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The Short Form

“A Temporary Position”

Sefi Atta


Cath said I was doing really well, and I could have been any black receptionist to her, any in London, until the afternoon that Raj, an editor in the department, not bad-looking with rockabilly sideburn, was on his way out and asked what time it was. I told him and he pointed at me as if he were shooting. 

“Are you Nigerian?” he asked.

Cath had stopped by my station again to make sure her orchids were prim. She separated their stems and her lips were pursed from concentrating on her task.

“Em,” I said. “Yeah?”

“I know that accent,” he said. “I have Nigerian friends.”

Foreigners, I thought, why did we always have to stick together? He slapped the pockets of his leather jacket and was out of the door before I could rebut, and then I had to answer the phone again.

“Good afternoon,” I said, rounding my vowels even more. 

We read it in News from Home.