guest-edited by Jeffery Renard Allen
As you step out from the embassy’s guarded gates, not minding the baptism of fire by the scorching Lagos sun, you kneel in the middle of the sidewalk and clasp both hands together in prayer, head bobbing between earth and heaven. People know you are not mad. You turn from church bashing champion to a devoted worshipper, thanking God for giving you an American visa.
You still can’t believe your passport to heaven, as you have named it, has been stamped. A glance at the column of hungry faces waiting in a snake line for their fate in the hands of Americans in Lagos make you smile, no, you actually laugh. I pity you people, you mutter under your breath. Already, you are a hundred times better than these people, especially the ones with oversize scarecrow suits hanging on their emaciated shoulders. Then, the hopefuls with bend-bend black shoes covered in fine dust, the colour of Ibadan rusted roofs. The ones who have been in the queue since 4am, eating only bread and akara washed down with bottles of warm coke or tap water wrapped in nylon bag. Your eyes fall on a mother whose infant cannot bear the heat anymore and continues to cry at the top of its lungs, more like hacking, and you shake your head. They all remind you of a long column of black ants, poisoned.
You linger longer to hear some mothers console each other with stories. My husband left me two years ago to America, I have been trying to join him but no luck, a woman holding a two year old says to the crying baby’s mother.
You hurry home as the sky threatens a rain storm. The last thing you want is a wet passport with real American visa, you’d rather die first. You will protect this pali with your life. You cannot wait to get home to tell Femi, your brother who has endured your dream of going to America since you left the university eight jobless years ago. You’re rushing home to tell him that you are now his new messiah. Family members will have to bow to you now else they wontreceive postcards, letters with beautiful stamps of The White House or better still T-shirts that says I LOVE NY from you in America.
You enter a danfo bus, clutching your pocket and the passport with your left hand, darting your eyes left and right like a security officer guarding a head of state. You will not argue about incorrect change with any wily conductor; today you must avoid your usual frustrated fights by all means. You are Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, all rolled into one. Today, you will be Christopher, the ambassador of peace.
Femi shouts and dances around the house like a she-goat in heat at the news but he wants to see the passport, a doubting Thomas must confirm. You are hesitant, but you need his help to raise money for ticket. You retrieve the green Nigerian passport from your pocket like a native doctor reaching for his talisman. Femi thumbs through the pages, lands on page five where the new born hope nestle. Your passport picture laminated on the visa makes it fraud-proof, or so the American Embassy think. Nothing is fraud-proof in this Lagos—if it can be done at all, it can be faked. But you have no need for fraudulent thinking. You have the real thing.
Femi will go to Aloma the mechanic and Bomboy the panel beater, both his friend near his workshop, for loans to buy your ticket. Fund raising time is here, loans which will be paid back tenfold when you get to America. No one will refuse you; nobody in his right senses refuses to loan money to a man with an American visa on his passport. You make photocopies of the visa page for Femi to show Aloma and Bomboy.
You greet everyone with a broad smile. Even the shylock landlord gets a good greeting from you. Your co-tenants in the Face-Me-I-Face-You flat notice a new demeanor in you. They are suspicious. Christopher is a tight-ass-son-of-a-bitch who does not laugh nor greet anyone. Christopher is a cynic that wears the misery look of no electricity, no jobs, the-military-is-killing-us on his face. Christopher wishes death on the president, General Abacha, and his entire cabinet administration at any given time. Maybe it’s that new girl that comes to see him when Femi goes to work, she must be banging him good, they whisper to each other. Your smile gets wider by the day as your ticket money is almost complete. You cannot risk telling anyone in the compound the source of your joy. One of them might connive with bad boys tocome in the night with machine guns, demanding your passport to heaven. Passports with genuine visa sells like hotcake in Oluwole Street, the headquarters of forgery. You have to keep your secret like a parrot’s egg. Even Fatima, your new girlfriend you have been telling lies, cannot know about your visa. You will tell her a day before your departure so she can finally let you hit it, her back down on your bed, no girl refuses a boy on his way to America.
