Her Trained Eye

     Written by Tunika Onnekikami 
     Illustrated by Kafesha Thomas 

     Est. Reading Time: 3 min 

Growing up the only thing Ife hated more than her all too un-American name were her unexpected meetings with God. In time she’d learned to love her name in its all too unAmericanness. But God’s occasional public appearances in her life, invasive and unsolicited, forever grated on her. And here he was again.

This time they were on the G Train going into Brooklyn. Even on the crowded subway, Ife knew him immediately; she’d gotten better at it over the years, becoming better acquainted with those bright eyes than she ever imagined she would. She cursed under her breath, quickly averted her eyes. Why had she chosen today to look up from her phone?

Ife knew he knew she had seen him and was trying to unsee him, even as she felt the weight of a stare that seemed to hold all the world’s stories, known and unknown. She sighed and looked at him again, knowing she could never win with him. He gave her a gentle nod and a smile she found a bit smug, the one he’d use when he sensed her desire to ignore him.

As if she could; Ife had tried all her youth. He always found her, of course he always found her: on her way to class, on walks in the park, on the train. And he’d just smile in whatever form he’d chosen as if to say, “Hello daughter, I am happy to see you.”

She noticed the dark spot on his forehead and remembered it was Ash Wednesday. He must be making his rounds, she thought. She realized, happily, that she couldn’t remember when last she’d stepped into a church. She’d fully committed to her angry eighteen-year-old self’s promise to her parents five years before, just before university: I will no longer be attending masses that you do not force me to attend. This meant Christmas service when home, but never Easter, causing her parents an agony which gave her both guilt and delight.

Ife laughed quietly to herself. And God smiled a bit wider, in on the joke she hadn’t meant to share.

She hated that smile. It was a reminder of her worst failing to the mother and father she loved immensely, who had once had little to pass along to her besides a name she’d only just ceased to hate and a relationship with a God she refused to love.

She loved that smile. It was a reminder she was infinitesimal, and He was infinite—that there was a sense of magic in the world. And she hated that she could never make sense of that magic or of the God in whom her parents believed.

Suddenly exhausted, Ife looked away and didn’t look at him again, though she could feel him smiling even as she descended the train, heading into another night of sin.



Published October 17, 2020
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Author’s Bio
Tunika Onnekikami (she/her) is an American daughter of Nigerian parents, and therein lies the source of her conflict and creation. She writes to think aloud about culture and her place in it, an endeavor she finds best makes sense by weaving truth into fiction.
︎ @tonneki  ︎tunikaonnekikami.com

Artist’s Bio
Kafesha Thomas is a talented first generation Trinidadian Illustrator/Designer. Their passion is creating and exploring art and design in all its forms. Being a person of color of Trinidadian decent has also influenced their work in the seeing the world with evolving vibrant lens.
︎ @kafesha.kai  @magi.kai


︎Philadelphia, PA
Plantin Magazine ©2020