BELOVED QUEEN ECHO
by Chinyere G. Okafor
I bang the window. Yes, I have to shut them out. They assault my ears with
their riches; taking a ride with their kids and their pets. Groomed dogs in
colorful jackets and gold necklaces, couples in summer sports cars; I don’t
have to watch them. And I don’t have to whine about all that either, so I
shut them out!
I put on the light in the bathroom. She stands across the divide, with anger
in her eyes.
“Don’t sneer at me.” I say looking down to avoid her eyes.
“Please,” I add, looking up and expecting a widening of her lips that I know
so well. The widening would indicate contempt. But her mouth is immobile, yet
her eyes shoot at me.
“I didn’t create myself! No . . . sorry” That’s confrontational.
“That’s not what I mean . . . It’s just that this wrinkle beside my nose; it
happened in the labor ward. You remember that time that Ken walked out on us,
and I was looking for a job, and expecting a baby,” I nod my head to make her
“Please don’t look at me like that.” I can smell the welfare officer because
that’s how he looks at me.” I point at her. She points also.
“That Mr. Toper, the welfare man, has large pimples on his nose,” I twitch my
nose. She rolls her eyes, as if tired of hearing me complain about Toper.
“You don’t want to hear about Toper? Huh?” I say, leaving my mouth open. She
mimics me; her mouth hangs open.
I glance above her head at the ceiling. I can see that it is darkening again
at the side where they painted it last summer. They told me that they fixed
the problem on the roof, so why this? I still hear the sound of vehicles even
though I shut the window. I don’t like the sound of their affluence to assault
I feel the disapproval in her nose, as it twitches. I scratch my teeth with my
finger and sniff it. My mouth doesn’t smell bad. I smell my armpit. Oh God! I
need to convince her that this is not my fault.
“Don’t you remember how people snicker whenever I bring out my food stamp to
buy deodorant? So I stopped buying deodorants. That’s why I don’t smell that
“You never say anything!”
“They don’t say anything, just like you. I feel the anger in their eyes just
like I feel yours. I know what they think; that I use their money, their
taxpayers’ money, to buy beauty stuff!”
Opposite me, her eyes dilate. It’s like she visited an eye doctor, or maybe
she feels bad for me, at last. I notice tears on her left eye. They roll down.
I also feel wetness on my left cheek.
“Don’t cry. I’ll go to Wal-Mart, to the back shelf, and roll one week’s
deodorant on me,” I sniff.
“Nobody will see me. I don’t think they’ll care if they see me use it, as long
as they don’t see the food stamps and know that I’m on welfare.”
Her mouth! I hear the sobbing, as I weep. She screams and falls forward. I try
to catch her. But she crashes. The mirror is in pieces. So are my bloody