She strode to the exit; the doorman knew his job. He saw her coming, and at her expression, ran to open her car door once she made it past the automatic doors. Natalie slid into the back of her S560 without a word, her red Louboutins, the last thing the man saw before closing the door. The engine purred to life, and her driver maneuvered the machine away from the building.
The car rolled away, moving without bumps on the roads made for the wealthy, in their part of the city. Natalie had attended an introductory meeting to meet the hotel owner, the Chairman of the estate, where she wanted to live. When such an invitation was issued, you would be required to explain yourself, and Natalie prepared for the meeting like she was going to meet with God.
Over time, she learned what she needed to stay in the limelight. The right clothes, bags, shoes, other accessories in their season, and the right events. The right neighborhood, neighbors, and friends. It got her some attention, but not the one she wanted, and sought. Anyone could be affluent, but not every rich person could join the MVPs.
She sat up, unable to relax in the car’s plush leather seat, scowling as she remembered the Chairman’s office. Nothing unexpected there. The light husky scent, the high-backed leather chairs and the rug that looked torn from the back of an animal. She also noticed the view from the glass walls and the wooden table and chair set, covered with stretched leather. It was all the same, the look of incomparable wealth, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
The man did not smile an iota, unimpressed by her as she had been by him. Nothing differentiated him from others, except the wealth he inherited from his forebears. What gave him the right to look down at her with his bull-dog nose, hunched over fleshy lips?
She smiled in disbelief at herself, settling into the seat’s cold embrace as the car sped past the junction, which marked the end of the estate, and immediately ran a gallop. The smile turned into a hiss.
“Sorry, madam.” The driver said, trying his best not to look at the rear-view mirror.
“If my mind is not on the road, does that permit your mind to wander, Ben? Don’t stop there, drive off the bridge when you get there. I know how busy you are in your dream world.” She said, with another hiss.
The meeting left a sour note in her mind, and she would have cleaned the event off the annals of history if she could. How could people sit and judge others by their pedigree and the schools they attended? Who judged them? When she remembered how Otunba glanced with absolute boredom at her credentials and had the nerve to look at her and ask, “anything else?” she wanted to die.
She built those credentials over time. In pain, in sickness, sacrificing everything to be one of them. He made it look like nothing because her father wasn’t rich enough, and she attended local schools. Natalie clenched her teeth and swore never to put herself out there like that again. To be humiliated by another human being, one so blind, he couldn’t see her power in her struggle, was an insult. Not from him, she insulted herself.
“Never again.” She said.
Once at the office, she took the back elevator, not wanting to see anyone. Chioma, her business partner, and a close friend sat cross-legged on the settee in her office when she got there.
Natalie smiled, grateful.”Have you been waiting?”
Chioma sat up with a smile as she looked at Natalie’s face. “No, there was a problem with the financier in Switzerland, I stayed back to deal with it. You have to do something about that guy; his rates keep hiking. Anyway, how did it go?”
Natalie sat behind her table, quiet for a while. Everything she achieved seemed insignificant to someone else.
“One man’s meat.” She said, looking at Chioma, her half-smile sad.
Chioma rose from the chair and took a seat before her friend at the table. “I’m sorry, babe. Is there anything I can do?”
“Chioma, I can’t believe he didn’t even look at my work. The man glossed over the proposal I put forward for the estate. Imagine the insult, because I want to live there? I can never be enough for these people, and they will never accept me for who I have become.”
“I’m sorry he made you feel that way.”
“Why can’t I be like you, huh, why?” Natalie said, in a mock-cry of frustration.
Chioma laughed. “To be honest, babe, that’s the problem.”
Natalie drew her chair forward, wanting to hear more.
“All your life, you’ve been set on becoming the picture of success the world presents. You wanted to look like the people you saw in pictures, movies, high-powered meetings, and even our high-powered clients. When will we see Natalie, the real you?”
Natalie’s eyes narrowed, and she sat back in her chair. “If you’ve not seen her, those glasses of yours are fake.”
Chioma smiled. “What are you going to do now?”
“Nothing, I’m staying in my house. I don’t need anybody else to insult me.”
Chioma rose and went around the table to hug her friend from behind. “You know God loves you just the way you are, right? I love you second.” She said as she gave Natalie a peck.
“Lies, politician. You love your guy and twins more than life itself. Go home and take care of them.”
Chioma smiled, knowing when to excuse herself. “I’m off.” She said, and left.
Natalie turned her chair round to the view of the city behind her. The truth of Chioma’s words sinking past skin, and bones. The need to appear bourgie left her feeling tired, old age perhaps. Today, the meeting taught her a lesson about wanting to be in another person’s crowd when she could create her own. All her life, she tried to fit into a mold that kept spitting her out, and for what?
“Why not? Why can’t I have my people? The ones who love and accept me the way I am?” She asked.
Natalie imagined wearing jeans and a tee-shirt to work and laughed. She didn’t think she could be like Chioma. However, being herself wasn’t a physical thing; it was more internal. She started thinking about who God created her to be. How would that person look? How would she think, dress, talk, and behave?
The relief she felt about leaning away from the obsession to be like, and better than others, staggered her. Natalie knew she would still stick her head up at the new deals her stylist presented, but knowing she was much more, made her smile. She was more than her clothes, accessories, and toned body. She was a spirit, and the time had come to let that person live.
Till next time, be transformed!!