I live in Congo. I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo.I live in Congo Basin. I live in a room in the Congo Basin and it is my room. In my room I am the queen of the land. I am the forest elephant walking the land. I am everything. My room is a humble space. I have one window with brown mud walls. A cot is right under the window and a wooden chair sits across the room. I have one toy from my childhood sitting in the chair. There is a long broken piece of mirror standing in the corner. I have calloused hands from working on the farm and I have a short, curly and kinky afro. I have jet black skin and only one eye. I have a little stomach and big thighs and small tits. I am fairly tall and I live in a room in the Congo Basin. There is a print that has come all the way from this faraway land, then it was sent to Kinshasa, and finally to my village when the prints were old to the rest of the world but new to me. Once a month my mother and I walk ten miles both ways to the village market to sell our produce and to treat me for my hard work she buys me two yards of wax print. My process in choosing my print is to first feel the texture of the cloth, then I look at the innate patterns and see which ones speak to me at that time. I hold it up to my skin to see if the color makes my dark skin pop.
“We are moving to Kinshasa in two days. So starting packing your stuff.” My mother came in and told me. I mean there wasn’t much to pack, I made sure I put my wax print pattern dresses neatly into my bag and I put a piece of loin cloth in between them and my other objects in my room that I really didn’t care about. My father was told that there was money in Kinshasa by this man traveling through the country. I was even told there was money in Kinshasa and so was my mother. So my father decided to listen this man and we moved. We had no family in Kinshasa. We had little money...all we had was the statement that man said, that there is money in Kinshasa. When I got there I noticed everyone dressed nice, even the poor people. They cared about their appearance here. I have always cared about my appearances but I lived in a farm for all my life so I didn’t have the time to really care about my clothes except for my wax prints. I felt like a lady when I wore them. They make me feel whole. I feel like the queen of the land. I feel like the forest elephant walking the land. Back in the Congo Basin no one had time to look nice except on Sundays because that is when we would go to church but that was still not even that nice compared to people here.
Stares. That’s all I got from the people. I was called a witch. It was because of my one eye. I always used to feel secure about my eye because my parents couldn’t afford an eye patch so I was used to the stares in the village market. But that was because there were only about thirty people. Now there are thousands and even millions of people men, women, children all just looking at me. Staring at me. Even with my beautiful wax print on there were still stares. I couldn’t hide behind anything. My parents could not afford an eye patch but that would only make it worse so I was left with the stares.
My eye. My sight. I was born without my left eye. My mother said I was cursed by God, but I believed that I was blessed by God. I was special because of this eye. Whenever I looked at my wax prints that I have collected over the years...my vibrant collection is because of my blessed right eye. When I have some spare time I draw some of my own designs. One day I will wear my own design and so will other people.
I am eighteen and it’s time for me to leave my parents and to go on my own. My only job skills are cleaning, cooking, and farming. I live in Kinshasa and there are no farms and I don’t want to farm. I don’t want to clean someone else’s house that isn’t mine and I only want to cook for myself. I have two days until my eighteenth birthday and I don’t know what to do.
I am living on the streets of Kinshasa. I have no money. I have no job. All I have are my wax prints.
“So do you have any previous work experience?” Adama asked. Adama, she was not your typical high society Congolese woman, she was born in the Congo Basin like me and even worked on a farm like me, but the only difference between me and her was that she slept with the right people and talked to the right people. She wasn’t a whore, she didn’t just spread her legs open for everyone and that’s what these girls didn’t know. It’s not about about how many guys you sleep with, in fact the more guys you slept with the less desirable you are to me, but if you slept with the right one and get him to fall in love with you that’s how you become a high society Congolese women.
“Yes, working on my parent’s farm back when we lived on the Congo Basin,” I said.
“No, I mean like in a shop or have you worked for someone else’s family other than your own?” she said.
“Oh...well...then no I haven’t had that type of work experience.”
There was silence for a few minutes but what felt like eternity then Adama responded with, “ I will give a chance… a trial period, for a week, unpaid.”
“Ok,” I said.
First lesson, you will always respond to me with ‘yes missus’.”
“Yes, missus,” I said.
“And we will have to do something about your eye,” Adama said.
I wake up at 5 o’clock every morning to start the washing and prepare breakfast for the missus and her children. Her husband was never home he was a diplomat and was always traveling. Her children were sweet, unscathed by their mother’s pretentious attitude. They weren’t surprised or scared of my missing eye either. I loved her children.
My day was boring. I was either washing or cooking or waiting on the missus. When the husband came home it was awkward, I didn’t speak to him I just worked around him never looking at him in the eye. He would walk by me as if I never existed but I did catch him looking at me when I was praying. There were always these moments where he would stare at me.
The week was over and I am still here. During my freetime I would go into my room and admire my wax prints that were the only pretty thing I owned now. That was the only time I felt like a woman when I was wearing my wax prints. I would also take my time drawing some of my own designs. I will have my own stall in the Congo Basin market and then a store.
I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I live in Kinshasa. I live in a small room in Kinshasa. In my room I am a servant. I am a peasant begging on the street. I am an insect on the street. I am nothing here. My room is a dark space. I have no window with grey walls. A cot lies right across the door leading to the missus house. I have my wax print dresses folded neatly placed in my humble chair. I have calloused hands from working for the missus. I have short straight European hair because the missus said I look like the daughter of a farmer with my kinky afro. I have two eyes now...I wear a patch over my missing eye. I have a round stomach, big thighs, and big tits. I am fairly tall and I live in a small room in Kinshasa. I walk into the busy Kinasha markets and I always pass this empty storefront and I stand there and pray.