Irenosen Okojie’s stories are bold, shimmering with energy and imagination, often with a dash of the surreal or grotesque. This particular story combines both realist and fabulist elements, as well as flirting with a crime format at the very end. The central character Grace has developed an erotic obsession that can only be indulged by foot fetishists. After a series of sexual encounters in parks, studios and attic apartments she goes home to her pet creature, Loneliness. “It was three months old, had a green head, blank human eyes and a crocodile’s tail.” Then – and this is what I love about the story – her mother Merlene comes to stay for a week: uninvited and unannounced, barging into her daughter’s life, and into the story itself, to interrupt and judge and criticize. “‘That dog needs a bath, Grace’”. Loneliness is not a dog, her daughter retorts. They sit together, considering Merlene’s favourite memory of eight-year-old Grace riding her bike. Grace remembers how her mother cried at the end of her sixteenth birthday: “‘You’re not my little girl anymore, Grace’” – this “said with a hint of malice”. The story doesn’t expressly link this infantilising relationship with Grace’s peculiar sexuality, it simply lays these pieces on the table for us to consider as we please.
First published in Speak Gigantular, Jacaranda Books, 2016