270 Days (2021)

Two hundred seventy days.

Only two hundred seventy days. 

Two effing hundred

Seventy effing days

Two hundred seventy days.


I suppose it equates to the two hundred seventy ways 

That we are deemed inferior

Deemed less than

Deemed nothing

By those who really count

The “real” people,

The ones that matter

Of which I am not.

Two hundred seventy days.

I’m tired of having to celebrate

The “something”

That’s really nothing.

I’m tired of “trickle down” justice

That is ultimately nothing but runoff and debris

I’m tired of being forced to be a bottom feeder

When I was born for freshwater

I’m tired of surviving off of the crumbs 

And scraps 

Like a dog

That fall from the master’s plate

And calling it a meal.

Two hundred seventy days.

I’m tired of having to strive to be “grateful”

For the bare minimum

Which is certainly bare, 

And very much minimum.

I’m tired of having to withhold my tears

And still my tongue 

While painfully curtsying.

Tired of having to coax myself

To alter my expression…

Forcibly shifting the muscles around my mouth

And lifting my high, round cheeks to form a smile

For you

That you don’t deserve

But that you will get

For you, and those like you, always get what you want.

The smile I offer is artificially assembled

I try hard to make it look real,

But deep down, it is as fake as you are

It is a smile that doesn’t match

The deadened eyes

Underneath my sparse, blinking eyelashes

(Well, what is left of them after trichotillomania)

Thin, black, feathery fringes

Framing the eyelids

Of a pair of small and weary

Afro-Asiatic dark brown eyes, mine.

Eyes that are heavy

With the weight

Of unshed tears

Kiloliters full,

A lifetime full. 

Two hundred seventy days. 

Back to you

Because unlike me, you matter

A smile.

You want a smile;

You get a smile.

But not solely a smile

For you, and those like you

Demand accessories with the smile.

The smile alone, which you do not deserve, is not satisfactory

You must have more, more.

Always more.

So, with great effort

I again contort my full lips

Into a caricature 

Of a smile that isn’t real.

And with even greater effort

I choke out a murmur

Of soft, scripted words

Expressing the requisite “gratitude”

For you, to you.

As per your unspoken, entitled demand. 

That is the fee…


Gratitude which must be paid

For the barest minimum that you’ve renamed “justice”

Even if it’s gratitude that I don’t feel. 

Even if there’s no actual justice being manifested.

Two hundred seventy days.

They say you can’t “squeeze blood from a turnip.”

Neither can anyone squeeze blood

From the atrophied, calcified, dry bones within me

Whose marrow and nutrients

Have long since evaporated 

Into the suffocating hodgepodge of gases

That are appropriately called “air.”


Not at all a misnomer…

Though more accurately a homonym

In its purest sense.


For it is evident

That I err

In just existing

In just being here

No justice exists for me

Nor for those like me

We are ineligible…by birthright

I am error personified…

In the air.

I err

In the skin that I was born in

Too dusky

To ever be perceived

By those who matter

As worthy.

I err

In thinking this “air” 

Lingering around me

Existing in my pitiable presence

Is present

For any reason

Keeping me alive

For any reason 

Except punishment…

For any reason

Except to be a whipping post for the world.

Two hundred seventy days.

You hate me. 

This I know

Of this I am sure.

You hate me.

Because of this brain

That won’t remain still

Because of this skin

That mirrors the bold bronze hue

Of the beaches whose sands caress my bare toes

Mixed with the jet, inky wonder

Of the night sky upon which I silently gaze

Imbued with the rich, shiny tones of the copper soil

From which all life emerged.

You hate me.

This I know

Of this I am sure.

Because of these dark brown, almost black eyes of mine

Infinite orbs of wisdom

Deep, dark pools

That absorb sight,

That soak in my surroundings.

That won’t sustain the demanded eye contact

Dark brown, almost black eyes…mine.

They evade your controlling gaze

Yet still see all

Despite your elaborate subterfuge 

Nothing is hidden from these eyes, mine.

They peer right into your soul

And can see that it is empty.

Two hundred seventy days.

You recoil from me

You don’t dare to stare for too long

At me

For I am the truth

Both light and shadow

Both blue sky and gray fog

Both land and sea

I am rounded where you are sharp;

I caress quietly where you slice precisely

I absorb color while you scatter it, shatter it.

