ImmiGrant Diaries: The 67 Bus

The 67 bus would be leaving in exactly 5 minutes, no, rather in 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Although my shift had ended over a half hour ago, I was expected to continue work until the second shift (a.ka. Bimpe) arrived. Bimpe was a joy to be with but never really caught on about the importance of punctuality. “Ore miiiiii, ma binu naaaa, you know that yeye boss of mine at my second job never allows me to leave on time. Only God will help us in this America o! Excuses and apologies were synonymous in Bimpe’s world. Of, course, she didn’t go by the name Olabimpe at work, but rather, Josephine Reynolds, her expensive and also illegal, “Government name” as they had been dubbed amongst the African immigrants. I suddenly found myself musing over what my own government name would be: Catherine or perhaps Katherine-with-a-K Smith? no, that seemed to scream “yes, I am working illegally” way too loudly. How about Alison Roberts? hmmm…maybe a little more believable. I often liked to play the game of conjuring the most hilarious combination of names that I might get once I had put enough money together to purchase a government card. The game was amusing until I remembered, I didn’t actually have a say in any of it. 3 minutes until the 67 Bus and still no sign of Bimpe. 

“Where on earth is Ms. Josephine Reynolds?!” “I…errr..sir..” “No excuse Ms. Ayodimeji! Always late! No more job for Josephine after tonight. No show, no job!” My manager, Mr. Ali, was perpetually angry. In my six years, mopping up and washing dishes at The Asia Food Palace, I had never seen the man smile. That’s not to say he was never in high spirits or dare say, happy, Mr. Ali was just angrily happy. However, I had decided a few years back that I liked Mr. Ali. He was in every literal sense of the word-a slave driver but the man was honest. He always paid wages and bills on time and in full, never once missing on monthly payments. The Asia Food Palace wasn’t much, a corner restaurant that served cheap inauthentic “Asian delicacies” which translated to oil-saturated spring rolls and diabetes-inducing sweet and sour chicken. But Mr. Ali had kept the business afloat for the last twenty-five years, and single-handedly for that matter. At one time, there were rumors that by night, The Asia Food Palace became an illegal drugs transaction point but I had waved off such comments as pure jealousy and the need to dismiss what could only be attributed to hard work and determination to succeed as a brown male in a white America.

30 seconds to go and still no Bimpe. Just as Mr. Ali stormed out of the kitchen still ranting, I caught a glimpse of the 67 bus, pulling into the bus stop by The Asian Food Palace. Shit, not again. Within seconds, the bus was on its way again. “Ore o!! I am here- if you know how bad traffic was ehn” a breathless and perspiring Bimpe rushed into the restaurant kitchen. “Bimpe, you’ve made me miss my bus, again. And Mr. Ali is seriously vexed” “Forget, Mr. Ali, isn’t he always vexed? abegi.” I shouldn’t have waited for an apology but I always did. “I’m off, Bimpe” “Thanks, ore! Let me get into this uniform before Mr. Ali kills me for my children”

Stepping out of The Asia Food Palace, I felt the cool but chilly breeze sweep my face. Winter was approaching. I pulled my Good Will-obtained H&M denim jacket closer to my body. The jacket was in great condition apart from the fact that it was missing a few buttons and had a visible hole by the right sleeve. “Holes are in fashion, jare!” was Bimpe’s response when I had complained about the visible wear and tear of the jacket. Without enough cash to call a taxi and having missed the last 67 bus, the only other option was to walk the 12 miles. I felt my phone ring and could only decipher that it was a call from home: Mama calling about Kola’s school fees again. There was no money and no prospects of me having any to send so the conversation would be fruitless. My fingers danced between the two options: “Decline” or “Answer”. I stuffed the phone back into my purse and headed down Lockford & 2nd Street. I would get back to them but just not now or tomorrow.

