Hannah Olabosibe Eko is a Nigerian-American eldest daughter who never became a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. Like a true rebel, she attended five years of military school and graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy, during which she completed a thesis on Black ethnomusicology. After serving in the US Coast Guard, she graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing in Fiction from the University of Pittsburgh. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published in Buzzfeed, Bust, b*tch, make/shift, The Los Angeles Press, Pigeon Pages NYC, Fractured Lit, the Dear Black Girl anthology, and Aster(ix) magazines. She is a 2021 California Arts Council Emerging Fellow, a 2019 recipient of the Advancing Black Arts Grant, a Peter R. Taylor Kenyon Fellow, Tin House Scholar, and VONA (Voices Of Our Nations) alum.
She is the founder of The Lit Club, an event series and creative community at the intersection of creativity and cannabis, and co-founder alongside Tanya Shirazi-Galvez of Palindrome, a Los Angeles area reading series. Her writing obsessions include girlhood, the African diaspora, Divine Feminine cosmologies, and the surreal. She is currently at work on a coming-of-age novel and seeking representation for her work. Visit her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
It is a truth diasporically acknowledged, that a single woman of African origin will spontaneously combust if she is not married by the age of thirty.
She will be dotting the i’s on her grant proposal in a Koreatown coworking hub. She will be sucking in her Chardonnay belly as she contorts for a selfie in an overcrowded bar. She will be staring into the vacant amber eyes of her designer labradoodle on the Golden Gate Bridge.
And then blue flame and blood orange red glare.
She will crisp so quickly that no witness can honestly claim smelling burning flesh.
She will leave behind a fine mound of grey ash, romantic regret, and two gold fillings.
A mother will call her late twenties daughter breathless with updates about the newest girl inferno. This mother stirs a pot generous with oil, red peppers, and thyme, and even though her own husband abandoned her for a dream deferred in Switzerland, she will hold the phone close to her sweaty right ear and she will say see what happens to the lonely ones?
She will say this as if her daughter has not already been thinking of her urn.
(Magenta pink with iridescent mermaid scales choking the rim. Maybe some polka dots.)
Alas, a ho can never be a husband.
However much a woman pines for bride prices, kola nut, and matching pajamas at Christmas.
Spiteful in their ignorance of even kindergarten concepts of empathy, the hos most women know flutter from one snake plant-adorned studio apartment to the next, resting only to slide the Trojan to the very tip and breathe spearmint lies into the air.
You half believe these lies.
Unfortunately for you, you are a sucker for promises.
And these hos are the descendants of expert polygamists, gifted big men who kept a running arena of feuding co-wives mired in a lifetime vortex of wanting, needing, and hating him simultaneously.
They are steeped in the game. You are steeped in being played.
You are only one woman but the ho you know makes you feel like five.
You repeat robotic affirmations in your toothpaste-flecked mirror (I am worthy of love). You light white candles and buy a $39.99 Narcissistic Recovery course that you never start.
You make vague promises to yourself. You will never be one of Those Women From Long Ago, all that African sadness, all that trauma and heartbreak. Your mother has told you tales about the witchcraft conspiracies, the poisoned stews, the boiling female competition.
You read bell hooks and go to therapy.
You take yourself on solo vacations to Iceland and Peru.
You are so modern that your Mirena IUD is slowly embedding itself into the soft walls of your uterus.
Your mother shrugs. Says, that’s just the way it was.
Is, you want to correct, is, but a sadistic hope situated at the lower-left corner of your lungs cannot meet the present tense just yet.
When your best friend tells you with a straight face that it’s finally happening, you are both the same age of twenty-nine-point-five and the two of you are sitting on massage chairs as pulsing plastic bulbs punch you in the kidneys.
You are at a salon called Lucky Nails and she is picking out a gel polish shade for her upcoming trip to Cancun.
Her face is bright and newly Botoxed and you are happy for her.
You know that your friend’s boyfriend will ask for her hand in marriage on the second night of their Cancun trip.
You know this because you helped him book the all-inclusive resort with your Groupon a week ago as he held your naked body against his morning wood and told you he didn’t really want to ask her, but he was thirty-six, and she was a good girl and his mother tolerated her just enough.
Basically, he said what all the hos say:
Marriage is just a piece of paper. That the two of you could still hang out because you’re good people.
You are one woman but he makes you feel like five.
You regard your friend’s desperate brown eyes which believe happily-evers become real if a girl whittles her body fat to 26% and swallows. You cannot fault her. You are her.
She asks you, what color should I pick?
There are bonfires dancing in the black of her pupils, the vibrancy so decadent you glance away before you fall in love.
The massage chair kneads your lower back so hard your spine lurches into a backwards-C.
You wonder between a color called Rocky Rose and another named Barbie Maul and when the fire will come for you.
Will you be pinching dark avocados at the farmer’s market?
Rolling a joint on the passenger side of your little sister’s Honda Accord?
Squeezing out his come on a cold toilet seat when he’s back a week later from Mexico with a black man tan?
You insert charm into your voice, tell her to pick Strawberry Lake, a pink so soft it ruins your heart.
This morning your head was in his lap before he packed the princess cut ring into his rollaway bag.
You told him to ask for her hand while he was wearing his green polo and he smiled.
What a sure-to-be-viral Instagram post for her AKA sisters: her elegant fingers awash in a pale pink strawberry lake, shaped like mini coffins, clutching the barely-there sunburn of his upper arm.
Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.