The days to your departure move slower than a dog with broken waist. Today you go to Lagos Island to call Pius, your friend in Washington, D.C, to tell him the good news. He will be your host until you find your feet in the Promise Land, he was your room mate in the university who luck shine on the first day he went to American embassy. He is happy for you and at the same time cursing the consular officer in Lagos for the extra burden added to his already debilitating American load. Pius has not visited Nigeria since he left, he is living the good life you tell other school mates who ask after him.
You wonder why Pius tells you not to give away anything, to bring all your personal belongings to America. Bring your best shoes, your wristwatch, your adire brocade, your hand embroidered dry-lace agbada, your shoes, your sweater and jacket—bring them all if you have, is what he said. You laugh inside and wonder what sane man takes water to the river? America is where all these things are in abundance. America is heaven, and in heaven man is never in need. You tell Femi what your friend in America said, and he laughs kiakiakia, till the landlord knocks on the door asking for overdue rent which Femi is holding to add to your ticket money. Femi switches on his beggarly face, tells Mr. Landlord to give him a few more days. He slams the door and storms out. You tell Femi not to worry he too will soon be a landlord in Lagos once you start sending him American dollars. Femi thanks you a million times, he is older than you and deserving of respect, but he sold his birthright like Esau the day you came from American Embassy.
Departure date finally arrives and you set out at from home at 3pm for a 10pm flight. Femi follows you to Murtala Mohammed International airport. He wants to make sure the plane leaves Nigeria with you on it. The kill-joy Nigerian immigration and customs officers at the airport do can be very mischievous. Uniform officials are gods that must be given decent sacrifices, e.g. money. You must have a separate budget for them. You think say na sand we go chop for here, shake body my friend and bring something out from your pocket!, is their gentle threat and efficient way of begging. Their salaries have not been paid for months despite the money Abacha government rakes in from oil.
Everybody that works at the airport knows that once you fly out to America you are free from long petrol queues, joblessness, hunger, armed robbery, and all the vices that have gripped the nation under different regimes. They will milk you as much as possible until you are left with the clothes on your body. You don’t mind. You will dip your hand into your pocket and give them two thousand naira, you have three thousand naira in all. They will wish you a safe journey and give you a mock salute, and you will think, - Goodbye forever fools, I will never see you again.
You are leaving home for good. What you don’t know yet is that a man’s heart never abandons his birthplace like the body and America will always ask for your Place of Birth in every meaningful form you fill. And the earth that keeps your umbilical will never let your heart stray away. America will continually remind you of your “country of origin”, like you are some piece of commodity. Your tongue is already cast in stone and will always make Americans ask – Where is that accent from- as if your words has it’s own leg to travel from one destination to another. You think you will become a US citizen in due course and denounce your Nigerian citizenship. The road to US citizenship for an African immigrant is paved with hardship and anguish. You will never be a native son; you will always remain a Naturalized son of a bitch. But you don’t know any of these yet.
You give your last one thousand naira to Femi for a large bottle of Guinness stout and pocket change. He is entitled to that for all his sweat in begging money from friends for your ticket, plus you don’t need worthless naira in America anyway. You promise to pay your creditors as soon as you step your weathered feet on American streets—streets paved with dollars and neon lights. You’ve read about Time Square and Las Vegas and Atlantic City in every foreign magazine you could find in the travel agent’s office. You’ve researched all the states that make the union of North America.
You’ve watched CNN, BET and MTV at Mama Betty’s bar. You’ve seen beautiful cars and hip-hop artists’ snazzy bitches dancing with scanty clothes on, giving you hard on . Picture Me Rolling, you can sing every Tupac song in your sleep. Life is good for everybody, you’ve concluded, and you cannot wait to get to America where there are no street beggars, no homeless people, no hunger, no joblessness, no goslow. It is all heaven, where angels dance and blow bugles all day long.
You will eat McDonald’s cheese burgers and Burger King Big Whoppers and get bigger. You are 6’2, you dream of playing in the NBA, you will be the next Hakeem Olajuwon dunking on Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo and trash-talk Charles Barkley to oblivion. Michael Jordan will never forget you after you take him to the cleaners on the hard court.
You are now the new African prince, on your way to America to live the real life Eddie Murphy could only live on screen in Coming To America. You will have beautiful models falling over themselves to wash your royal penis after each game of basketball.
