She turns on the television and switches from one cable station to another. She clicks on one called the Lifetime Movie Network. The film showing is She Woke Up Pregnant and the subtitle reads: "A pregnancy for which she cannot account tears a woman's family apart." She turns to another station. Surprisingly, a Nigerian Pentecostal pastor is preaching. He is dressed in a white three-piece suit and his shoes are also white. His hair is gelled back and his skin is bleached.
"Stay with me," he says, coaxing his congregation. "Stay with me, now. I'm getting there. I'm getting there. Oh, y'all thought I was already there? Y'all thought I was through delivering my message this morning? I haven't even got started! I haven't even got started with y'all yet!"
He ends with a wail and his congregation erupts in cheers. A man waves his Bible and a woman bends over and trembles.
Deola smiles. Nigerians are everywhere.
Tonight, she dreams she has accidentally murdered Dára and deliberately buried his remains in her backyard and she alone knows the secret. The police are searching for him and the newspaper headlines are about his mysterious disappearance. The newspapers spin around as they do in 1950s black-and-white films until their headlines blur. She wakes up and tosses for hours.
The next morning, she is still sleepy when she meets Anne in the lobby, but she tells Anne she is well rested. Anne grumbles about the price of her Starbucks latte on the way to the office and sips at intervals.
"The problem is, I'm hooked on the stuff. And it's not as if you can go cold turkey, because the temptation is everywhere."
"London has been taken over by Starbucks," Deola says.
She has heard some requests for a latte that are worth recording: "Grand-day capu-chin-know."
"That's a shame," Anne says. "I'll be there next month and I know I won't be able to help myself."
"Isn't Rio having their launch next month?"
"Yes. I'll be there for that."
"Do they have Starbucks over there?"
"I hope not."
The Atlanta office is also on Peachtree. People in the elevator glare at them as they hurry toward itthe usual disdain inhabitants of cramped spaces have, followed by a general shyness. They all look downward.
The reception wall has the logo of the foundation's network, two linked forefingers. The office is mostly open-plan space with workstations. Deola meets Susan and Linda, who are also auditors. Susan is a CPA who trained with an accountancy firm and Linda has a banking background.
From A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta. Copyright © 2012 by Sefi Atta. Excerpted by permission of Interlink Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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