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

 

From A Far Away Place

I see the dimming lights in their eyes,

the finality-

of something often,

of something close,

of something cherished,

of something forgotten.

There is futility in attempting to put these pieces together,

But I am drawn to it–

this exercise in impossibility.

I’ve dreamt of the paths untrodden,

that they might have missed to reach this  place

of unfounded dreams and unspoken hopes.

To label this failure would be too easy.

ImmiGrant diaries

He wasn’t coming. I could feel it, first in the air—the way the vicar’s musky cologne hung heavily in the stuffy office cubicle. Then I felt it in the shaking of my hands and then blood-pumping thud in my ears and chest. Nicholas was not going to show up.

“Ms. Bamidele, I’m afraid there are many other couples waiting to be officiated this morning and I will not be able to wait much longer.”

He seemed like a friendly-enough man, in his mid-60’s. He was mostly bold with a modest patch of graying-to white hair hedged around his round head. Probably underpaid and accustomed to expecting little or nothing from people. Beyond his smiling face, I could feel the sadness in his eyes –the fatigue from an unfulfilled life. Once again, he gave an urgent glance at the lopsided walk-clock on the opposite end of the cramped cubicle. In seven minutes, she would have to leave the cubicle.

Clearing his throat, the Vicar, began, “Ms. Bamidele, I do hate to pry but I have witnessed such situations too often in my life-time not to—

The shame of the entire experience forced me to cut him off before he could finish the statement I had been fervently praying I would not hear on this day.

“Vicar James, I do apologize for taking your time like this. I do realize that this might seem like a typical immigrant story but I can assure you Nicholas and I are in it for the long haul. I am sure he will be here at any point.”

The desperate words even seemed hollow in my own ears. Who was I fooling? The vicar simply smiled weakly and nodded.

And so here I was, a 30-year-old Nigerian woman engaged to the man of her dreams who was thousands of kilometers away. Even when Segun’s visa to the United Kingdom had been denied for the sixth time, I could not have imagined that this would be it. That I would be sitting here waiting for a strange man to come and sign a marriage certificate, making me his wife, in order that I could ‘legally’ remain in the country.

I suddenly felt very nauseous. Very nauseous and very alone.

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.

 

The mourning Women

I hear them in quiet moments.

These women with their mourning songs-

So hauntingly beautiful,

So hollow and wide

but always reaching my spirit in it’s darkest depths.

I sometimes call out to them to stop.

Knowing however, that I want nothing of the sort.

These women whose wails have created more life

and pleasure than can be comprehended.

They carry their mourning songs sewn and wrapped across their hearts.

These women with calloused hands that have cultivated and uprooted their hopes

and have faithfully watered the ego’s of pot-bellied husbands.

These mourning Women with their distant looks

and forgotten stories.

I have seen them many times before

in mirrors of the past and echos of the future

I shut my eyes and try to paint a lighter reflection-

one that demands less of my being.

She appears again, silent at first

And then her mourning song begins.

The Many Falling Queens

Young girl, I pray you see these vultures hovering over you.
They prey on innocence.
Taking blood when able.
How can you decipher their evils?
My young one, they will come bearing gifts
of perfumed prose,
that may seem heartfelt but is rather a memorized eulogy.
Silky phrases that plead the divergence of legs,
and the raising of hips.

Young girl, I pray you believe your worth.
Immeasurable and unquantifiable.
Young girl, I pray you learn to love the broken reflection.
Tender and complex.
Young girl, it might seem like you will never win,
in this game of greed and falling queens.
But know this
That the worst of the vultures,
that suck you dry, leaving you hollow and barren
They are birthed
out of you

When we came in the name of peace

We came in the name of peace, in the name of all good and godly things.

How it all began we neither cared nor did we remember.

It was a union between fire and ice.

A meeting of the Cairo’s and the America’s.

It could not have been fathomed, believed by any.

Was this union blessed? Had the prophets fore seen such a thing?

“Sinners!!” some cried out on the street.

Do you remember that time?

It seems in our minds we had created our own world.

Ours was timeless. That’s what I knew they thought.

I once woke up to the laughter of an old woman and I thought I saw our ending coming.

 

So how did we get here?

There was a time when we knew we could survive this.

We were so sure of our ability, to love, to hold, to cherish.

But our make-believe world has broken down.

The power is out and we are left to grope blindly, as darkness mocks our existence.

We didn’t anticipate the possibility of falling out of our utopia.

When the unimaginable happened we could only watch- immobile, unfeeling—numb

How could we have known that we would one day walk on opposite streets?

Were our minds supposed to contemplate the possibility of this once impossibility?

We thought we came in the name of peace, in the name of all good and godly things.

A path of indefinable pain was the one we finally trod.

On stones and Honor

There are many ways of dying. So many ways to die. So many ways. A Pakistani woman died a few days ago. She is dead. She died at the hands of her family. She must have tried to protest or fight off the assault. I can imagine her screaming out her father and brothers name: “Please! Help me! No!”. I can hear her screaming even now. Calling out helplessly. I can almost sense her fear as the first stone cast her body, she must have known what was to come. Looking to her father who has aided in both her creation and her destruction. As she continued to scream the sticks and stones only grew in number and size. They wanted blood. They had come for her blood. Blood to be shed in the name of honor. I see her catching her final fleeting breaths, in pain and agony. I can imagine her surrendering to her fate. Did she pray to God? to Allah? What were her final thoughts as she lay there? Onlookers silent but hungry with shame and a sick desire for a free show. A cheap spectacle to ease their own suffering for a moment.Standing back and watching her soul leave her body, watching her spirit pray love over her defeat. They see it all, hungrily taking it in. And much too soon all that was left was a corpse and a vague story of how a woman loved a man but should not have because her family was against it so they stoned her to death for dishonoring their wishes by loving who she should not have.But now all that is left is a dead woman outside a court house. Ladies and gentlemen, here is justice.