You are smiling towards heaven as the KLM pilot announces his Dutch name and gives the brief about the journey ahead. You are ready. As you look out the frosty window, the dust and rust of Lagos recedes until the houses and Danfo buses become tiny and jaundice yellow, the size and color of late harmattan leaves. The streets look like slow moving lines of maggots departing from a carcass. You wonder if Femi is among the people you tower above.
“Juice or water please?” The elegant, emerald-eye, blonde-hair, square-should air hostess asks. You smile sheepishly and marvel at the fact that you are about to be served by a white lady. You have never been this close to a white person, your paths and theirs never crossed in Lagos. They live in Ikoyi and Victoria Island, and you can't even bear to think of where you lived in Lagos already. You haven’t told her what you’d like to drink yet, she politely asks again, Would you like something to drink sir?
Juice please, you reply with a heedless smile. You had enough water in Lagos to last you a lifetime. Now that you are on your way to America you must start drinking juices, especially orange juice you were never able to afford.
As your joy swells, so does your bladder. The bathroom is squeaky clean, not like the filthy latrine that served all sixteen tenants in your flat. Nor does it smell like a bucket of urine as in the Murtala Mohammed airport toilets, where cleaners hang around like vultures begging for money instead of cleaning.
You are done with the business of peeing, but how to flush becomes an issue. You search like a scientist looking for a telltale sign in his experiment. You are about to panic when you see a blue Push to Flush. There is a whirlwind of water sucking away in circular motion with deafening sound, your piss disappears into unknown abyss and you wonder, is it showering on Nigerians down below?
You strut back to your seat as if you were Denzel Washington. You buckle your seat belt even though the sign for it is off. You have seen movies like Passenger 57 where the air sucks out those who did not wear their seat belts.
You lose sense of time and belonging as you fly across oceans and nations. The cheap wristwatch you are wearing says 5am, but that is Nigerian time. Nigerian time is no longer relevant to you, that’s past tense.
Dinner is served. The only item you recognize looks like pieces of white chicken. The rest is foreign like calculus to a village farmer. You watch your neighbor from the corner of your eye. The old, seasoned traveler dissects her bread, butters and bites into it, gathering the crumbs with an open palm. You do exactly the same thing. The bread is bland, the butter is blander. But you are hungry, you have to eat. You eat all the items with a vengeance, even tasting the decorative plastic leaves on the tray. You wash it down with apple juice, having had enough orange juice.
A gentle sleep takes you to Lagos. Jubilation on the streets upon the news of the mysterious death ofyour dictator president. But soldiers are shooting at sight, you are running to a roofless shelter to avoid blazing bullets. And nowhere to hide, you fall and you hear Femi telling you get up and run before you are trampled on.
You wake up sweating. The air hostess gives you landing immigration forms to fill before you touch American soil. Have you been to a farm? Any diseased agent? What agricultural produce do you have? You laugh, Americans are too funny. What agricultural produce could possibly be exported from Nigeria? Where is the section for crude oil? You almost choke on your own private joke. You fill out your destination and insert the white and blue form in the middle of your passport to heaven.
You feel a drop in your stomach, the plane is descending. Your mind is a mixture of fear and exhilaration. Suddenly you feel like you want to go to toilet again. But the seat belt light is on and the pilot has already asked the cabin crew to prepare for landing. You look down to see streets planned like newly plaited hair, cornrow style. Small rivers appear and disappear. Vast land of greenery gives away the beauty of spring in America. “Welcome to Washington Dulles Airport,” the pilot says in his funny accent.
The plane taxies down the tarmac and a sea of white, black, and not so white people engage in a beehive of activities. You file out gently, feeling like a shackled prisoner alighting from a Black Maria van in Lagos, your legs are cramped. You follow the sign for non-US citizens, separating you from the citizens’ line, their blue passports in hand like magic wands.
Your green Nigerian passport is not so important now as it was in Nigeria. It is a curious object in the fingers of a sullen immigration officer. She checks and checks again. He swipes and swipes again. She is not talking to you yet. Her fingers the visa page like apple buyer testing for inner rottenness. Your heart beats faster than your arteries can supply blood. Your legs are weakening as if you are clubbed on the head with a truncheon. The window separating you from the beak-nose immigration officer is swinging round and round in your oxygen- deficient brain. What brought you to America? You have rehearsed the answer to this question a million times.
