Story — From the March 2016 issue

Glory

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When Glory’s parents christened her Glorybetogod Ngozi Akunyili, they did not foresee Facebook’s “real name” policy, nor the weeks she would spend populating forms and submitting copies of her bills and driver’s license and the certificate that documented her birth on September 9, 1986, a rainy Tuesday, at 6:45 p.m., after six hours of labor and six years of barrenness. Pinning on her every hope they had yet to realize, her parents imagined the type of life that well-situated Igbos imagined for their children. She would be a smart girl with the best schooling. She would attend church regularly and never stray from the Word (amen!). She would learn to cook like her grandmother, her father added, to which her mother countered, “Why not like her mother?” and Glorybetogod’s father hemmed and hawed till his wife said maybe he should go and eat at his mother’s house. But back to Glorybetogod, whom everyone called Glory except her grandfather, who called her “that girl” the first time he saw her.

“That girl has something rotten in her, her chi is not well.”

Husband pulled wife out of the room to prevent a brawl (“I don’t care how old that drunk is, I will fix his mouth today”) and begged his father to accept his firstborn grandchild. He didn’t see, as the grandfather did, the caul of misfortune covering Glory’s face, which would affect every decision she made, causing her to err on the side of wrong, time and time again. When Glory was five, she decided after much consideration to stick her finger into the maw of a sleeping dog. At seven, shortly after her family relocated to the United States, Glory thought it a good idea to walk home when her mother was five minutes late picking her up from school, a decision that saw her lost and sobbing in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot before night fell. She did a lot of things out of spite, the source of which she couldn’t identify — as if she’d been born resenting the world.

Illustrations by Steven Dana

Illustrations by Steven Dana

That’s how, much to her parents’ embarrassment, their Glory was nearing thirty, chronically single, and working at a call center in downtown Minneapolis. She fielded calls from disgruntled homeowners on the brink of foreclosure, reading from a script that was intricate and logical and written by people who had never before spoken on the phone to a human being. In all their calculations about her future, Glory’s parents had never imagined that on April 16, 2013, at 5:17 p.m., Glory would receive another email refusing to restore her Facebook page. Nor could they have conceived that Glory would be the sort of person for whom this misfortune would set rolling an avalanche of misery, which led her to contemplate taking her life.

She called her mother, hoping to be talked out of it, but got her voicemail and then a text saying, “What is it now?” (Glory knew better than to respond.) A call to her father would yield a cooler response, and so she spent her evening on the edge of her bed, neck itching like crazy, contemplating how a bottle of Moscato and thirty gel-filled sleeping pills would go together. The note she wrote read:

I was born under an unlucky star and my destiny has caught up with me. I’m sorry Mummy and Daddy that I didn’t complete law school and become the person you’d hoped. But it was also your fault for putting so much pressure on me. Goodbye.

All of this was true, and not. She was unlucky, yes, but it was less Fate and more her terrible decision-making and laziness that saw her flunk out of college, along with her propensity for arguing with professors and storming out, never to return. She eventually graduated with a shameful G.P.A. Then came law school, to which she gained entrance through a favor of a friend of a friend of her father’s, thinking that her argumentative tendencies could be put to good use. But she managed to screw that up too, choosing naps instead of class, happy hours instead of studying. She was unable to do right, no matter how small the choice. These foolish little decisions incremented into probation, then a polite request to leave, followed by an impolite request to leave after she staged a protest in the dean’s office.

It was also true that her parents put pressure on her. Yet theirs was the sort of hopeful pressure that would have encouraged a better person.

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