– Have you heard the tale about the ghost orange seller?
– They say she wears a white dress and if you buy an orange from her…
– You’ll die too!
– You guys don’t really believe in that, do you?
They look at me with wide eyes and I can see that they believe. But of course, it’s not true. It can’t be true. I excuse myself and go to the bathroom. It’s a public bathroom, so I can’t lean on the sink or press my head to the wall. Instead, I stare at my reflection and wonder if these are the eyes of a woman about to die.
My kids have a fascinating imagination and every week they bring home a new story from school. I really should try home schooling them. I smile at my humour but my reflection reveals my true feelings, my true thoughts – I cannot shake off the look in that girl’s eyes.
I have never seen a child with eyes so old and tired. She looked at me, not as one who was trying to sell her goods, but as one who saw something and was too weary to speak of it. I had been glad to be rid of her and had driven off without collecting my change.
She wasn’t dead – that was just a childish tale created to scare children into obedience and I was no child – and yet…she had not looked alive. Her dress was just as tired as she was – it used to be white once upon a time, but now it was a cross between cream and burnt. Her hair was cut low, which only enhanced the seriousness of her stare; there was no strand of hair to soften her face.
She was nobody, but she had looked at me; her head raised despite the fruit she balanced on her crown, her nose two caves at the bottom of a hill.
She was maybe a year or two older than my eldest, who thinks the worst thing that can happen is if her phone dies and there is nowhere to charge it. She has never had to work a day in her life, unless you count making her bed or whining till her father gives in and hands her N1000.
The memory of the orange seller follows me like the persistent smell of manure and I look for her on the street but do not find her. And why would I? She is not a child but the premonition of my end.
*Entered into the Afreada Photo Story Competition