She grabs a stamp and stamp your entry with no fuss. You take your passport from her with a shaky hand. Next! she barks.
You have no much luggage to wait for. All you have is a simple hand luggage, that looks like a Lagos fake drug street hawker’s. You ignored Pius’ advise that you should bring as much stuff as you can. Pius is waiting for you behind the barricade. Many others are there with papers and placards bearing names that are diverse, it’s like the whole world is waiting for the whole world in America. Over dressed men hold bunch of flowers and WELCOME HOME balloons float above children and women’s heads, waiting for loved ones.
Pius sees you first, he walks to you and greets you with a handshake and pat on the back. He asks if the hand luggage is all you are carrying. You beam him a smile and say yes. He smiles again and congratulates you for escaping the hell called Nigeria. You have many questions, but Pius has become a man of few words as he sees you are going to be a difficult and ignorant. An African immigrant who travels with a single bag across continents is not ready for reality. He helps you with the bag. You can see that he is shocked by its lightness. He leads you to his Lexus jeep, Pius’ car confirms your beliefof America as the land of money and honeys. He dumps your bag in the fresh-smelling leather back seat no need opening the boot. He turns on the radio, Here is the weather from WTOP news - the announcer says. Pius presses another button and Fela is singing “Expensive Shit”. You mime along.
You have already spent three months out of your six months visa. Everywhere you go looking for a job, they want experience or a work permit. You have no papers, not even a social security number but you tell Pius you don’t want to clean shit in a nursing home, you want an engineering job. Pius says you are persona non grata without papers. Gradually it dawns on you that the years you spent at university in Nigeria and the seven years after graduation are ashes in the wind. Years robbed by thieves in high places. Your only experience is vagrancy. Your degree in chemical engineering is useless, you are told. Pius says there are Nigerians with medical degrees working as nursing assistants in nursing homes where the change geriatric diapers with shit smelling to high heavens. Pius read law at Ambrose Alli University, one of the best in Nigeria, in America, he is a License Practical Nurse in a nursing home.
At every break of dawn things get bleaker. The America in sleek magazines back home has become sleazy. Pius is using new vocabulary everyday: mortgage, car notes, phone bills, electric bills, gas bills, water bills. You can’t even get a street sweeper’s job without a work permit, he says. You ask how you can get one, and he promises to see what he can do. The earlier you get a job and move out the better for him. You leave lights on during the day and waste water in endless showers as if you want to wash your Nigerianess away in his bathroom.
The next day he takes you to a friend in Baltimore who fixes everything from leaking roof to arranged marriage for newly arrived immigrants. You need to marry a US citizen to get papers, but it will cost you something. Money or freedom, maybe both. You have neither money nor freedom. Pius will lend you money, he’s been there done that.
You are back to Baltimore a week later. You meet Amelia the American citizen. She will soon be your future temporary wife, all things being equal. She sits on a depressed red sofa, a fresh Newport cigarette dangles from her chapped lips. You are both sizing each other up and she offers you a cigarette.
I don't smoke, you say.
Suit yourself, she says among other things under her breath you couldn’t hear.
You have no clue what American projects means. You hear gunshots outside, it is unmistakable. You asked to use her bathroom, female undies the size and colour of cocoa beans sacks slung down from the shower line. The bathroom smell is between decaying leaves and crushed grasshopper. Thank God the deal don’t require you to live with her, just visit once every two weeks to drop off money after you have gone to court for a marriage license. Pius will take the pictures on your marriage day. You need images of false embrace and unwanted kisses of the newly married to prove to the immigration officer that you are married to a US citizen. One concern you have is Amelia’s physical mobility, she is a whale of a woman with nails painted sky blue. Pius' friend sees the look on your face and calms your nerves. It will be fine, he says on your way to the bus stop.
