Taiwo Yona woke up to a comfortable Spring morning. The sky was still blanketed in inky darkness and punched with white diamonds that shone down on the quiet, empty streets of Iowa. Fresh air blew in through her screened window, with the faint smell of floral trailing on the wind. Wrapped in her white fitted t-shirt and grey sweat pants, Taiwo threw back the sheets and sat at the edge of the bed. Toes touching the floor one at a time. Every morning her feet adjusted to the cool kiss of wood floor boards. Pushing herself upright, she trudged from her room to the front of her house to search through her stack of fitness DVD’s. Today she was feeling insane. Yoga Meltdown helped her cope with the stressful demands her job placed on her shoulders. She just knew today would be the day her boss, Amanda Cooling, would test her patience. Everything about Taiwo screamed resilience, but everyone had their breaking point. It was a well known fact that she practically ran Cooling Design, not her boss! She was the brains behind this multimillion dollar company. Taiwo had come along when Cooling Design was just beginning to find its wings.
Erasing all thoughts of her job from her mind, she slid in the fitness DVD, bending, twisting and rolling herself into perfection. She always came close to finishing but tapped out during the last ten minutes of listening to Jillian Michaels bark her orders. This woman was always in beast mode! After her grueling torture session, Taiwo wiped down her body and pulled her unruly hair a loose. Finding the wherewithal, she pushed herself up from her carpet and padded into her bathroom to undress. She smirked at her toned and tightened figure. At thirty-seven, it was no easy task staying in shape but somehow she accomplished it five days a week, six when she’d totally lost her mind! The sting of her mothers words reminded her that she’d no kids yet. In Nigeria a woman was looked down upon if she hadn’t married or had babies by twenty-three. Taiwo wanted a family but not at the expense of her freedom. The marriages she saw back home were less than equal, the women were shackled to their kids and the lifestyle of poverty. This scared her so much that she’d chosen work over family. It was true, she could hear her biological clock ticking, but couldn’t stand the thought of becoming a single mother.
She watched her mother struggle to raise her three sons, sister and herself. Taiwo was the oldest. She grew up faster than other kids from the village. When she was old enough, she worked to bring in income all the while going to school. She’d essentially become the caretaker of her siblings when her mother was too tired and depressed to deal with them. Taiwo cooked and cleaned, was the surrogate mother and father for her siblings, was the teacher while achieving academic and financial independence. It wasn’t until a few years before moving to the United States did her mother, Anikka, began to pull herself out of the slump she’d wallowed in for years. All the chatter about Taiwo tickled Anikka’s ears. The village elders made her a role model that the village kids could aspire to through hard work and determination. Taiwo was just trying to take care of her family but if watching her helped the children in her village to dream big, brighter futures, then it would be a big step for her people.
Anikka decided it was time for a change and thus moving to America became their second home. She opened a fabric shop, her passion from a very young age drove to making custom pieces for valued VIP clients. Taiwo was proud of the fact that her mother was on her feet doing what she loved. America is much like the adage repeated to immigrants, if we work hard we’ll be successful. It’s partially true in theory but one nearly has to put their life on the line to achieve a comfortable living. That meant coffee runs, late night progress reports, a boss who walks all over you, steals all of your hard work for her personal glory! How Taiwo despised Amanda. Feeling her pressure rising, she immediately stepping into her shower letting hot water assault her to numbness. The best part about showering isn’t just cleansing of the body, but the way her hair felt afterwards. Her raven curls popped with life after soaking up so much moisture.
After cleansing her perfumed scent skin, she hopped out of the shower, towel tied tight above her breasts. Immediately going to work taming her mane to look “presentable” in the words of her boss, she moisturized and sealed using the defuser to her blowdryer. Her curls rolled down over her shoulders stopping mid back length. Grabbing a grey silk scarf, she piled her hair on top of her head and tied the scarf in a neat bow. Defiant she was about her culture, this was as far as she was willing to go with her hair. Companies these days want to erase our identities but she was having none of it, partially because she knew she had a stake no matter how small it was in this company. If she were to ever leave, Cooling Designs it would plummet. Taiwo has endured much but never physically abuse. That would be the straw that broke the camels back.
Setting her shoulders back, she lifted her head up high. A Nigerian woman never gives up nor gives in. She does not show weakness to anyone around here. That is reserved for lonely, bitter nights wailing to God. With her spine set, she travels to her room to stand in front of her crisp black outfit and heels resting at the mouth of the closet. Today was going to be a hard day. Putting on her armor piece by piece made her feel invincible. To complete her iron will she needed the breakfast of a champion. Luckily she’d prepared her breakfast and lunch in a fit of rage when she made it home last night. By the time she consumed her breakfast, the sky was showing her blue face which let her know it was time to war for another day. Grabbing her bag, she fished out her keys, and checked to make sure all needed documents were safely tucked inside. Turning about face, she opened the door to the world and made ready to stay the dragon that was Amanda Cooling.
Photo by: http://www.nairaland.com/2015213/world-class-abuja-centenary-city
*The next chapter can be found here, By Design (2)