Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was commissioned by the New York Times to write a short story during the American Presidential elections, which Donald Trump won.
Her story focused on the now-first lady, Melania Trump – what she felt about her husband, him running, and his daughter, Ivanka.
In this new short story titled “Janelle Asked to the Bathroom,” we see Melania again, this time without her husband and his daughter.
The story was published in the New York Times Style Magazine, which she recently featured in as one of “The Greats.”
Read the story below:
Janelle was surprised when the butler asked her to come up to the bedroom. He looked disapproving, stiffly leading the way upstairs, as though he thought her unworthy to be allowed anywhere farther than the lowest floor where the gym was.
Janelle followed him through the apartment; there was gold everywhere, on the floors and armchairs and edges of walls, that gave the décor a sallow ugliness. It felt to Janelle like an oblivious person’s idea of a wealthy home. She knew the butler expected her to be impressed — he had the sly arrogance of a blindly loyal servant — and for a moment she wanted to burst into laughter. She would not live here if she were paid to. Imagine waking everyday to such crass cheerlessness.
With a sigh in his manner, clearly wishing Mrs. T had not made this unusual request, he knocked on the bedroom door. It, too, was edged in gold. He waited to hear “come in” before ushering Janelle in, and then he lingered a moment, as if he might need to protect Mrs. T.
But Mrs. T waved him away. She was propped against a hundred pillows cradling her laptop.
“Hi Janelle, sit down here,” she said, patting the bed, and Janelle knew right away that something was off.
Mrs. T had changed after her husband won the election. A great lonely sadness had settled on her, stiffening her shoulders and spine. Her Pilates suffered. Simple moves she had fluidly done before failed her: Her back would not flatten doing the hundreds, her legs would not point to the sky. Week after week, Janelle saw the heaviness of her spirit, the purplish bags under her eyes, the way her English worsened and slurred from fatigue.
But today was different. Mrs. T had, until now, never let go of that carefulness that seemed to Janelle a product of being the wrong kind of European, a knowingness, a determination never to be found out. Which perhaps was why she hardly drank and why she spoke of drugs with disdain. But today she looked disheveled, her manner distracted. Was she on something? Had she cracked and taken pills? She seemed like a ravaged flightless bird, and the bed’s carved gold headboard part of an open cage that she inexplicably could not leave.
“Is everything O.K.?” Janelle asked, still standing, her professional face pleasantly blank, her voice even. “If you don’t feel up to it today, we can reschedule for tomorrow.”
“Please sit down,” Mrs. T said.
Janelle remained standing. Of course she had noticed Mrs. T’s overtures over the past months, the lost longing in Mrs. T’s eyes, the tentative invitations. Would you like a glass of juice, Janelle? Do you know a person good in massage, Janelle? You are always in a rush to leave, Janelle. But they had happened less and less since her husband won, as though her sadness had overpowered her longing. And Janelle wasn’t sure what this was about, being asked into this room with its dense carpet and wide bed, but she would entertain no crap.
Read the full story HERE.
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