Here I am, a woman.
The interview began when he called me a pretty girl but wondered aloud if I were actually intelligent. He held a large, juicy, green apple in his hand. He took a large bite and I could hear him chewing. My one-on-one, life-changing meeting with the CEO of one of Africa’s premier peace organizations began like such and ended with a question only a man of his status could ask: “Have you put on weight? I can see it in your face.”
“You can see it in my face? The…weight?”
“Yes, I can see it in your face.”
This interview, this opportunity, this promotion that would emancipate me as an African woman, was never actually going to happen. This man saw me as a gossip-mongering, must-be-kicked-down, woman. Gasping for air I looked down at the table. It was not appropriate to tell him that as a women, my face might appear swollen due to the tearing of the lining of my uterus…once a month…every month. Not appropriate, not professional. No, nor could I tell him that not once in my life had I ever thought I was fat until now. But he seemed to think he could tell me. He turned towards the window, his teeth munching, gnawing on the apple’s core.
The apple was large and juicy when I had walked in, now it was just bones.
“I eat the seeds,’ he told me conspiratorially, ‘I eat the whole apple.’
I nodded and held his gaze. It is always an effort to control the fire inside me but now, I thought, at what cost? How many more insults will I allow to keep my job and my family alive? And more than that, fires are controlled out of respect – in this room there was none.
My thoughts matched the crunch of the apple, the suction of spit on the core a drain unclogging my mind.
Turning to me he leaned back, ‘You are a wild horse that needs to be tamed.’
All the doors closed.The miracle happened when I got up, walked towards the door to my freedom, opened it myself and walked out.