From the absurd pile of semi-read issues of The New Yorker, today’s story was another by Chimamanda Ngoi Adichie, “Birdsong”. The narrator is a Nigerian woman who is in the midst of an affair with a married man. On the one hand, she is under no delusion that he is going to forsake his wife for her, but she grows increasingly bitter and insecure about their relationship until she finally cuts herself off when the indignities of being “the other woman” pile up too high for her.
The story is framed by an encounter the narrator has with a woman in a Lagos traffic jam. She imagines (or not?) the woman to be the wife of her lover. The story cuts back and forth between the two woman looking at each other through the windows of their stationary cars and the recalling of the story of her relationship with her lover whom she jokingly refers to as “CwithaD” or cock with a dick after they joke about a rooster.
As the story progresses, she the slights begin to accumulate from the repeated visits to the one restaurant where he safely takes her each time they go out and to the disapproving attitude of her lover’s driver. In the restaurant, she notices that the waiter seems to think she is invisible and finally confronts him;
The waiter came back, a sober-faced man with gentle demeanor, and I waited until he had opened the bottle of red wine before I asked, “Why don’t you greet me?
The waiter glanced at my lover, as though seeking guidance, and this infuriated me even more. “Am I invisible? I am the one who asked you a question. Why do all of you waiters and gatemen and drivers in this Lagos refuse to greet me? Do you not see me?
The feeling of invisibility closes in on her until the point that she can no longer rationalize the relationship to herself. It strips away the illusion she has created for herself and the one he has managed to convince her to sustain.