And another pre-farafina story. One of the first stories I ever wrote. Enjoy.
I don’t own a mirror, I have no use for one. Perhaps you’re wondering I’m some sort of Saint or someone who isn’t remotely conceited, you’re wrong, I’m just ugly.
No, I’m not suffering from your idea of low self esteem, there you go being wrong again. In fact, I’m extremely confident in my abilities and I am self aware enough to know that I’m incredibly intelligent, I’m just also intelligent enough to admit my flaws. I’m ugly, and worse, fat. It’s cool and I’m living with it.
Frankly, I’m more tired of all the patronizing “Fat ladies are meant for cuddling” tweets and the “the thicker the better” memes than I am of the catcalls I get from passers-by. The other day, when an okada man refused to carry me and my friend saying I was fat enough to be two people, I wasn’t as mad as when I saw a “Fat girls got it” meme on twitter later that evening.
My roommate, Tolu, tried to pacify me by directing more patronizing lines my way. “I wish I had more flesh.” “See how your breast is huge and mine is just portable.” Portable. Because Tolu would never actually insult herself, she was so perfect and she was aware, always looking in the mirror and admiring herself. She knew better than to bring those demonic things near me.
Tolu and I are also co-workers, customer care agents at a start-up in Anthony. I have a beautiful voice that is at least useful for something. I am used to guys fawning over my voice through the phone, and running away anytime they see me. In fact, I was supposed to have a date with someone at the cinema later in the night because of the said voice, one of Tolu’s people who claimed he fell in love after hearing my voice over the phone (when I had picked Tolu’s call on her orders after she told me one of her ugly disturbers was doing the disturbing thing again). I told her I didn’t mind him. She said she had told him about my size and he said he didn’t mind, he had an affinity for “curvy” (Crap list) ladies, and that I was sure to be sophisticated since I was her best friend.
My crap list, a long list of crap and stupid words or ideas I don’t like either because they were plain idiotic or extremely patronising, curvy falls into both categories, very close to the top, behind love and beauty pageant, and preceding thick and Twitter.
I was in my room getting ready for the date, I had to look presentable for Segun. Tolu had shown me his photo and while he wasn’t traditionally handsome, I still found him attractive enough. I didn’t care about the looks of a man, all that mattered was his heart. The pretty ones were usually foolish, anyway.
Tolu was helping me with my make up, she had gone to her room to get a mirror. I moved to stop her.
“You’re going to want to see this, trust me.”
I let her bring the mirror to my face. “Thank you,” I said. I looked nice enough. I was in my black dress, Tolu had insisted I bought it and also insisted I wore it tonight. She practically ran my life, the witch.
There was a knock on the door and Tolu went to get it. It was Segun. I was nervous.
“Oh wow, hi.”
“Hey, you must be Segun.”
He was uglier than the pictures I saw of him. He was in a custard yellow shirt, the shirt rhyming perfectly with his teeth, with jeans too many sizes too small for his age.
“It’s err… nice to meet you.”
I noticed at once that I wasn’t what he expected, it was going to be another one of those dates.
“You guys should get going now, remember not to do what I wouldn’t do.” Tolu practically pushed us out the door, she was expecting a visitor, undoubtedly one of the big men who had called our office and had fallen in love with her voice first, body second. We had been instructed not to date clients but Tolu was never one to follow rules, they were simply suggestions to Her Royal Highness.
“So what movie are we seeing?” I asked
“What…?” he replied, looking everywhere but at me
“I asked what movie we were seeing.”
“Oh, we’ll see one sha.”
He was obviously preoccupied with displeasing thoughts of me. Still, I was going to go ahead with the date, he might get to know me and end up liking me for who I am.
“You know what, I just remembered I wanted to buy petrol before leaving.”
“So we’ll buy it on our way then, there’s a filling station just down the road,” I replied.
“No, I know. I saw it. I want to go get it now, I’ll come back for you.”
“But why can’t we just …”
“I said I’ll come back for you,” he snapped.
Everything told me he wasn’t coming back, it seemed a cruel thing to do but I just knew that was what he was up to. This black, ugly, shapeless and fat (just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I can’t call others fat) broke cow was going to leave me hanging. My life! I agreed to wait.
Twenty minutes later and I was still standing outside my house. I was too embarrassed to go inside to face Tolu, as her own visitor had arrived in a Land Rover while I waited. Segun drove an ancient Nissan Maxima.
I decided to walk to the petrol station, I wanted so badly to believe he was still there.
The walk wasn’t very pleasant.
“Aunty nice dress, but your breast don dey pour.” The catcalls were raining in even at night.
I sometimes found it funny, how these roadside touts with no future ambition had the guts to shout insults at me. I mean, to an innocent bystander, I had a better life. Yes, I was fat and ugly, but I had a good-ish job while they were basically street urchins, smoking weed and being useless.
Then again, I realized happiness was all that mattered. If that were true, I had lost. They obviously derived joy from life’s little pleasures (throwing hurtful bants at me), while I was here on my way to check on a guy who I was sure had stood me up in the most unimaginative and cruel way. Perhaps (having a bit of) money wasn’t a contribution to happiness like I had always assumed, perhaps it is those brief moments where we feel infinite -even if it’s at the expense of others- that really adds to the happiness meter we all want filled desperately.
I didn’t see Segun’s Nissan at the petrol station. He had left me hanging. I decided to call an okada man to ride me to the taxi park, I was going to go to the mall on my own if I had to. No ugly and broke bastard was going to bring me down tonight.
On the motorcycle on my way to the taxi park, with a trailer driving right behind us. My hair dancing in the wind expressing joy I didn’t feel in my heart and freedom I wasn’t even aware existed. I thought about tonight and the embarrassment I just experienced. I thought about the day I tried to drown myself in Elegushi and one of those boys had to come save me despite my protests, the half-wits did not know the difference between a drowner and a social suicide committer.
I thought about the day my mother slapped me after I told her her favourite brother touched me, how she pronounced the word ‘liar’ so smoothly, like she didn’t even have to consider it. I thought about how rice and beans had felt incredibly soothing that day, and how chocolates helped me feel even better the next time he touched me. I let go of everything. A loud sound.
The trailer swerved just as I hit the ground. The loud sound was the driver hitting the brakes. Once again, I had failed.
“Aunty wetin happen?”
“Thank God sey car no dey come for the trailer back.”
People were rushing towards me.
Yeah, thank God.
I heard someone say I fell from the bike because I was too fat. Someone snickered. I was too much of a failure to even succeed in killing myself.
I instruct the bike man to take me home, only my pride got wounded as the bike wasn’t even speeding enough to give me cuts or bruises. I am going to get a tub of ice cream and watch episodes of Girls in my room, it is going to be a long night.