It is uncanny how some memories, at once vague, distant, and forlorn, suddenly become vivid, clear, and even present with the passing of a loved one.
The scene began inauspiciously, with my dear Uncle Chike and I hunched over the gaping hood of my car to examine the source of a mysterious clicking sound that rendered my poor Nissan inert.
I could hear his oft-repeated mild admonition reverberate within my crestfallen head: “get yourself Triple A. It’s like insurance, you never know when you’ll need it until you do”
Alas, having failed to heed his warnings and tried hopelessly to ferret out a solution to a conundrum beyond my competence, I stood next to him, awaiting a miracle that did not entail the costly intervention of an LA mechanic.
What ensued was better than a miracle: it was a breathless exercise in singular focus and selfless commitment.
For what felt like an eternity, my dear Uncle went to work clinking and clanking, tinkering and tampering, fiddling and fastening.
Amidst the shrill sound of metal, he even had the presence of mind to educate me about the shortcomings of traditional metrics of human intelligence, which often overlook the importance of emotional intelligence, a concept I had never heard of.
This was my dear Uncle in full flow: pivoting gracefully between thankless mechanical labour and erudite musings on cognitive development.
The strident groan of my car’s engine signalling rebirth. He instructed that I stomp the accelerator and I assented with the relish of a lottery winner. We even exchanged an awkward fist bump.
My dear Uncle had nursed, inexplicably, my Nissan back to health and safeguarded my gaunt bank account.
Overcome with gratitude, I proceeded to lock the car and exited with the key still nestled in the ignition.
We exchanged looks of disbelief as I made frantic and fruitless attempts to pry the doors open.
Silence. Then laughter from my dear Uncle.
Booming. Cackling. Hearty. Laughter.
I soon joined in.
In a world rife with absurdities, I will forever remember his laughter and that evening in Southern California.
By Chudi Okoye