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Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 12.13.13 PMRoaming

The car moved along Victoria Island making tick tick sounds beneath them as if a rat had somehow gotten under and was scrambling to find a way out. She listened to her friend ramble on about her ex boyfriend who had reappeared in her life through a random whatsapp message.

“He wanted to reach out to thank me for always encouraging his dreams. There was some other things too” her friend said and began giving minute by minute analysis of the eight to ten lines of conversation they shared.

Just block the bastard she thought, but her friend was sensitive. One well meaning misplaced word of advice and Taiye would pause for seconds carefully letting the silence choke them both in the car before deflating it, depending on her level of angst with a sigh or a scream. After, she would speak about Teniola’s condescension and inconsiderate nature towards other people’s problems because she had gone through no real pain in her short life. So Teniola was silent, half listening to Taiye, and looking for street markers wondering how she still hadn’t grasped any good sense of direction despite having lived in Victoria Island for fifteen years.

Taiye concluded “so yeah, that’s where we left things”

“Hmm.” Teniola replied


“I think maybe you should b-. If you can’t communicate nonchalantly with Wale, maybe you should block him. You’re already analyzing a few lines of text. It’s not a good sign”

“You’re right” Taiye said “but the sex was good though”

“I’m sure”

“Do me a favour when you travel. Get into makeup and have tons of sex, good and bad. You can’t appreciate good sex when you haven’t had a shitty white boy with a small dick groaning on top of you and you’re just there looking at the ceiling asking God how this managed to happen to you” Taiye said

Teni laughed. Sex didn’t hold much of an interest to her. Since she’d spent most of her life abstinent and keeping herself for her husband in accordance with religious instructions, but a few months ago she concluded that her virginity wasn’t hers any longer. It had become a thing that overwhelmed her looks and personality, seeping into all those twitter conversations and blog posts about sex. It was their virginity and they didn’t understand virgins. Apparently, one had to be some kind of special to not have sex. So she had sex, with a respectful consenting partner and she enjoyed it, but she didn’t see herself engaging in it recreationally. It felt good to have the option of going at it without the religious and social responsibility of her virginity. Nothing to think of past that.

“We’re here”, Taiye spoke driving into the mini shopping complex where the beauty franchises had their offices spaces arranged in random order. The restaurant, the spa, and the makeup studio where they were headed for the launch of the new collection targeted at the “Modern African woman unafraid to take on the world and look amazing while doing so. The woman who understood the importance of taking care of her soul, mind and body.” Teniola wondered how many years and what kind of experience it took to become that kind of woman; the target consumers for those press releases. Did they have size or IQ requirements?

They climbed the stairs, past the backdrop and website photographers into the air conditioned parlour sized venue lit with red bulbs and professional smiles. There were small round tables covered in white and red cloth scattered around. No seats were visible and afrobeats tracks played on the speakers. An usher approached them asking to take down their contact information. There were spaces for names, phone numbers, emails and brand names. Teniola paused.

“What do I put under brand name? I’m not even sure what my real job description is” she asked Taiye

“Put my own, Lagosbeautytracker”

“Do I need a brand? In case of another time when you’re not there”

“You can put the name of the station you work for”

“i’m quitting at the end of the month”

“Then leave it blank. Like these other people” Taiye gestured towards the blank spaces on the sheet. Teniola left the space blank proceeding to the refreshment carts that held trays filled with chocolates, cupcakes and Pringles. Beside the snacks were empty glass jugs, bottles of Fanta, Coke, water and unsealed bottles of liquor. She asked the attendant if she could open and pour herself some tequila. He replied “madam i’m not in charge. The person is inside”

Taiye was occupied, snapping pictures for her instagram and blog. She moved with an orchestrated ease. Step step, slide in, smile a bright hello, a hug and the occasional selfie. It was fascinating, to watch, to see how the birth of these self titled epic online moments, what happened behind the fat smartphones. It was more interesting to watch than the highlight and contour routine she had tried to teach Teniola before the left her house

“Look. It’s not that hard.” Taiye said drawing the highlight lines along her nose, under her eyes and cheekbones.

“It’s pretty, but it’s a bit much for an afternoon out. We’re not going to a big event”

“Duh, I know, but you’d be so on fleek with those natural cheekbones highlighted”

“And then I’ll sweat and people will start looking for the other half of my nose abi?”

