SOCHI AND THE EYE SURGEON (SHORT STORY)
Sochi gave special care to cleaning her room at Emekuku, Owerri that Saturday morning. It had been three weeks since her NYSC passing out parade and she was back at the lodge where she spent her undergraduate days. She had sublet it to another girl while she did her service in Ibadan.
Why did she not remain in Ibadan or go on to Lagos? She wanted to be close to her widowed mum at Mbieri. She had no job yet, but she was hopeful that something would turn up soon. Agric. Extension workers were needed to help the federal and state governments build the capacity of local farmers for more efficient cultivation and storage practices and to boost livestock farming. In the meantime, she had begged her landlady to permit her the use of the small portion of land at the right side of the compound to run a nursery where she would tend and sell flowering plants. “But I may not have to do that if everything goes well today,” she dreamed.
She put up new yellow cotton blinds on the wooden windows, spread a new mauve-coloured bed sheet on her 8-spring mattress. She wore one of her Sunday outfits- an Ankara caftan with matching scarf and borrowed two extra plastic chairs from her landlady for her prospective visitors.
She was really looking forward to the meeting that lay ahead. It could change everything for her. And for her struggling mum, a pretty trader with three children to cater for.
Presently, she heard a car pull up in front of their compound. The house was a single row of rooms and hers was at the far right end, so she could see the SUV that arrived. She came to the front corridor that ran the length of the rooms and caught the attention of her pastor as he alighted from the passenger side. The driver was a slight, bespectacled man, to whom Sochi took an instant dislike. She found her strong initial reaction to him curious. He stood at about an inch or two less than 5 ft. (which wasn’t the issue as she was only 5 ft. 2” herself).
But she beamed a welcoming smile, went to receive the gentlemen and carry her pastor’s Bible. She curtseyed and shook hands with the pastor, who introduced her to the fellow with him.
“This is Dr. Onwuegbule, the brother I told you about. Doc, meet my beloved daughter in the Lord, Sister Sochima.”
Sochi shook hands with the doctor and they said, “Pleased to meet you,” to each other. She then invited the guests to her room, where she presented them with crackers, digestives and malt drinks.
After a short prayer in which Pastor Iweka asked God to prosper their visit, the short doctor dominated the conversation while they ate. He talked about his medical school days in Scotland and his residency training in Ireland. He spoke of his ministry with the Salvation Army in the UK and in Nigeria. He underscored the importance of his work as an eye surgeon and described how busy he was as a consultant with his own practice.
Pastor Iweka was forced to listen to what Sochi felt pretty sure he had heard many times before since he had said the dear doctor was his close friend. Once she realised he wasn’t going to ask to know more about her, Sochi feigned interest and inserted well-timed questions that kept the garrulous doctor going for the better part of three hours. Not once did he address the purpose of his visit. Did he, perhaps, reckon it was settled, Sochi wondered.
When Pastor Iweka reminded him he would be driving back to Aba that day, Dr. Onwuegbule stood up to leave, gave Sochi his card and by sheer insistence, obtained a promise from her that she would come to see him soon at Aba.
While he was trying to extract that promise, he took a closer look at a cork board on the wall where Sochi pinned cards and pictures. He took an old 5 × 7 portrait picture of her from the board and although she wailed that she loved that picture so much and had no other copy of it, he absolutely refused to pin it back. Even her offer to find him another picture could not dissuade him. He said it was the best depiction of her and he absolutely must have it. That was the same reason she loved the picture. Taken when she was in SS 1, it was a slightly profile view that captured her beautiful smile and doe eyes. The light was also perfect and showed off her chocolate brown skin resplendently.
In addition, Dr. Onwuegbule took a scripture card based on Proverbs 17: 22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (NIV). He said he needed it to cheer up one of his patients. Sochi told him that he could share that verse with the patient but he countered that it was more effective in graphic form.
“Don’t I know it?” Sochi muttered, because she had chronic rhinitis and regular bouts of malaria for which she got the card to remind herself of the importance of joy in healing.
It’s been five weeks since that fateful Saturday and Sochi has been dodging Pastor Iweka to date. She hasn’t gone to Aba and she doesn’t want to tell the man of God what she thinks of his eye surgeon friend.
She knew the pastor meant well when he invited the doctor. He was concerned about her; he wanted to “settle” her, as they say. But Sochi feels she would rather remain single and unemployed than marry such a “selfish and conceited” person. To her, the guy is completely tone deaf! All that matters to him is what he wants, how he feels, everything else is trampled on.
As an introvert, Sochi doesn’t mind someone doing most of the talking, but she feels crushed when that person won’t listen to the little she has to say and completely disregards her words. That is not how she plans to live out her days.
She figures that she is not as naive as her eyes make folks think, but she has no stomach for fighting and she feels the good doctor needs someone that will stand up to him and put him in his place.
Besides, he had driven all the way from Aba in his 2015 Ford Expedition SUV (he mentioned the particulars in his endless talk) to see a jobless sister and he didn’t buy even a loaf of bread for her! Sochi marked that omission as very significant.
She feels that what matters in life is not people’s titles or status but their ability to show kindness, compassion and be considerate of others. She sees the doctor as uncaring and the “loss” of her favourite picture to him as a precursor of many other losses if she marries him. In her view, saying “I do” to such an insensitive man would be a surrender to servitude.
© Edith Ugochi Ohaja
Credit for picture in featured image: Nicholas Githiri on Pexels
Hope you enjoyed reading this story. I’d like us to chat about it.
***Do you think Sochi is reading too much into what happened on that Saturday?
***If you were in her shoes, what would you do?
***Kindly advise her as a Christian.