Behold the soft dark smoothness of my skin

My nose is generous, broad

I inhale and exhale life through flared nostril openings

My head is adorned with a crown of wiry black puffs of hair

Thick clouds coiling around themselves

Like endless ellipses

And this body, mine

This supple, rounded body





Its intrinsic yet defiant stims, flaps, twirls

Are as much of an art form

As its natural curves

Curves which I am born with

While you pay

To inject and formulate inferior ones

All my life, since childhood

You have shamed me for my body, for its curves

Yet you spend a small fortune

Seeking to emulate it.

Two hundred seventy days.

I am different

I am difference

My mind

My skin

My mouth

Even the motion of my limbs 

They are undulating waves

In a timeless ocean

Of seamless, soothing melody

A dance whose rhythm, for me, flows naturally

But you demand that it must instead 

Be as rigid as ice. 

My particles must not float freely, you say

They must be densely packed

Barely moving 

Barely breathing

In a tight pattern of “respectability,”

Of pseudo “normalcy,”

Of simulated “abled-ness”

Of manufactured sorta-adjacent-to-yet-never-truly-ever-going-to-be “honorary whiteness” 

Which is the standard.

The “right” way.

Your game, so you make the rules


Two hundred seventy days.

What a f*<ked up game.

I hate your game.

I hate it so much.

I hate it times 270

Every rigged, unjust element of it

I loathe


Yet I have still played your game

Though I despise it so.

I played it not for me.

I played it only for them.

For them. 

Those whose very existence

Drives my every move, my every thought.

Those for whom I would gladly donate

All of my breath,

My organs and organelles, 

My lymphatic and serous fluids, 

The activity of my battered brain and weary heart.

I would gut myself from the inside out

Dismember myself with glee

Disembowel myself with no regret

If it only it would purchase them 

An opportunity, an opening. 

A sliver of hope.

For survival. 

For a chance

At something 

So they wouldn’t have to play this wretched game

Of demoralization





Two hundred seventy days.

Did I “sell out?”

Because I played.

I played the game.

Instead of refraining.

I knew the outcome was likely to be unfavorable

Yet I still played.

I knew I was likely to sustain massive injury

Yet I still played

Better my head than theirs in line for the guillotine

So I played

Better I endure the majority of the pain

Rather than have them subjected to it

So I played

I have little hope remaining anyway;

Minimal light enduring

So I played

And as suspected, I lost

I fought valiantly 

I fought heartily

I lost honorably

But I still lost.

Two hundred seventy days.

The scars remain.

My wounds have ceased their emissions;

And are no longer tiny, raw, tender.

Instead, they have toughened



They are now raised.

Hypertrophic scars. 


They are many

They are massive 

And you cannot hurt me there any longer.

Once you could, but you can’t anymore.

Those parts of me can’t be harmed.

Because those parts can no longer feel

They don’t feel anything anymore.

I hate your game. 

I hate it so much. 

Yet, I played

To satisfy your insatiable desire

I paid the bloated admissions price

So archaic.

A pound of flesh.

I carved out mine

Blood and all

Severed arteries

Mutilated venules

Nicked nerves…now necrotizing

Glands gutted and gushing

I played 

To keep them, those I loved, intact

Yes, I played

I played to my own peril

I played in writhing pain

I played in fear

I played. I played for them. 

For them.

For their survival 

For their chance

So they wouldn’t have to play…

I played. 

For all of us.

I played with all my heart and soul

I played with all that I have within me

And even what I don’t have.

I borrowed the future; 

I mortgaged it all.

I lost.

And now we are hemorrhaging

Bleeding out all that is left

All that remains

That which the world had not yet destroyed.

All for two hundred and seventy days.

Two hundred seventy measly days.

That’s all; that’s all.

Not even long enough

To lay with one’s love and fully form a life 

For it takes ~40 weeks

To complete the journey from conception to birth

40 weeks = 280 days.

Two hundred seventy days

Is not even one year.

Not even 52 weeks

Not even 12 months

Not even 525,600 minutes

This isn’t “justice.”

It’s not enough.

It’s not enough to heal what was destroyed 

It’s not enough to pay for the damage 

It’s not enough to truly move on

It’s not enough to genuinely feel safe

It’s not enough for anything 

Not nearly enough. 

Yet it’s all that we have been allotted.

What’s left of my charred and battered heart is breaking


Breaking into two hundred seventy pieces, festering

Never to be put together again

Recommended citation: Giwa Onaiwu, Morénike. (2021). 270 Days. Just Being Me...Who Needs "Normalcy," Anyway? [Personal essay.]