Call me Lu
By Fungai Chigumbura, Zimbabwe:
I do not know what I am doing here. Well, I know why I am here; I am waiting for someone.
If I had to be truthful about it, I would say I am here because I must have answers, despite logic saying I should steer clear of him. I need to know just how this man did what he did…if he did it. Maybe he just knew…but no, no one could have known what he did.
I guess I have to backtrack a little in order to make sense. A little under a year ago, I was sitting on a park bench, waiting for the clock to strike five so that I could go back into the office, clock out, and be on my way home. Do not get me wrong, it is not that I do not enjoy my job. Quite the opposite, really. I love my job. Investment management is the closest thing I have ever had to a dream job and I do it particularly well. It is just that on that day I was feeling rather lethargic. Business had been quiet for a while, in a self-sustaining lull. I had not gotten a new client in over two months and all my current clients' investments were only doing moderately well, growing steadily, far from the explosive up-turn I had predicted for them on signing. At this point, it seemed I was likely to meet no more than 60% of my projected goals. Not bad, but not great either.
In the middle of contemplating how to turn the trend around, a man had sat next to me and started a conversation.
I had not paid attention until he brought up Tanas Financial, who were my biggest client. He had told me of how the small startup company they were looking to invest in was in severe financial trouble and how the founders were looking to cash in on the Tanas injection and leave the financial mess of their company to the new owners who were none the wiser. Ordinarily, I would not have paid much attention to this form of speculation, but the man spoke with a certain confidence that I could not ignore what he said. Consequently, I outsourced an auditor to take another look at the company's books. The discrepancies he discovered in their figures had been enough for me to advise Tanas to back out of the deal. When the information I presented to them with was verified, I was praised for my diligence and there had been heavy hints from my boss of the possibility of a raise.
A few weeks later, something similar happened, only this time he advised me to clandestinely
re-direct certain funds towards another investment, one that he guaranteed me would double in a short space of time. Again, I do not know what made me listen to a stranger, but something about the spark in his deep, black eyes made me believe that this mysterious man knew what he was talking about. This was not the last time this happened; over the past year, this man in the old, white suit had sat down next to me at least half a dozen times and offered me advice of trends that had all proven to be extremely fruitful. My heavily hinted at raise had come and with it a promotion. I would have chalked all this up to simple albeit uncanny market savvy had it not been for what happened four weeks ago.
As usual, I was sitting on the park bench when he came along. Immediately I noticed that something was different. The usual white suit had been substituted for a black three piece and black hat. His usually sharp but benign features were remarkably morbid. I had held my greeting, sensing that this was not a cheerful occasion. There was a tense silence for several moments before he had said only three words “Call your brother.” He left with no further ceremony and immediately I fumbled to find my phone. There was no answer on my brother's phone the first two times and when on the third time his wife answered, sobbing uncontrollably, I knew something was very wrong. Through heart-rending cries, my sister-in-law explained to me that she had walked into their bedroom and discovered my brother hanging from the ceiling, his body limp and lifeless. My brother's suicide had shattered me, but almost as importantly, I had wondered how this stranger could possibly have known what had happened. There was simply no plausible explanation for him knowing and I had sat on that park bench for days on end after my brother's funeral, waiting for him to come along and deliver whatever clarification he could give me.
After eight days, he came again, this time in a deep blue suit that reminded me of the 1960s car salesmen I often saw in period films. The moment he sat down, I badgered him with questions, trying to make sense of everything. He had quieted my flurry of questions with a simple hand gesture.
“Go home. There is something you are going to want to see. I will see you in two weeks and we shall speak then.”
And with that he stood up and walked away. I sat there, trying to decide whether to follow him or to follow his instructions. The same force that always compelled me to believe him made me get in my car and drive home where I found my wife in bed with some other man. And that is how I got here.
I have been sitting on the park bench for at least two hours, but I really do not care. At this point, I have decided that there is no explanation that he will give me that will not create significant cognitive dissonance on my part. However shocking his explanation will be, I must hear it. I glance to my right, and see him walking up to the bench, his loud green suit shimmering, with a cane in hand. He sits down next to me, whistling the tune to some rock song…AC/DC, I think.
“Beautiful day isn't it?” he begins. “Although, something tells me the weather is not exactly what is on your mind”.
“No… I…” I hesitate. “How did you know all those things? There just isn't anyway you or anyone else could have known any of the things you've told me.”
“I know because I've been watching you.”
“Watching me? Since when?”
He smirks and his eyes seem to light up. I am immediately cognizant of the fact that it has suddenly gotten significantly warmer.
“Since the beginning of time.”
His response leaves me nonplussed, but I am determined to know more. I try to find the right words to say, but he raises a newly ringed left hand and I am silent.
“It does not matter how I knew. All that matters is that I chose to tell you, rather than keep it to myself. And, wouldn't you say you're happier knowing, even about your wife?”
“And what about my brother?” I retort.
“What of him? You would have found out anyway. In fact, the moment you called, your
sister-in-law was considering killing herself as well, and it is only your call and hearing your voice that kept her from joining him down there.”
He taps his cane on the ground to indicate what he means. I am at a loss for words, and only manage a meek “What now?”
“Now, you make a choice. You choose whether or not you want this to continue. If you feel what I have given you is worth having and you would like to keep it, then it goes on and trust me, this is only a small bite off some very large fruit. If not, I walk away right now, and you never have to see me again.”
I am silent for a minute before I ask him the most obvious question.
“What's the catch? What price must I pay?”
He turns and looks me straight in the eye; his eyes seem to bore into me.
“Everything,” he responds.” But right now, what is everything? Your brother is dead and your wife has betrayed you. What do you truly have to lose? Nothing, that's what. However, you have everything to gain. Oh, so, so much that can be yours. So, do we have a deal?”
He stretches out his hand and I shake it almost involuntarily. A lightheadedness sweeps over me as I shake his head, but immediately after I feel lighter and more carefree than I ever have.
He smiles and stands up to leave.
“Wait!” I cry after him. “What is your name?”
He half turns and looks at me from the corner of his seemingly glimmering right eye.
“Call me Lu.”