Short Story Review: “I live with him, i see his face, i go no more away” by Helen Oyeyemi

Some girls wearing school uniform (lucky girls) helped me fold up the frills at the bottom of the skirt so that it didn’t scrape the floor. It was really too much. I wanted to kill myself. I know you hate it when I say that, and of course I don’t mean it when I say it, but often it seems I sort of do mean it because it comes out before I realise I’ve said it. It’s just that I get so desperate. I know I have nothing to be desperate about. But I get this sense of nothing being tolerable and then I’ll read a copy of the Metro that someone’s left tucked in between the seat and a glass side panel and while reading I get even more desperate because everyone else is the same and there’s no solution.

-“i live with him, i see his face, i go no more away”, Helen Oyeyemi, New Statesman America, December 18th 2006

This is an old story to be stumbling across, but I was looking for more of Oyeyemi’s work after finishing the beautiful White is for Witching. As it turns out, the borderline-psychosis of Witching is recurrent in Oyeyemi’s writing, as well as the blurring of reality, mental illness and fantasy.

This is a beautifully confusing story that yet somehow manages to make enough internal sense that it isn’t until the end that I went ‘wait, so what’s going on?’ After thinking about it for a bit, it came together. The most confusing part, or rather the part that’s hardest to catch onto, is getting into the flow of the narrator’s breathless, frantic voice. She’s been missing for a week, but oh, don’t be cross with her; she can explain Exactly Why.

This is a gorgeous, gorgeous story, and if slipstream is your kind of thing, I highly recommend reading it.

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