Portals (Left Panel) by Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

this short excerpt is inspired by the Njideka Akunyili Crosby painting of the same name.

Since last week, no matter what time of the day it was, Jumoke always felt tired. The walk up the hill to her shop left her exhausted and she often found herself resenting the women that walked into her shop with fabrics smelling of camphor balls and wrinkled copies of Ovation magazine, asking her to recreate clothes they saw on wives of governors and ministers.  

“Nne, this one you’re doing like this. Please don’t sew nonsense for me oh, I won’t pay you.” said Aunty Pat, a social studies teacher who lived a few houses further up the hill. Jumoke didn’t want to remind her that she had only just paid her for an aso-ebi that she made over six months ago, but instead, she folded Aunty Pat’s highlighter yellow lace and placed it gently on a stool.

“Aunty, you can come and collect it next week,” said Jumoke. 

The woman ignored her and hoisted her skirt past her belly and fastened her zip, Jumoke tried counting the gold rings on her stubby fingers as she fixed herself, but she moved too fast and it made Jumoke dizzy so she looked away. 

“Oya, I will see you next week. Greet Odinaka for me.” 

With that, she slammed the wrought iron door and left. It was almost five thirty in the evening and Jumoke knew Odinaka would be heading home soon. She didn’t know what he did during the day since he didn’t really have a steady job, but he always came home at exactly six thirty pm smelling like cold sweat and the Ariel she used to wash his clothes. He refused to wear cologne or deodorant, arguing that they were artificial and that as long as he scrubbed his body well enough there would be no need for them. Odinaka was a short, stocky man with shoulders that were always hunched, but his chocolate skin was smooth and his smile was wide and always forthcoming, which is one of the reasons she fell in love with him when they first met. 

She stood up from the stool and started packing up her shop, she put the highlighter yellow material in a plastic bag and placed it under her sewing machine. She walked out of her shop and bolted the iron doors before walking down Ogui road.

She walked into the familiar darkness of her home. The thick velvet drapes covered the windows completely and she could only tell that it was early evening by the small yellowing light that peered from an open space in between the drapes. The house was quiet and dark and Jumoke wanted to lay down in bed to rest, but she knew that she had to blend the egusi seeds and boil hot water for Odinaka’s evening meal. So she opened the drapes to allowed the yellow light to pour into the house and she sat down on the chair of her dining table, willing herself to get up and head to the kitchen. 

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