Hope Nwosu is an award winning writer with English language and Literature degree from Nigeria University. She writes short stories and novels. Hope lives in Finland.
Her work is focused on life’s challenges, gender issues and women empowerment especially for the marginalized African women.
“The Hairdresser” won the best short story competition on Storymondo. It was first published in 2014.
Visit Hope´s website to know more about her literary work.
It was the fourth time Nkem was calling in one day and my battery was soon running down with no no electricity to recharge it. She was in the middle of an outburst when I cautioned her to be strong.
She reminded me of our dreams and aspirations back then at the university. We had got very close in our final year. We were best friends and people called me her sister from another tribe because we spoke different languages; my mother tongue is Yoruba while she spoke Igbo. However, after almost four years in the Igbo speaking region, I had picked enough words to express myself . Yet, most of our daily communications remained in English, as we were studying to master the language.
We eventually completed our degree exams and just before we were posted to our places of primary assignment for the mandatory National Youth Service (NYSC), Nkem announced her plan to ‘visit’ her fiancé in South Africa. Everyone, including her beloved mother pleaded with her to complete the all-important program, the pride of every fresh graduate, before travelling.
She promised to return to Nigeria after a few months since it was only a short visit. We knew it was only a smoke screen and she might not return home at least for some years. She only made the promise to win our hearts , especially that of her mother who was genuinely worried. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise to me, nor her mother when she called after some months to say she was staying back to look for a job.
However, after about two years of job hunting in Pretoria, Nkem was disillusioned and desperate to return home. She had walked the streets of the South African capital in search of a job without any luck.
Initially, she went to the government ministries given her university degree in Sociology and Anthropology. She had dropped her CV in almost all the offices but none ever called her for even an interview.
Soon afterwards, she lowered her expectations and went to the nursery schools and then to the shops for a sales girl , cleaner or any other menial job, yet, no job. She had searched all nooks and crannies without any luck to her dismay and disappointment.
Her partner equally got tired of spending so much money on her transport fares because she had to take buses most of times as it was not possible to cover so many offices on foot. He told her he would go bankrupt should the trend continue. She promised to try harder at securing a job by visiting more offices and searching the internet but that could not convince him.
Nkem was shocked and bewildered one morning when he left without keeping money for food. She went after him before he took the elevator and told him about it in case he had forgotten. He replied that he did not have any money to give her as they had already spent beyond the monthly budget.
Ultimately, he dropped the bombshell and told her to consider returning to Nigeria if she could not secure a job. She knew he meant every word he had just said because he was a man of few words, he must have thought about her continued joblessness for so long as to arrive at that conclusion.
Something must be done before he loses his temper and throws her out of his house. She walked back to the self-contained room with a sense of defeat; humiliated, and for the first time, wished she returned home before her visa expired.
The offices must have noticed she didn’t have a valid resident permit to work in the country which must have informed the uniform rejection. She was at her wit’s ends. She wept all morning with none to console her.
What will her mother and siblings say when they hear about her current plight? They will definitely blame her for her bad decision and ask her to return home even when she could not afford the flight ticket.
She had been to a hairdressing salon at the neighbouring street a few times to make her hair and liked the services she got despite been overpriced and the Ghanian owner was friendly. She decided to go there and ask for help. She was willing to work at the salon if only she will be employed.
However, she did not know how to braid hair nor any of such jobs related to hairdressing. She had never thought it necessary to learn a handicraft as she felt it should be left to those who did not have university education.
As an undergraduate, her mother had sent her to aunty Chi’s place who had a hair salon and a tailoring shop to encourage her to learn a craft, she spent the whole period without as much as going to any of the shops. She insisted on watching movies and visiting friends because she was on holiday to rest.
If only she knew that the skills will some day be useful, she would have humbled herself to learn a craft despite studying for a degree. She summoned enough courage to visit Vero’s salon and fortunately was offered the job of an apprentice stylist. She was overjoyed at the good news. She now has a place to go every morning without spending money on transportation.
Still, she could not bring herself to tell her family about her new profession; it will surely break their hearts. She made me promise not to communicate our conversations to her family. And just as I was about to repeat ‘I promise’ the phone which had been giving warning signs of ‘battery low’ beeped again into my ear and tripped off.