Jena’s small office was in the back room, and the secretary’s desk was in the room in front with the windows to the hall on one side, and beige filing cabinets on the other. Jena had been working, but she stepped out from her desk and into Ms Grace’s office when she heard some of the students talking—they were getting a bit lively. It was fall at last, and a football game was coming up between their college and St. Georges, which was over a hundred miles away.
“You all ain’t gonna beat the Georges Knights!” said Keesha, who was being loud, as usual. “They bigger.” St. Georges just happened to be located in Keesha’s hometown.
Chinememne, a Nigerian-American student, was at Oconee State on an athletic scholarship and was very loyal to its sports teams. Her eyes flashed as she took Keesha on. “Then why don’t you just go to school at St. George’s?"
Keesha’s voice took on a meaner tone. “Why you don’t just go back to Africa?”
Without giving Chinememne a chance to respond, Jena said, “That’s enough, Keesha! You’re not supposed to say things like that to people!” Mistreatment of outsiders was something Jena absolutely could not tolerate.
Ms Grace, Chinememne, and especially Keesha were stunned into silence for a second. Jena was their program coordinator, and she was low-key and business-like most of the time.
“I don’t have to listen to you!” snapped Keesha, and she left, heading to the office of a staff member she was friendly with—unfortunately it was a staff member who resisted Jena’s policies and talked against her to the students.
Chinememne left, too, and Ms Grace stayed quiet and got back to work. Jena continued to feel righteous indignation. But after a while, she began to realize that Chinememne actually had advantages over Keesha and may not have been so much the underdog. Her parents were medical professionals, from Nigeria originally but now naturalized and working in Kansas. She had a good high school education. Keesha probably had a single parent, or at least Jena had only met her mother and brother, no father. Her grades were mediocre, probably due to schools not being that great down there in St. Georges. And her attachment to the female staff member in the next office, though highly irritating, probably came out of her need for someone to guide her and for someone to follow.
Keesha should not have insulted Chinememne by accusing her of being an unwanted foreigner. But Jena realized she herself should have been big enough to keep from administering a put down. By this time, the building was quiet. She couldn’t see or hear anyone on the other side of those windows facing the hallway. She knew she got along well with the faculty she worked with in this building and most of the students, but not so well with the staff and any students who happened to be allied with them. Being righteous was fine, but Jena wished she could have a do-over sometimes when it came to getting along with people.
Observations on the subjects of friends, family, country, cultures and nature.