The shoe that I bought . . .

Chinelo Okparanta

The shoe that I bought is supposed to be brown. The woman at the door holds
a permanent marker, black. “Just paint it with this,” she says. “You’ll see. It’s
all the same.”

But it is not all the same. White peeks out like a stool pigeon and refuses to be
mute. “This is not the way it’s supposed to be,” I say.

Oprah is telling my mother a story. About the Russians and the Americans.
One is winning but both are a strangled gasp.

Nma pulls out a strand of my coiled-up hair. It unravels and rises almost into
the sky. “Look how long your hair has become! Can you believe?”

I don’t believe. “Would your sister lie to you?” Mother asks.

The woman with the permanent marker is walking away. “I have to go to 6B
now,” she says. “6B is waiting for me. You’ll be just fine.”

But I won’t be just fine. How could anyone be just fine? I don’t want the shoe
anymore, but the woman walks briskly away. Up the spiral staircase she goes.
“This is not the way it’s supposed to be!” I cry.