I stared at the passport size photograph engrossed in my palm and looked at the full length dressing mirror for the fifth time. The striking resemblance tinkled within me. The small bulbous nose, the thick succulent lips, the dark cold eyes and the ox- bow bushy eyebrows mutilated my heart. It was almost like what I saw on the photograph and in the reflection was one.
Something churned in me. I felt my heart sink deeper into my chest. My head spun uncontrollably. Hot lonely drops raced down my cheeks. They hit my chest in immature successions. I counted silently. One, two, three, four… I lost track. It graduated into a gush; uncountable but measurable. I wanted the drops so I could count until it stopped.
I wiped it off unconsciously and peered keenly into the mirror. The white baggy T- shirt revealed an impression of two little bumps on my chest. Formerly, I had rejected these out of uncertainty. It was her who explained everything in detail. A woman needs them for beauty, she had said while plaiting my hair. I could not call myself a beauty. Not after constant disapproval. From the confines of the T- shirt, they reminded me of the oranges in the basket above the fridge that I was not supposed to touch unless asked to.
Down farther was a slim waist harmonizing two parallel stick- like legs emerging from emaciated shins and prominent knees. I wondered how she who was just staring in the photograph looked when she was fourteen. I could have asked her. I could… More tears welled up in my eyes. Before they were hardly a drop, I wiped them off.
The past resurfaced and took over my vision. I remembered Uncle Ben, his pretty wife and their sons; Tony and Tom. How they talked gently. Uncle Ben bought me new gorgeous dresses every time he got Tony and Tom new shirts and shorts. The new school uniform lying idly in a carton box in my room next to the garage was a prize from his lovely wife. During meal time, we all sat round the circular dining tables. No one was sternly instructed to eat in the kitchen and after everyone else.
“I want you to study hard and be a nurse. Or what do you want to be?” Uncle Ben had asked.
“Air hostess, I would like to become an air hostess.” I had answered.
“That’s nice. You will become an air hostess, Aisha. Okay?”
Cold tears withdrew me from my reverie. My dreams were a distant treasure box I had to cross a lake of fire to get. I was sure Tom and Tony were defining theirs under the loving watch of Uncle Ben.
While young, Tony was so mischievous. He would run up and down the housing singing and mostly singing. He would run into the kitchen and leave behind a broken plate or cup. He would throw his ball on the television breaking the screen in the process. A new one would be bought only to undergo the same treatment barely a month later. I wondered how TV sets ad been bought and broken by Tony.
Despite his rowdiness, all kinds of enviable treatment from Uncle Ben and his wife fell on him. Uncle Ben said little men were experimental. His son was curious; quite a healthy thing. I recalled how a plate had slipped off my grab from the sink in my new environment. The incident had turned into a major scene. Screams, insults and rebukes had been thrown my way. A palm had also landed on my face forcefully.
Pain crept in my heart, pain of profound loneliness. I wanted someone to talk to. I craved for laughter or a smile even if silhouetted in hatred. My life was a yearning for things hidden somewhere away from my reach. The cold all around me froze all my efforts. Only the photograph handed me something to dream about.
With the few hours to my disposal, I siphoned a hopeful existence from imaginations, dreams and the treasured photograph in my hand. Everything else was a luxury. I could write no more. I doubted I could in the first place. My beliefs too had been reduced to nothing. All that was left of me was hunger, thirst and craving.
The main door creaked and a familiar strong scent of stinking perfume poured into the master bedroom. I had to go. I briskly wiped my tear- washed face with the edges of my T- shirt and breathed deeply. I stole a last glance at the image of my mother in the photo and back at the mirror. I tried to smile but in vain.
The boss was back.
– The WordBrewer