P.C: http://bit.ly/2uGKqOk

 

Letters to Ayoola (3)

Ayoola, ore mi,

A thousand oceans and broken telephone wires could not separate us. As I usually do, I have mused and mused over your last careful and cursive letter. Perhaps, I should have celebrated the coming of a new life by going through the traditional fanfare. Tears of joy. A congratulatory call. More tears. Anticipation. Rather, your impending birth has had me contemplating our beloved Orisha. I’ve thought about it often enough to say it: this new life must be floating somewhere between orun ati aye. Are you impatient? I cannot bear the anguish of waiting or more still, my absence.

Between soothing tears and building broken bridges, I have been praying for light. When the darkness engulfed my blindness I found it easier to shield my body. I enjoyed the invisibility and I would sometimes gracefully dance between the uneven shadows I found. My own was lost but there were many I found along the way. But I still prayed for the light. I prayed fervently and fearfully, knowing that my body- naked, shapeless and contorted would be seen- be unveiled-
to whom?
These questions, as do thoughts of how many tears paradise can carry, elude me daily. Where do we find the strength to build when stones so quickly turn to sand? Supposing I lost my footing, which I constantly do–which of the two worlds would accept my heavy, sinful bounty of a body? Ore mi, I am still falling: 

Ore mi, I am still falling: 

I don start again, abi? I know. All my love to Baba, at long last, some sense in the title. And to my beloved, yes, mine: whisper not only the beauty but also the pure evils and maladroits of our Great Care-Taker. If you won’t, I shall, and you know that is a promise

To more days of Sangria sweetness.

Yours,

 

Letters to Ayoola

Ayoola,

I was filled with so much joy when I saw your handwriting (that cursive script I could never master) on the envelope that was left on the doorstep of my apartment. As I read each word –I felt the peace, the joy and the love fill my soul. You’re happy and my heart could not rejoice with you more. Baba sounds like a wonderful man: everything that you waited and prayed so dutifully for. In short, your letter has brought sunshine and smiles to my spirit. Ose, Ore Mi Atata

I’ve been praying more and working harder. I know you’ll smile at this and say “Less work and more prayer!” I am trying to strike the balance but there is the common saying “God helps those who help themselves”? So I suppose I am testing the hypothesis.  

It seems, however, the more I have tried to organize and categorize all the various facets, the more out of control everything has gotten. I was thinking the other day what a beautiful feeling free-fall must be–letting go completely. But more truthfully Ayoola, the more in-control I have set out to be, the more out of touch I have become accustomed to feeling.  So, I’ve been building barricades that will ward off any unexpected pitfalls in April.

So, I’ve been building barricades. You first saw them and tore them down but I have rebuilt them to be much more solid and encompassing than before. It was an unconscious decision. Unpacking insecurities is so cliche and I have never been very good at articulating  my emotions. So these barricades have worked to ward off those who want to see beyond the smile and laughter. The barricades have made me an island but I realize this may only last for a fleeting moment. When love leaves and resentment comes to nestle in the corners. 

I am just somewhere between floating and dodging peace. Yet it is all I long for these days: Serenity knocking as opposed to the jostling bodies and loud sirens. So I’ve been thinking maybe the barricades must come down? but how?

Ore mi, I know you’ll probably read this saying or thinking, “you don start again oo” and you are probably right…But I long to see your cursive again so please fill me in on all the details of passionate Baba and the unrelenting pot-bellied Oga-CEO.

Stay well,

 

 

 

On this Separation

Mother, now that we are separated by these large waters-

And by crackling fibre lines-

that sometimes transform your humming voice into unfamiliar muffles.

But Mother,

Now that we are separated-

I feel somehow unable.

You have never asked me to carry your burden

But suddenly

I feel heavy.

The weight of the unknown-

balances unsteadily above

me.

It is only now-

that I realize

I have been navigating this world through

you.

And Mother, I am ashamed to say-

that all this while

I secretly thought it was

you-

who had needed me most.

Never truly acknowledging

Your strength,

until now-

now that my own lack of-

mocks me,

and is hastily demanded to

stand

upright

alone.

Mother, we are now separated-

by these man-made borders.

But separated still-

by so much more,

that I cannot-

define.