Pius’ friend cannot go with you to your next appointment with Amelia, he’s been paid for the intro. You take the MARC train from Beltsville to Baltimore. A train full of faces, some lonely, some cheerful, some angry, some hungry. Your face is a mixture of everything, a bowl of confusion. You meet Amelia on the same dead sofa, sitting like a landmark sculpture in a backwoods town and whizzing. You sit a good distance from her cigarette smell. The first she asks is if you have a girlfriend. You remember your beautiful Fatima in Lagos. The one you never told about you emigration. Amelia asks if you like fucking, and you are looking for a suitable answer. None is forthcoming, and you are sweating now despite the cold apartment. You wish you had come with Pius or his friend to save you from this suffocating situation. “Are you some African gay or something?” she asks. You are not too sure what or who you are anymore.
You say you will get back to her and rush out the door. There are some angry looking hooded young boys jostling in front of the rundown apartment building. The one with a red bike wears a blood-stained undershirt. Another has a fierce-looking, pink-mouthed pit bull in a loose leash. You avoid their eyes, almost shitting in your pants and later you throw up at the bus stop. Bystanders think you are drunk or stoned or both, not uncommon in this part of town.
You narrate your ordeal to Pius, and he laughs and laughs, he has not laughed this hard for a while now. That is the Red Sea every immigrant has to cross to get to the Promised Land, he says. She is offering it to you on a platter of gold, you might as well take it since you are paying her. What is the alternative, you ask? Deportation or live like the Invisible Man, Pius replies cynically. You either go down on Amelia and use Colgate mixed with Listerine Cool Mint or you go down to Nigeria as a deportee and face the panel beater and mechanic, your unpaid creditors.
You haven’t communicated with your brother Femi since you sent him Statue Of Liberty post card to let him know you arrived America safely. Nothing new to report since, nobody in Nigeria wants to hear about struggles in God’s own country.
Be all you can be. You tell Pius you want to enlist in the U.S Army. Pius looks at you and asks if you smoked grass. You tell him you heard the military would pay your school fees and give you a work permit, then a green card, and after three years you’d be given the almighty Citizenship. America needs you, and you need work papers. America is fighting multiple wars to let you rot away doing nothing.
Pius asks why did you not join the Nigerian army, where you could at least become the military governor of a state someday. You are a southerner, you remind him. The quota is already full in the Nigerian Defense Academy for those from your side of the country.
Why would you want to fight a war that is not yours, Pius asks.
Fighting America’s war and having my head blasted off isbetter than going back to Amelia in Baltimore to give her head. You want to die with dignity instead of getting your head caught and suffocated between Amelia's inseparable legs. If you must die, you want your coffin to be draped with the beautiful American flag. Let the stars and stripes weep for your deformed dreams and when the flag is folded and handed over to you, send it to Femi, you tell Pius. He can sell it and pay the mechanic and panel beater. Pius laughs at your morbid craziness, but you are not joking. There is dignity in dying the American way, an officer (with luck, a white officer) would salute your coffin while a horn wails “Amazing Grace”. Dying between the legs of Amelia will send you to hell, dying for America will earn you a dignified burial in Virginia and a nice spot in heaven.
The recruiting officer at Silver Spring Recruitment Office explains to you all the benefits of enlisting in the U.S. Army. Your school fees will be paid if you decide to go back to school and all your expenses will be taken care of. Basic training will be in Texas. You have always wanted to travel to Texas, land of the American cowboys. He sends you to a room full of other not so pleasant faces, mostly blacks and Hispanics. He asks you to wait for an officer who will take your particulars and give you instruction on what to do next.
A smartly dressed female officer marches out from an inner office, clipboard in hand like an Islamic slate. She calls your last name perfectly well. Christopher Adebanjo. She is prettier than Amelia but not as beautiful as Fatima. Pius has told you that the pretty Americans are dangerous and can smell your intentions miles away. Pretty Americans are looking for a real man, American-educated with a well paying job. That was why you went to Amelia in the projects, with no hope of real man or a better tomorrow. The officer’s smile turns acidic as she sees you gawking at her.
Can I see a Photo ID please? Her voice is sharper than the winter wind outside.
You wonder what she means by Photo ID.
Do you have anything that has your name and picture on it? She is running out of patience with you, but you left your passport at home.
