I had to take an okada on my way home last week.
I climbed onto the back of the motorcycle and the okada man started his bike. As we pulled out of the row of bikes, the front wheel of the motorcycle brushed against the foot of a street hawker selling Gala sausages.
I say ‘brushed’ because from my perch in the back of the bike, it looked like the front tire only slightly brushed the man’s leg.
But according to the Gala hawker, his leg wasn’t just brushed, it was crushed.
And according to the bike man, the leg wasn’t even close to the bike.
The truth was somewhere between our three observations, but they both wouldn’t back down over something that could be solved with a simple apology.
They were both shouting:
“You march my leg!”
“I say it no touch am!”
The Gala man stood in front of the bike, blocking its path. He was much bigger than the okada man. He was wearing a tank top and displaying an assortment of muscles. One of his hands carried the cardboard box filled with his wares and the other hand held the handlebars of the motorcycle.
I slid off the backseat of the bike, tapped the Gala man’s shoulder to get his attention, and I told him we were sorry for hitting him.
The Gala man wagged his finger at the bike man and said, “You are lucky, if not for this your passenger that begged me. I will have finished you here today.”
After that, his face softened, he calmed down, and everything was fine.
Or it would have been fine if the okada man didn’t continue talking.
Still straddling his bike, his legs on the ground and both hands on the handlebars, he wouldn’t stop. “You are stupid! What are you going to do? What can you do to me, you sell Gala.”
The Gala man lost it, but this time he was not shouting. This time, he was seething with a cold internal fury.
“You are looking at me like this because I sell Gala on the street,” he said, patting his chest on every other word.
He let his breath out in a whoosh and continued,
“I curse you”
Just simple, like that.
Then he muttered something I don’t hear, either because he was speaking faster now that he was worked up, or because it was in a different language.
But he lapsed back into English when he finished and said “You will not go home tonight. Today, something will happen to you on this your motorcycle.”
Then he walked away, leaving the okada man standing there screaming insults at his back.
With the Gala man gone, the okada man stopped yelling and beckoned me to get on the bike.
I froze, contemplating the curse, thinking about what I would tell people if we got into an accident.
They would say, “Didn’t you know the bike had a curse on it?”
And I would respond from the hospital bed through my cast after the feeding tube is removed, “I knew but….”
So I shook my head, avoided his eyes, and slinked away to another motorcycle.