1.20am in the morning.
Bimpe was tired. It had been a very busy day and the night hadn’t been much fun either. Bimpe couldn’t wait to feel the soft cover of her bed and bury her head in the three soft pillows that adorned it. She had taken her bath in fragranced oils and smelt of lavender. She had dressed in her softest and coziest nightgown before finally retiring to her haven of sleep, her bed.
That was three hours ago.
The problem was, Bimpe couldn’t sleep.
Her eyes were fully open, her lids were not heavy at all; in fact, it might as well have been midday for all the sleepiness she felt. She had turned off the lights, put off the TV in her room and reduced the temperature of the air conditioning to something more comfortable.
Yet sleep eluded her. And she knew why.
She got up from the bed and went over to her wardrobe. She opened it and searched around inside one of her suit pockets until her hand closed on the paper package. She brought it out and carried it back to the bed. Beside her on the cupboard by the bed was a glass of water. She unwrapped the package and two tablets of sleeping pills fell unto her palm. She sighed and threw both tablets in her mouth, swallowing them and pushing them down with the glass of water. Then she turned to lie back on the bed and closed her eyes.
Still sleep wouldn’t come.
Bimpe sighed and turned and tossed. This was the fifth night in a row she was having difficulty sleeping. The sedatives she had gotten from her doctor were obviously no longer working. She reflected over the past six months, how insomnia had gradually crept into her life. Ever since she took the new job at the bank, sleep had eluded her. She had been suddenly placed under tremendous pressure to meet seemingly unreasonable targets; targets that would have been easy for her to attain if she loosened up on her morals a little bit. Engineer Kofo had dialed her phone number sixteen times since their last encounter three days ago and when she hadn’t replied, he had sent a text message apologizing profusely for his lewd behavior at his office when she came to ask for the balance of the money he promised to pay into the new account she had opened for him.
At least he had some sense of shame and regret. Many others had not bothered to call back after she had turned down their obscene advances. Mr. Dickson, one of her clients and a young billionaire, had told her bluntly that he would deactivate his accounts with the bank if she didn’t spend the night at his luxury home on the island. Her boss was on her neck, nagging her every day to meet up with her target, not to let him down, not to make him look bad among his colleagues for promoting her. He had given her this month to deliver or else she would find herself out of a job.
And that was when the bouts of sleeplessness began.
She sat up in bed, suddenly remembering something from her childhood. She smiled grimly in spite of herself; desperate times called for desperate measures.
She picked up her phone and dialed a foreign number. It rang for a few seconds and then:
“Baby what are you doing awake at this time? I’ve been meaning to call. Is everything all right?”
Bimpe smiled, her mum always seemed to know when something was up with her.
“Everything is fine mum, what time is it over there?”
“It’s about eight in the evening there, it’s got to be in the early hours of the morning over in there in Nigeria, right?”
“Two o’clock to be exact.”
“Baby what’s wrong?”
“I can’t sleep momma.” She replied. The sound of her mother’s voice in far away Florida soothed her in a comforting sort of way and she suddenly felt the urge to cry. “I can’t sleep a wink and the pills the doc gave me are not working.”
“You got sleeping pills?” He mom exclaimed. “It must be serious then. When did all this start?”
Bimpe told her about the challenges she was having at work and her mom listened patiently. Telling her mother about her problems calmed Bimpe down a lot and she began to feel better. Her mom clucked and exclaimed at different intervals and afterwards scolded Bimpe for not telling her sooner.
“But I didn’t want to worry you mum, and besides there is nothing much you can do. Leave me to fight my own battles mum; I can take care of myself.”
“Indeed.” Her mom replied sarcastically.
“That is why you cannot sleep and have resorted to calling me in the early hours of the morning.”
“I didn’t know what else to do, I thought maybe you could sing me that song you used to sing when I was little.”
“The Go-to-Sleep song?” Her mom replied and she could sense her smile. “Oh baby, Don’t you think you are a little too old for that? Besides I don’t think he’ll come.”
“I’m ready to try anything mom. I need to get some sleep.” Bimpe replied desperately.
Her mom sighed and cleared her throat as Bimpe laid down on the bed once more. She shut her eyes and listened to the soothing sound of her mother’s voice as the old woman began to sing.
Go to Sleep, my sweet little baby
Go to sleep, my dear darling child
Go to sleep, the sandman is calling
Go to sleep, and enter dreams wild.
Of Circles and candies and many more treaties
Sleep little baby and dream of them all
Of little sand castles and sandy white beaches
Go to sleep, Child answer night’s call.
“You are a little too old to be here, aren’t you?” She heard a voice that wasn’t her mom’s. It was a familiar voice, a voice she had grown accustomed to in her childhood and one she hadn’t heard from in a long time, not before she went off to secondary boarding school. She opened her eyes slowly and gasped and dropped the phone as she stared in disbelief at the stranger before her. It was a man, but he seemed to be made entirely out of sand. He had a chubby but handsome face and wore a straw hat on his head. She couldn’t see what he was wearing clearly but it shimmered in the dark and was of the same sandy texture. She looked around and saw she was no longer on her bed but was sitting on the ledge of her window which was open and bringing in cool refreshing air. She turned back to the sandman who was still sitting on her bed and he smiled kindly at her.
