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The woman making my hair keeps complaining.

“You are not giving me the attachment fast, it is slowing me down. You want us to sleep here?”

‘”Sorry,” I would say. Trying to fetch the right quantity before she reaches out for it.

I wondered what she would do if she knew I had never had attachment on my hair, never sat down this long. The pain in my waist reminded me of that. I wanted to tell her that I couldn’t fetch, the reason why the sizes were so different. But I knew she would laugh, turning up her lips the same way she always does when her friend, the one in the next shop told her the latest town gossip. She would clap her palms together and say “na wa o, wonders shall never cease.”

Aunty Shola was the one that said I should make my hair.

“Moji, just all back, there is no harm in looking good for Christmas.”

She begged when I told her I would rather braid with just my hair. I looked at Mother, trying to catch her eyes, to tell them with mine that this was all too new, too unfamiliar. But she didn’t stare back. Instead, she busied her eyes with the television.

“Follow your cousin,” Aunty said, “she will take you there.”

Bimbo dropped me off, promising to return in the next three hours. She had elubo to grind and sieve for the evening meal.

“Make my sister look beautiful fa, do her fish bone, all back. If the attachment is not enough, add. I’ll pay when I come,” she instructed and left.


The woman’s hand was firm, pulling at my scalp yet never too tight. Occasionally, I would steal a peek at the mirror. Amazed at how beautiful it was. How beautiful it was making me.

“You have a very beautiful forehead.”  Bimbo had told me sometimes back. People always said that, even church members. I always tied my head completely, Mother and I. Father said a woman’s hair is her glory.

“Women who leave their hair open in church are not submissive to God. How then can they submit to their husbands?”

I wanted to ask him what submission meant, but I knew he had his definition. The belt marks on Mother’s arms were submissions, teachings of obedience. The limp she walked with, was also a sign of submission.

“I fell in the bath tub,” she always explained when a stranger asked.”Bath tubs of nowadays are so slippery, one has to be careful.”

I wonder how she did it, how she skipped the part were Father had chased her all the way to her room. How she erased her cries from her mind and his barking.

“If I hadn’t ran into the bathroom, this wouldn’t have happened.” She said at the hospital.

“If Father hadn’t been so vexed, you wouldn’t need to run.” I replied her in whispers.

“It’s not your fathers fault,” She started to say, but I didn’t want to hear, so I walked out.

“It’s too big,” the hairdresser says. I take out a little and give it to her. I wish life were like that, taking out a little of things that were too big for you to handle. Mother says God doesn’t give a person something too big for their shoulders. But pain doesn’t come in small drops, I tell her, pain has no mercy.

“What do you do then?”

“You run,” she answered.


I remember the day she decided to honor that answer. Father had had one of his moments the night before. He had broken a stool on her belly. The blood that sipped out of her was evidence of what she had lost, again.

“I’ve called Shola,” she said to me the moment she entered my room.”Get your things, pack light. We must leave in an hour.”

I looked at her, our eyes meeting, understanding. This was it. We both knew. It was Saturday morning, and Father had gone for the Men’s Association meeting.

“I sent Boji to buy bread for breakfast,” Mother said when she noticed my hesitation as we got to the gate.

“Hurry,” She urged. Walking as fast as she could with her limp and pain.


“Please pass me the scissors,” the hairdresser says. I notice myself in the mirror. She is done. The weight of the attachment makes my head feel so heavy. I wonder how Bimbo carries the Bob Marley she has on.

“You are beautiful,” the hairdresser says.

“Thank you.” I stand up, shaking the trimmed hair off my cloth. I look at the time. Bimbo should be here any second, to pay and take me home.

Home, I mix the word in my mind. Home is now something different, but this difference is good.



Post image by Eryn via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - OlaoyeShade Mary-Ann Olaoye, is a young Nigerian writer who believes in the power of writing. It’s is a voice on its own and that voice, has its place




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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

10 Responses to “You Run | by Shade Mary-Ann Olaoye | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. Chiziterem 2015/11/11 at 11:38 am #

    Very Adichie-esque. And, truly, when faced with this situation, indeed, you run.

    Critique (because I can’t help myself. My nitpicky side gets the best of me at times): just a few corrections in punctuation.

  2. A-jay 2015/11/11 at 12:46 pm #

    Lovely work, keep it up.

  3. Fatima 2015/11/12 at 7:26 am #

    Beautifully and simply told.

    I almost feel as quiet as the narrator – feeling all the drama inside, but whispering the reality quietly.

  4. chinenye 2015/11/12 at 10:42 am #

    Very well told. Simple but yet compelling

  5. Enewerome 2015/11/15 at 3:20 am #

    Simply amazing! Captivating too

  6. Dotta Raphels 2015/11/17 at 6:59 pm #

    you tell a story as though you speak to yourself, soliloquy. I like that.
    You put the reader in your head and she sees through your eyes.
    Someone said very Adichie like, I suppose that would be considered a great compliment, but I say unique to your voice.
    You tell a story well. You tell it as a matter of fact, as one who is weary of what life has given so far, and finally willing to create a little different from what life supposedly has in store.
    Resonates with every woman who has muffed that scream and feigned that laughter as the silly excuses escape her lips.

  7. shade 2015/11/18 at 8:28 am #

    Thanks so much for the compliments and criticisms(that will be looked into.)

    Dotta Raphels, Ma’am it’s a privilege having you read my work.
    Thank you.

  8. mariam sule 2015/11/22 at 12:59 am #

    i really enjoyed reading this.

  9. Dolapo Ogunwale 2016/01/11 at 4:52 am #

    Your simplicity is refreshing. Well done!

  10. Adefemi Adejola 2016/01/18 at 12:17 pm #

    Very interesting story, I enjoyed it. Even though it smirks of popular misogynistic presentation of the typical male, it takes nothing out of its freshness. Leaves you expecting more. There is also the silent impression that there is more coming from where this came from. That is worth looking forward to. Hey, wait a minute Shade, are we men so crude and brutish?

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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