“You’re not serious.”

“Pass me the liner, and purple lipstick please.”

She returned to the refreshment stand, where the woman in charge was still not around. “Come back” the man said dismissing her. She picked a handful of toffee and leaned on the nearest table, where a group of women were speaking a version of English she could not translate. She drifted away, to the table where samples were offered. The pamphlet held brief descriptions of products promising to “transform” and “uplift”. She pointed to one of them, a russet coloured lipstick.

“Three thousand Naira” the sales attendant answered. He was short with well shaped brows and short dreads.

“Ahh that’s a good price oh. I’ll come get it when i’m leaving”. She turned towards the drinks table planning to try for the tequila one last time when she bumped into a head full of blond extensions. “Sorry” they both said looking at each other. She was the brightest looking person Teniola had ever seen. Her skin was a clean bright shade of yellow. Teniola opened her mouth to speak but, a small circle of girls had quickly formed around the woman blocking Teniola’s path to the drinks. They exchanged air kisses and compliments. Soon photographers attracted to the gaggle came in asking to take pictures.

Someone tapped Teniola. “Are you in the picture?” she asks with an English accent. “You’re edging me out. Move.”

“She looks familiar. Is she popular?” Teniola asked absentminded, scanning the woman’s face for a sign of recognition

“She’s the wife of our former president, the actress?” the girl replied visibly irritated “Abeg please move. Don’t spoil this PR opportunity for me please”

“Oh. Wait where did your accent go?”

The girl hissed as Teniola moved closer to the drinks table. The attendant she met was still there. She pointed to the tequila and her cup and he shook his head and shrugged.

well that’s not happening she thought with a sigh.

Taiye returned with 2 gift bags. asking if she’d made any new friends

Teniola mumbled a yes and asked if they we’re ready to leave

“Yeah we’re off to the store opening in Lekki. There’s booze there. Verified, and small chops.”

“”Okay, let’s go”

They ran into traffic, close to the Lekki toll gate, where they passed the time by listening to Childish Gambino rap hoarsely about issues that mattered to him. They looked at the faces in the fellow drivers stuck in traffic. Mostly men, they busied themselves looking ahead or around their cars for all carrying the same look; like a sigh had transformed into a facial expression. The cars moved slowly, and Taiye suggested they detour to the nearest coffee shop to wait out the traffic.

It was small and warm. They went in, plugged their phones in for charging and ordered. Taiye had a cappucino and Teniola had fruit juice. They settled in the soft chairs, Teniola watching her friend move her fingers so quickly over her phone she wondered how Taiye’s eyes kept up

oh that’s right, she wears glasses.

Teniola stood up walking to the shelf of old books in front of them. She settled on a collection of Shakespears’s sonnets. She selected the rape of Lucrece, reading and trying to imagine the genius behind such poetic rendition of brutality. The rain started again, pelting softly against the coffee shop windows and traffic filled streets. The traffic eased up but the two girls, lay distracted, contentedly occupied in their pursuits until they looked up and realized the only place left to head was home.



Image by Wildwerun via Black Women Art

About the Author:

Portrait - AbdulkareemThe least interesting thing about me is that I’m half Yoruba half Fulani. My default sentiment is of a cynic but when i’m not questioning everything and denying my hippie and hipster tendencies, I’m great to be around.


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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.

6 Responses to “Roaming | by Fareeda Abdulkareem | An African Story” Subscribe

  1. ngozi 2015/08/06 at 15:06 #

    Speaking a version of English she could not translate! I am still rolling on the floor at it and at “Oh. Wait where did your accent go?”

    Great story.
    Well done Fareeda!

  2. Suzanne 2015/08/07 at 04:30 #

    I very much enjoyed this. Keep writing, Fareeda.

  3. Hakeem 2015/08/08 at 17:51 #

    Marvelous read, easy going yet profound. Blends so many pertinent threads in to a pleasing prosaic fabric

  4. @OneMoreDaisy 2015/08/18 at 01:16 #

    Awesome read. Good work Fareeda.

  5. sylevester 2015/08/20 at 06:55 #

    a good read

  6. Sola Osofisan 2015/09/01 at 11:00 #

    Deceptively simple delicacy. Enjoyed.

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