Short Story: Oyinbo

Hey beautiful people! Marilyn here. It has been a while. This one is a new story that I hope you will enjoy. See you on the other side!

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Oyin was a sensitive child. She learned to play alone without siblings or friends. She learned that she loved her mother, but that her mother did not have enough attention to give her. All her attention was fixated on the man that she despised, her father. She might say she began to hate him when he refused to replace her broken Barbie. He had crushed it with his big feet as he stormed out of the house after branding her mother’s face with his palm. He left her cheek red and pulsating; an image that had looked to Oyin like someone had painted a hand on her mother’s face with red water colour. She was four and she had thought him ugly even then. He looked like poopoo, she had thought, the scowl on his dark, wrinkled face making it difficult for her to notice that he had eyes that were bloodshot red and not black. She did not like him; and it had more to do with the colour he gave her than with his ugly character.

Oyinbo oh!” She jerked at the sharp sound of a wooden cane hitting her desk. She rolled her eyes to the back of her head and wished that she could be invisible in that moment. She was shy. Every day she was forced to stand in the midst of her new classmates, she felt like the one who should have been called ‘black sheep’. Oyinbo. She loathed the name. It was Mrs Agbim, her nursery school teacher that nicknamed her. Of course she had had no idea why she received the name until she began to realize that she was the darkest person in the school. It had remained this way for 6 years.

Oyinbo, are you day dreaming again?! Read that thing for me jare!” It was Miss AJ. She reminded her of her mother, with the way her skin glistened like it was made from the sort of plastic her Barbie dolls were made of.

Oyin looked up at Miss AJ, her watery eyes pleading to be punished in some other way. She did not like to speak. She preferred to write and read to herself. She had no qualms with going to the board and writing down answers to questions. It was speaking up in this cohort of privileged boys and girls, baked to perfection by an obviously attentive God that scared her. First, she feared that they would see that her tongue looked disturbingly redder than theirs. Then she imagined that if she laughed or smiled, they would see that her teeth were too white for her skin. She had nightmares at the possibility of a nickname worse than Oyinbo.

She lowered her gaze to the open book before her. It was between pages. She looked up again at Miss AJ, who was now shaking her head. “I pity you oh, Oyinbo. If you don’t continue reading now from where Simi stopped, I will use this cane on you.” There was giggling from around her and the thought of the notorious cane on her skin caused her bladder to feel pressurized into releasing her anxiety. “You’re lucky marks don’t show on your body oh Oyinbo, because when I’m done with you ehn…” Miss AJ continued as she walked to the front of the class.

“I’m not Oyinbo,” she said in what was supposed to be a whisper. By now, the girth of Miss AJ’s gut had covered up the writing on the board in front of the class. She removed her glasses, misted it with her breath, wiped it with the edge of her blouse and put them back on; all the while staring at Oyin. “Did you say something, ehn, Oyinbo?” Oyin looked down at her desk and rolled her eyes. She could hear her heartbeat in her ears. They were audible, spitting words of encouragement at her. It sounded like they wanted her to repeat what she had said, exactly as she had said it.

“She said she’s not Oyinbo.” It was Cynthia, the one that had the hot water accident during the long vacation. Oyin glanced at her, through lenses of tear, and felt as though she was seeing the burn on her face for the first time.

“You’re not Oyinbo?” Miss AJ cackled as she clapped her hands together. The classroom erupted in pregnant murmurs. It seemed like drama was brewing; the sort of drama that was foreign to this bunch of ten year olds. Oyin could not delineate her emotions. She was trembling now and was nauseous with words that would hold bad consequences for her. She forced her feet to move, one foot in front of the other, and she walked in what she perceived to be brisk and swift motions towards Miss AJ. She would later learn that she moved slowly and precisely, as if possessed by something targeted at Miss AJ.

“My name is not Oyinbo. My name is Oyinlola. O-Y-I-N-L-O-L-A. Don’t be stupid. If I’m oyinbo then what are you?!” There was a loud collective gasp and it appeared that her classmates were paralyzed with excitement at what was unfurling before them this unexpectant Friday afternoon. Miss AJ folded her arms in front of her chest, the wooden cane swinging underneath and she let out a mocking laugh.

“Oya beat me,” Miss AJ finally said, amused at the whimpering child before her. She stretched out the cane towards Oyin, motioning for her to grab it. Oyin dropped her eyes to her feet. Her pants felt warm with the urine that was seeping out freely. Beads of sweat lined her nose and she wanted to disappear instantly.

“You’re finished today oh, shay you hear me. Just go and kneel in that corner.” She felt relieved, yet she burned with humiliation. She thought of her mum and what she might do if she heard what she had done. She saw the angry face of her father that she loathed and imagined that he would pull at both her ears until they felt hot. Her mother could not find out. She didn’t want her to. For a second, it gladdened her that the scars will not be very visible.

“When I’m done with you, you will want to sleep inside boiling water and peel off your dirty skin. Useless child.” Miss AJ continued as she knelt down by the corner of the class, next to the book shelf. Boiling water. That was what she needed. And as she held herself to the ground with her knees, she dreamed of emerging from the bathtub with skin as fair and bright as her mother’s.

***

There you go. I would love to read your feedback. Thank you for reading! J

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Marilyn Eshikena

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  • Avatar
    jay

    Hmmmn! Sad story.

    January 20, 2015
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    @tolu_lope_

    This is so real…

    I am very dark skinned and had to deal with all sorts growing up, all sorts of nicknames and jokes, blacky, etc etc. Up until a few years ago I looked upon fair folk as be lucky / privileged somehow…Thankfully Im good now, very very good.

    The last paragraph got me though.

    January 20, 2015
    • Avatar
      Daylyt

      You bleached?

      January 22, 2015
      • Avatar
        Ayaba

        Looool!!! of course she grew comfortable in her own skin.

        January 26, 2015
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    Oyinbo Pepper, Shuku Shuku pepper. You go marry Pepper. . . [3ce]
    LooooooooooL, now that that is out of my system, I'd say this was a fabulous read, Marilyn. (Y)

    January 20, 2015
  • Avatar
    lindiwe

    Inspiring read, this goes beyond skin colour, very deep. E-hugs to all those feeling down and rejected

    January 21, 2015
  • Avatar
    wordsmitch

    Don't let people put you down without your consent…
    that's what I got from this

    January 22, 2015
  • Avatar
    Michelle

    That last paragraph gave me a bad case of the chills. Well done Marilyn

    January 26, 2015
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    I really enjyed reading this. beautiful, sad….

    February 2, 2015
  • Avatar
    ADEJOKE

    wish you could continue 🙁
    really interesting piece ….

    February 19, 2015
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    Debloww

    Awwww

    February 20, 2015
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