“Welcome to Airtel …how may I help you?”

They say the voice is an outer reflection of someone’s soul; it’s the sound of one’s inner aesthetic. I used to think that was the stupidest thing anyone could ever think of. Hearing this voice now, I was beginning to renege on my former opinion. If angels had children, I bet their voices would sound like the one I just heard. It was disturbing, really, but what I found more disturbing was the familiarity in the voice. I could swear on my own grave that I have heard the voice before. Somewhere, sometime: In a past, very distant but still not too far away, lurking somewhere in my memory. The more I tried to remember, the more my chest contracted, hardened; like it was warning me not to go any further.

“Sir, Are you there? How may I help you?”

The voice was soothing, like a feather to the sole of my feet but at the same time, tugging me straight towards memory lane. I surprised myself when I spoke; for it was very surprising how I was able to get my confused self to answer but answer, I did. Anything to keep her talking. Every word she said was like a piece of my memory puzzle, the more she spoke the more the fog in my mind was clearing. Like she knew that I didn’t want her to keep quiet, she kept saying,

“Hold on, just a moment sir”

Over and over again, she assured me that she was still with me. I enjoyed it and honestly I prayed for the matter to take longer than problematically possible.

“Where are you calling us from, sir?”

I must have either been thinking too much of angel voices or my head was still stuck in the clouds because I heard myself say “Heaven”. Like she didn’t have me ecstatic enough, she laughed. It was music, I tell you, music to my ears. Not only that, it became the last piece of my memory puzzle. It was Lara!

“Again, what’s your name and where are you calling us from?”

  “Olaitan”, I replied. There was a moment of silence. Did she perhaps remember me? Was it really Lara? Then it occurred to me, I was yet to provide my location. “FESTAC, Amuwo Odofin LGA”. She wouldn’t remember me now; I’m miles away from where we grew up. Far away from the Community Primary School my Lara and I attended. Should I perhaps add that I grew up in Akure for emphasis? It was of no use now, she was already rambling about the solution to my network problem. After all these years, the chanting of “Lai-ra” rang clear in my head. It was a fusion of our names; LAI from Olaitan and RA from Lara. Our peers used to taunt us every time we were together. It made her cry but it made me proud: proud that I was with the prettiest girl in the school and that she was my “iyawo”, wife, as my mother always teased. 

I soon left for Lagos to attend the King’s College and I counted the days to our long vacation where I would spend time with my Lara. Her shiny chocolate skin, her angelic voice that could provide her with anything she asked and most importantly her laughter; Music, like I said, music to my ears. The heart withering music I just heard. I was sure of it; I couldn’t possibly outgrow that feeling. The swelling in my ribcage that occurred when the melody of her laughter was played. They were all I longed for while I was away and all I reveled in when I got back.

Up until, that Christmas. I had decided to spend Christmas in Akure and break the good news to her. I was made senior prefect upon resumption in September, just as she had re-assured me. I was so eager to surprise her; it was an irony when I ended up being the one that was surprised. The shock almost knocked the air out of my lungs. My Lara was nowhere to be found, I checked everywhere and I asked everyone. They all said the same thing; her aunt had taken her to Ibadan. The only thing that kept me from breaking down in tears like a young widow was that I knew my father was watching me from afar. I could almost hear his thoughts; Real Men don’t cry. I would have run all the way to Ibadan but my feet, for some reason refused to move. I could have sworn they were being controlled by my father as they carried me straight home. Christmas was sour; all the carols were rendered noise. The only melody I craved was Lara’s laughter, Lara’s voice. The same voice that was telling me now to restart my device.

“Sir, after restarting your device, the 3G network will kick in and you will be able to use your data. Alright? Anything else?”

Ask her, come on, ask her. Ask her about Akure. “I didn’t get your name”, was all I could muster. I felt like kicking myself in the groin.

“I said it at the beginning of the conversation sir. My name is Lara. Thank you for using Airtel”

The dial tone that signaled her hanging up felt like a knife in my throat. I was panicking, sweating in my Air Conditioned office. I loosened my tie, my sweat stained hands smearing the white UBA imprint on it. I stared at the door, following my heart which felt like it had just run through it.

6 months and about a couple thousand customer care calls later, I was still staring at a door. The big wooden door of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Akure. I was still sweating like I did in my air conditioned office; my suit was gradually getting soaked. My best man was having a really hard time wiping the sweat off my face. “What if I call for the last time and she picks up?” I told myself. So I reached into my pocket, dug out my phone and dialed 111. I impatiently cruised through the options, growing exceedingly impatient as the SUV that carried the bride drove into the church premises. I was soon notified about my transfer to a customer care agent. My father was in the church screaming for me to enter. My leg once again refused to move. I waited as the line rang: Once, twice, thrice, four times and “Welcome to Airtel, How may I help you?” The voice was that of a lady alright but I could tell it wasn’t hers. She wasn’t my Lara. That was the push I needed. I hung up and with a painfully deep breath, I entered the Church.



  1. Damn. What a piece! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to the next

    But why make a thousand 111 calls when you can expressly request to see the Airtel CEO over a matter that hinges on life and death. 🙃🙃


  2. The Bros needs to come for lectures, he could have simply requested for her whenever he called. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed his 😏 ability to recall how he feels about the voice and the music it plays for his heart.


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