Ayoola is on the street, balancing a tray of oranges on her head. She was up before the sun; there was not even a whisper of light as she cradled each one in her hand and used a sharp knife to free them from their skin. She could smell the strident scent emanating from them and could picture the sinking of white teeth into the tender orange flesh.
Her first customer is a woman in a dark blue suit – she sounds like her nose is blocked when she speaks. Ayoola can tell that the woman has not had breakfast because of the faint scent of staleness that comes out of her mouth. She lifts the tray from her head to the ground to select the oranges.
It took her a long time to learn to balance the tray on her head. After a few minutes her head would hurt and then she would forget and twist it and the oranges would fall all around her like rain. It is very hard to sell dented oranges.
Her second customer is a child, much like herself. The girl presses her face to the window and points at the orange. Ayoola runs after the car; there is traffic, so they do not drive too fast. The girl has long braids with beads that are red and pink to match her uniform. Ayoola’s white dress looks washed out beside the girl’s bright attire. The child does not look at Ayoola but stares at the oranges as the driver haggles over the price. Ayoola explains to him that the dollar has affected the price. She does not know what this means, but it works. He shrugs and buys oranges.
Her third customer horns at her and horns again. She hurries, so that another orange seller doesn’t intercept. There are rules – a code of conduct – you don’t go after someone else’s customer, but there are many who don’t follow the rule. He is a regular and she has memorized his face – his chin is flat and he has a dimple that takes up most of his face and his eyes are deep inside his skull. He does not smile very much but she knows he is pleased with her because he always calls her.
She saves her best oranges for him. They are not the biggest of the bunch but they are the ones that left an impression when you pressed on the skin. The ones whose flesh was softest and most welcoming. He examines them carefully, even though he knows he will buy and she knows he will buy.
He has never said anything to her, except to tell her how many he wants and how much he was going to pay. And she has never spoken to him. But someday she will speak to him and she will tell him who he is.
A horn bursts into her thoughts and she looks about her, as the cars navigate around her.
*Entered for the Afreada Photo Story Competition 2016