Owen

(15)

I’m getting tired of taking the bus to Blantyre. I wish Rachel would come to Zomba sometimes. We could go trekking along the mountains. But that never happens.

“Mr. Owen, my brother Ebo works at a motorbike repair shop,” Kasigo says one day. “He knows someone who wants to sell his moped. You interested?”

I mentally count the money I have saved.

“Sure,” I reply. A moped would give me mobility and allow me to visit Rachel more often. Although it may take some practice weaving through the traffic on the dirt roads and competing with cars, mini buses and walkers by the side of the road. Still, I am excited.

I buy the moped for $100, half of my monthly allowance.

One Friday I finish my work early. I want to surprise Rachel by showing up at her school on my new vehicle. The school is a one-level rectangular brick building with tin roof and two windows opposite each other and no front door. Students are sitting on the floor. Rachel is teaching a class. I wave at her and wait outside until she is finished. Two children follow her.

“This is Eze, and this is Gamba,” Rachel says pointing to the two boys who accompany her. They are not quite teenagers yet.

“Hi there,” I say. “You like your teacher?”

“Yes.” Eza and Gamba answer together in a soft voice while looking at the floor.

I don’t want to miss the moment. I take out my Kodak instamatic.

“Why don’t you both stand here,” I say to Eza and Gamba, pointing next to Rachel.

I take a picture of Rachel and her students. Then I stand next to her and ask Eza to take our picture. Eza holds the camera with both hands extended straight ahead of him and clicks and immediately gives it back to me if he is afraid of damaging it. Eza and Gamba stand close to Rachel and me, admiring the camera and the whole picture-taking session.

“What do we have here?” Rachel asks approaching my moped.

“Want to go for a ride?”

“Cool.”

We drive to Blantyre and have dinner at a not-so-expensive Chinese diner.

“You aren’t going to be sick with this food, are you?” I ask.

“I hope not. Normally I’m fine with Chinese food. It’s the African food that I have problems with.”

We eat leisurely and return to her hut after two hours. It is late in the evening and getting dark.

“Will you stay here overnight? It would be much safer to ride back in the morning.” Rachel suggests.

I agree.

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