“I must be dreaming.” She said and heaved a sigh of relief. “I must have slept off already! It worked!”
“That in itself is a strange occurrence.” The Sandman said, getting up and coming to join her on the ledge which had now become big enough to accommodate them both. Bimpe wasn’t scared at all at the happenings; after all, stranger things happened in dreams. They stared out into the starry night sky, the most beautiful Bimpe had ever seen. She felt no fear for this man and thought of him as a long lost friend.
“You are the one that used to put us to sleep when we were children and our mum sang to us.” She smiled at him and held his chubby hand. It wasn’t sandy as she was expecting it to be. He smiled back.
“You have a strong memory. Most people have no memory of me whatsoever when they grow up.”
Then he frowned. “What troubles you, child. I have not seen your slumber for many nights.”
“Oh, let’s not talk about my problems.” She said, basking in the euphoria of this dream state. She loved the way she felt weightless and free. She felt like she could fly if she wanted to and dance among the stars and never get tired.
The sandman cocked his head to one side as if hearing her thoughts, and then he laughed a cheery, chubby, bubbly laugh. He held her by the hand and before she knew it she had taken flight and was gliding through the warm night air in her night gown. She screamed with glee and soared upwards until she was among the stars themselves who were really little people dressed in flowing robes. They bowed before her and she bowed gracefully back and soon there was a great dance in which she was the main attraction. She laughed and danced and clapped for the others as they twirled around and twinkled and gyrated.
The Sandman watched but did not take part. She saw he had a thoughtful look on his face as he regarded her and she excused herself from her dancing partners
and went to him.
“What is the matter, do I dance badly?”
“Not at all, you dance wonderfully well!” the sandman replied. “But it is strange you still possess the ability to open your mind like this. Your heart has not hardened to the things of the word yet. Interesting.”
“I wish I could stay here forever and ever!” She grinned as she floated back to the dancers but the sandman held her gently by the hand.
“No child, you have to go back. It is time to sleep and rest you head. You have a big day tomorrow.”
Bimpe turned away in disappointment and the night sky became cold and uncomfortable as the stars faded away.
“I don’t want to go to work tomorrow.” She said quietly, “They will fire me tomorrow anyway. I haven’t made my target. I can’t do what the others do.”
“And what is that, my child?” the Sandman asked and she told him.
“I see. Well, a good night’s sleep will keep you refreshed and help you to think clearly when the time comes, don’t you think? The stars will always be here to dance for you
but you need your rest.”
She nodded in agreement and they flew back down to the ground, to her room and her window. She floated unto her bed and landed among her bedsheets as light as a feather as the sandman tucked her in and kissed her on the nose.
“Good night child.” He said, his voice soothing and calm.
“Goodni…” she trailed off and was soon fast asleep.
The next morning Bimpe woke up early feeling more refreshed than she had ever felt in a long, long time. She rubbed the sleep sand from her eyes and jumped out of bed, happy to breath the fresh air, glad to be alive. Damn the bank, If they took the job from her then so be it! She couldn’t lower herself to the level they wanted, she wouldn’t, and she would tell the manager as soon as she saw him.
By the time she got to the office, it was 7.30am. The Manager called an impromptu staff meeting and made sure she sat down at the front. Not looking at her, he began the morning prayers and attended to other activities while Bimpe waited for the moment she would be called up and used as an example for the other marketers. She had already steeled her heart for the worst and had mentally prepared what she would say in her defense. She wasn’t going to lose this job without giving them a piece of her mind.
“And finally, Miss Bimpe. Please stand up.” The Manager said curtly. Bimpe stood up, trying hard to remain calm.
“You all know me. The Manager began. “I always give credit to who credit is due. I also will not hesitate to deal decisively with anyone who falls out of line in their jobs or targets. That is where Bimpe comes in.” He turned to face her.
“In six months Bimpe has risen to an esteemed position among the marketers in this company. I can boldly say that she has done so through dedication and hard work and upholding her integrity. In fact I daresay it is her integrity that prevented her from going higher faster, which brings me to the crux of today’s matter.
Bimpe felt her hands and lips tremble.
“I was proved wrong. In the early hours of this morning Mr. Dickson, her latest client, called me to tell me he was impressed by Bimpe’s character and credibility and would be a faithful member of our bank and to that effect has opened an account with us worth 18million naira. Kudos to you Bimpe. I daresay you are one lucky person.”
The small crowd got up and cheered and Bimpe just stood there, stunned. What had just happened? She smiled, confused as the manager congratulated her and her other colleagues joined in. She joined in the cheers and jokes and when the meeting was finally over she went back to her office still feeling overwhelmed and confused, so much so that she didn’t realize her phone was ringing until the third call.
It was Mr. Dickson.
“Hello Sir.” She held her breath.
“Have you gotten the money now? Is your job secure?” Mr. Dickson asked, asense of urgency in his voice.
“Yes I have. I want to thank you very much for changing your mind…”
“Changing my mind has nothing to do with it!” His voice cracked over the phone. “I promise to never lay another hand on you or threaten you in anyway, and of course I will continue to do business with your bank.”
His voice broke and she listened in surprise as he began to sob.
“Just please, tell your sand friend to return sleep back into my eyes!”