This story was published as one of the shortlisted stories from the 2016 AFREADA Photo-Story Competition where writers were asked to produce a 500 word story based on the below photograph. It is an entirely fictional piece and is not a true representation of the young girl photographed below.
You forget his name but you remember it was him who catcalled the loudest as you hawked past. You remember you had had a crush on him – you admired his brown gums and well-groomed hair. You remember how you swore that boys were a distraction. You would learn the word ‘scum’ later.
You remember how you learned to balance the tray on your head without the support of your hands or ichafu. You don’t forget Ezinne. A year younger than you but street smarter, it was her who showed you the ropes: where the generous customers assembled and where paedophiles lurked. You remember she teased you for returning all the proceeds from your sale to your mother. You remember she always had gist. You forget the details but remember highlights of that one incident she narrated. Of her master’s hand in her vagina. Of his fist on her jowl. Of her sobs and prayers.
You remember the curious white man. His words to you were deficient in vowels but Ezinne had signaled you to nod. So he leaned back, pulled out a black camera and clicked two or three times. You forget the date but remember it was a Sunday, for you had on your only dress for Mass.
You remember the kerosene lantern, the one you studied for GCSE with. You don’t forget how your mother fretted that she could not afford the exam fee. You don’t forget how she looked at her gold wristwatch one last time and said it was your late father’s proxy for her bride price. The tears stung. Yours. You swore to sell all your oranges the next day. And ace the exam the next month.
You remember when they delivered your result, how you read out your grades to your mother and how she could not tell if you had passed or failed. You remember translating into Igbo, and slightly raising your voice at the part that said the state government would sponsor your trip to England for college. You remember your mum screaming and laughing and crying. You remember you could not see her very well because your eyes had welled with tears.
You remember the first time you boarded a plane and how you did not eat the plane food because you thought you had to pay for it. You remember sitting next to a white man and wondering if it was the same one who intruded on your afternoon years before. You remember that afternoon. Your dress was white with a high ruffle neckline and embroidered patterns. Your hair was cropped in a chic, low, uncombed afro. You were still coming to terms with your puberty. Ezinne was behind the palm fronds prompting you to smile, but you just stood there wondering if you were photogenic enough. You also remember wondering if white men treat white women with respect.
You make a mental note, shut your eyes and dream about England.
Folorunso David is a Nigerian currently living in the US. He is a graduate of University of Ibadan and Tufts University.
Download the ebook to read the other amazing stories from the collection, you can read the winning story here, and maybe (just maybe) you should keep an eye out for another competition announcement coming soon!
Related country: Nigeria