Story by: Ejine Okoroafor (Part 2 of 6)
I had used to dream of Maryam sitting in the car beside me on our way home from the airport, picturing the wonderment and joy in her voice. How thrilled she could have been and bursting into her peculiar hearty laughter at any and everything. She’d have detailed her flight to me in that unaffected manner of hers. It would have been her first time on air, travelling on a plane. She had a fear for heights and regularly marveled at the mystery and ability of planes flying up in the sky. It scared her somewhat, the idea of flying. She would have confessed that her heart was rapidly fluttering as the plane taxied down the runway prior to soaring speedily into the air like the gigantic mechanical bird that it is. She could have made light of her intense fear of suddenly tipping or falling off the plane when she finally summoned up the courage to walk down the aisle from her seat to the toilet. She never could fully conceive how planes were able to contain the weight of multiple passengers, crew and luggage aboard as well as maintain its balance in the face of activity onboard. She was always resolved that the white man is a wizard.
I was sure that she would’ve been awestruck by the modernity and amenities. She would have unfailingly commented on the wide and well-lit roads, smoothly flowing traffic, and the rows of shiny and imposing vehicles on the road. She would have marveled at the trim foliage, the sturdy bridges and well preserved waterways. She would have been elated, most of all, about joining me and finally arriving at the Promised Land. She would have been filled with similar hopes and promises of living the better life. The testified prototype of how life is supposed to be and to be lived? The same as I was when I had initially arrived.
I imagined Kaka squealing at the back seat with delight at the amount of biscuits and chocolates that I would have stocked especially for her in the backseat.
I would have been bursting with pride and joy at their contentment.
Those were my dreams, our dreams and ultimate plan. The reality though was that I could neither afford to bring them over from Nigeria to the USA yet, nor would I have loved bringing them over to share this particular abode, even if I could afford the fare. I would sooner have died than bear the shame of bringing my beloved Maryam and Kaka over to share this tiny room. My sleeper sofa can sit two or sleep one when converted to a bed and took up almost all the space in the room. I was lucky all the same to have this space to call my own.
My roommate, Angus had kindly let this space out to me, although the room was more suitable for a little kid or storage. I still considered myself lucky. It was better than living at a Shelter.
Angus personally, was far from a model roommate. Our apartment was perpetually filled with lingering cigarette and marijuana smoke. Angus was a heavy smoker of both, as were his friends that visited frequently. It wasn’t only the reeking odor from heavy smoke that was bothersome but also from our filthy kitchen and bathroom. Angus rarely bothers to clean after himself. There was always a stack of foul smelling, dirty used utensils and pots on the sink and stove. Our toilet was another story. I constantly tired of cleaning up after Angus and his friends. All in all, I still considered my current situation better than my previous abode at the Shelter where I had literarily contended with hundreds of Anguses, so to say.
I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of introducing Angus to Maryam. She would’ve been absolutely terrified at the sight of him, much less, sharing the same apartment with him. Angus’s untidy long dreadlocks, perpetually bloodshot eyes and permanent scowl made him seem intimidating. She could also suffocate from the pungent odor in the apartment. Maryam was asthmatic.
I pondered briefly about what she’ll have made of my present neighborhood. I lived in the low-income housing projects. I wouldn’t have ordinarily desired to expose Maryam or Kaka to the projects; this side of America that rarely featured in the glorious stories of life and living in the USA that we all have overheard and coveted.