HUMBLED (Short Story)
Nkechi was getting impatient as the okada man searched for her N300.00 change. She had missed most of the church service for her friend Chiamaka’s wedding, that last Saturday in January, but she didn’t want to miss the photo session before the reception. She adjusted the red belt on her cream Vera Wang cotton-linen dress and smoothed out the creases on it from the ride as best as she could.
She was still smarting from the fact that she had to pay N200.00 for the short ride from her house to the church hosting the wedding but remembered with a note of mischief her abuse of the okada rider before climbing on his bike. She began to yell at him to hurry up. After another minute or so, he emerged from the provision store where he had gone to find the change.
As he briskly walked towards her, her new crush from the street adjacent her house, Obinna, approached in his sleek BMW. Nkechi self-consciously touched her gelled hair that was pulled into a curly attachment at the top but realised as he drove past that Obinna hadn’t looked at her. His attention was on the okada guy. “Mtcheew,” she hissed.
Presently, Obinna parked a few metres away and alighted from the car.
“Magical Mike,” he hailed.
The okada man looked up and his face broke into a smile. Obinna ran and hugged him. Nkechi momentarily forgot about the wedding. Her curiosity was piqued. She wanted to know what Obinna, a doctorate degree holder and university lecturer who had recently returned from Sheffield, had to do with an ordinary okada man. Their looks and dressing showed their different stations in life: Obinna was clean-shaven and spiffy in a green ankara jumpsuit and brown leather sandals while the okada man looked as people in his trade do during the harmattan season- bundled up in an old jacket and woollen cap.
Slinging the long strap of her red Givenchy purse across her left shoulder, Nkechi began a very slow counting of the change she had received in tiny denominations while eavesdropping on the conversation between the two young men.
But she could only do that for so long. To get the full gist, she walked over gingerly in her matching red, high-heeled, Sergio Rossi sandals, greeted Obinna and introduced herself as his neighbour, thus inserting herself into the midst of the two friends as their reunion unfolded.
Long story short: They had been classmates at ESUT (Pol. Science) and the okada man had graduated at the top of the class. While Obinna’s parents sent him abroad for further studies, Mike bought a motorcycle with his convocation prize money to help him take care of his ailing mum and siblings while looking for elusive jobs.
Excited about meeting his old friend whom he’d lost touch with, Obinna invited him and the neighbourhood girl who seemed keenly interested in their stories to a nearby eatery for refreshments. Nkechi declined, satisfied that having met Obinna at close range, he would recognise and greet her henceforth.
Meanwhile, embarrassed at her earlier rudeness to Mike, she apologised. Her excuse, which was that she didn’t know he was a graduate, sounded lame even to her. She was yet to gain admission into the university herself but she didn’t entertain insults from anyone.
It seemed that working as a receptionist at a five-star hotel had warped her perspective, causing her to look down on people in blue collar work. She was humbled beyond words and offered to return the change to Mike, who thanked her for the gesture but refused to collect it. She had just been too conceited to know that many people are worth more than what you see on the surface, Nkechi told herself.
Now, she looks at people differently, taking time to answer greetings from everyone, greeting them first sometimes and generally being courteous, not just at her duty post, but everywhere.
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2021