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Mathew Oluwaseun
University of Ilorin (Unilorin)
Mechanical Engineering
500Level, Nigeria.
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So I'm eating scones with the girl I hate. The scones are her idea. She says eating one of them is like getting fucked. Not vanilla-style either, the kind with whips. She's eating the scones and I'm watching, sipping black tea with milk but no sugar.

Actually, she hasn't quite started yet. She's still spreading clotted cream on each half of the split scone, then homemade jam on top of that. As she does this, she warns me she might make groaning noises. Just so, you know, I know. That's fine, I shrug, feeling little bits of me catch fire.

I've got the teacup in my hand, my finger crooked in the little handle that's too small for it so the circulation's getting cut off. I watch her bite into the scone with her little bunny teeth. I watch gobs of clotted cream catch in either corner of her lip.

She tilts her head back, closes her eyes, starts to make what must be the groaning noises. I pour myself more tea and cup it in both hands like it's warming them, even though it's gone cold. Then I pretend to look out the window at the dismal view of the Grassmarket. I say, "Busy in the office this morning," and try not to think Cunt.

She is after all, a friend and colleague.

"What?" She says, her mouth full of scone. She hasn't heard me because of her groans.

I repeat that it was busy in the office this morning, loudly, over-enunciating, then I do think Cunt.

"Mm," she says. But she's too high on scone to really carry on a conversation. She's so high, she's swinging her little stick legs back and forth underneath her seat like a child and doing this side-to-side dance with her head like the one she did when she ate the fried porkchop in front of me at Typhoon a few weeks ago.

There's her groaning and there's her stick legs and there's her aggressively jutting out clavicle. There's the Cookie Monster impression she does after she describes food she loves (Om-Nom-Nom!). There's how the largeness of the scone seems only to emphasize her impossible smallness. Mainly, there's the fact that she exists at all.

There's also her outfits, which she buys from vintage shops, and which are usually a cross between quirky and whorish.

Today, she's wearing this spandex playsuit like something out of a Goldfrapp video, which she's paired with sheer tights that have a backseam of little black hearts. Over that she's wearing a red bell coat like the ones little girls wear when they ice skate in picture books.

I had a coat like this when I was five but in pink. There's a picture of me in the coat, holding my father's hand in a frozen over parking lot somewhere in Michigan. In the picture, my dad's got an Afro and he's looking down at this small thing holding his hand as if he can't believe how small this thing—me—is.

In the picture, I'm about the same size as the girl I hate is now, except that I'm a child and she's a full grown woman, and I guess I'm looking at her now with my father's same unbelief, except without love.

She catches me looking at her and she says, "What?" and I say, "Nothing."

She looks at my cup of cold tea and at my lack of scone. "How come you didn't get one? Aren't you hungry?"

"I'm going to have a salad later," I tell her. "On the afternoon fifteen."

I'm already picturing it: me in the blissfully empty break room, my M&S lettuce, the dated copy of Hello! I'll pretend to read if anyone comes in. I won't turn on the lights.

She shrugs, eats more scone. Then she sort of squints at me like a pirate attempting to gauge the whole of someone's soul with one eye.

"You're very salad-y," she says.

"Am I?"

After she's done, she sinks back in her chair, pats her non-existent stomach through her playsuit, and says she's feeling sleepy. She sighs, faux pouts.

"Wish we didn't have to go back to work."

"Yeah," I say, signaling for the check and grabbing my purse from the back of the chair. She reaches over and pats the fuzzy leopard print like it's a pet of hers.

"Pretty," she says.

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Don not get stuck at the well of argument. Let God be your vindicator. Let Him fight your battles. He will vindicate you better than you can vindicate yourself.

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Mathew Oluwaseun
University of Ilorin (Unilorin)
Mechanical Engineering
500Level, Nigeria.
On the walk back to the office, we discuss our worst temp jobs. Hers was the one before this one. The boss kept trying to fuck her. Also they had this photocopier she's pretty sure was possessed by Satan. Also it wasn't near any good lunch places.

"What about you?"

"The one before this one." Actually, it's this one.

"Satanic photocopier?" she offers.

"Fax," I say, looking at how the long white line of her neck is offset by a cheap black choker.

"Ooh," she says. "Worse."

When we reach the office, before we head to our respective cubicles, she turns to me, her lips and her cheeks still flushed from scone, and says, "text me later okay?"

"Okay," I say. Then she trots off a little ahead of me, and I see how her little heart back seams are perfectly aligned down both calves.

All afternoon, I have the waking dream where she gets so fat on scone, she explodes.

At home, I eat the other half of my M&S salad with the other half of the honey Dijon dressing it came with. I make sure to draw the curtains first.

I didn't used to, but then I caught the owner of the Turkish restaurant next door staring at me from his upstairs window, smoking, just as I had finished my post-salad ritual of dragging all my finger pads over and over again across the empty plate and sucking them one by one.

It used to be he would say hello when I walked past him in the street. Now he looks at me like he's familiar with the details of my most unfortunate pair of underwear. Has fingered the fraying, scalloped edge. Waggled the limp pink bow. Held the Made in Cambodia tag between his teeth.

Post-salad, I try on the French Connection bodycon, followed by the Bettie Page pencil skirt and the Stop Staring! halter. In all cases, I'm no closer but I'm also no further, which is not news at all. Then I just sort of stand in front of the mirror in my bra and my French cuts and attempt to come to grips with certain irrevocable truths. Then I eat several handfuls of flax cereal and 15 raw, unsalted almonds.

Later, while I lie awake in bed, I think of the perfect come back to the salad-y remark. I put us both back in the teashop and I make her say that I'm salad-y with clotted cream in each corner of her lip. But instead of replying, Am I?, I lean in and in a low voice I say Listen, you little skank!

Not all of us can eat scones and have it turn into more taut littleness! Some of us are forced to eat spring mix in the half-dark of our bachelors and still expand inexplicably. Some of us expand at the mere contemplation of what you shovel so carelessly so dancingly into your smug little mouth.

And the way I say it, leaning in like that, with all this edge and darkness in my voice garnered from years of precipice-induced restraint, makes her bow her head in genuine remorse.

Continue reading @ www.postroadmag.com/27/fiction/awad.phtml

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