She leaves you for the next in line, and you trudge home, a tired and hungry mendicant. You are a mendicant, a beggar without even a tin cup. You wonder what Pius will say if he hears you actually went to the recruitment office. On the empty mid-morning bus Langley Park, you read and re-read the yellow and black pamphlet given to you by the recruitment officer. You count the stars and the red, blue and white stripes on the American flag in the center spread of the pamphlet. The flag Femi will sell to pay your debts will be cloth and much bigger and heavier than the paper one you are looking at.
Pius is not home yet. You retrieve your small bag containing your passport to heaven and the 1-94 stub on it. You could go back to the recruitment office now, but the cold outside is unbearable. Your brains are almost frozen like your dreams, dreams that have long ago become dagger-like icicles, piercing your brain when you sleep and when you wake. It will be warmer tomorrow, you tell yourself. Tomorrow you will leave Pius a note that says: Thank you for taking care of me all this while. I have gone to join the U.S Army. I will keep in touch from wherever I find myself. I will use you as my next of kin please, if you don’t mind.
Pius comes home with crabmeat and Heineken, Heineken is the nearest beer to Nigeria Star lager. You don't like crab, it’s too much work for such little reward. Pius is celebrating his green card, which has received it’s second and final approval. The beer tastes nasty with the news, but you must pretend to be happy for your host. He has crossed the River Jordan and he no longer of INS investigators. You are now the target, the one who must live underground in a country of millions. You have to run, as fast as your mind and legs can carry you. Pius is home free now; his sorrows are lessened if not finished. Pius wonders why you have a long drawn face like cheap African wood masks sold in Prince George’s Mall. You tell him America is rough. He drains a can of Heineken – Oboy, e nor easy anywhere. It gets rough and red-hot before it smoothens, life in America is a piece of iron in a blacksmith's hands. Things will be all right if you play by the rule, he says. You wonder what rule he means. Kneeling down to worship in Amelia's shrine? It is your choice he says. Every prize has a price, Pius is drunk sober.
And that is what you have decided. To die. To go with a blazing sun and a song so melancholic even the birds in the cemetery will droop their faces in tears.
You wait for tomorrow like you waited for your departure date in Nigeria. The night is slow, and you can hear all the faraway noises. Your ears strain for familiar nocturnal sounds, like the hooting of an owl before death arrives or the cracking of crickets or the calling of mating bullfrogs in unclean gutters that make night what it is in Nigeria. African night is full of ominousness. American night is quiet except for distant sirens. Your eyes refuse to close. You sit in bed and construct your departure letter for Pius to discover on the kitchen table tomorrow when he returns from work.
Thursday is here. The bedside clock says it is 7.15am in its red digitized figures. Pius has already left for work. An LPN in a D.C nursing home has no time to sleep in. You take the bus to Silver Spring, your bag between your legs. You study the morning faces of fellow travellers, and there is calmness that contrasts with the chaotic danfo and molue bus ride in Lagos. There are no theatrics on these American buses. No hawker selling a silver bullet pill nor a preacher telling the passengers of the imminent end of the world. Bus R2 is organized like an orchestra. Everyone knows what to do. On the streets people walk with a purpose, brisk with focus written on their faces. No screaming of “Ole! Ole! Ole! O-thief-o-thief-o!” No military men whipping innocent citizens. But the orderliness of American streets is also sickness that threatens to kill you first before any war. There is no colour to it, no soul to the street life.
You tug the cable that rings the bell for the driver to stop. The walk to the recruitment office is cold and windy, and the sooner you get to warmth the better for your uncovered ears and gloveless hands.
Same female officer from yesterday takes your passport and thumbs straight to your ID page. Your face is much younger in the passport. Passport taken seven years ago when you thought you could walk into an American embassy and get a visa with your cockiness. But red rejection stamps have eaten almost half of the entire passport. She looks at your angular black face in the picture and stares straight at your eyes like a pediatrician examining a sick child. You shaved earlier, and your face is cleaner than yesterday. She jots things in her clipboard. She thumbs to the American visa page and stares. She adjusts her reading glasses, taps her pen on the passport a few times.
Are you aware you are out of status?
What does that mean madam? you ask, though you know. Your denial vial has broken inside you. You ask questions to buy time for a reasonable answer, a common survival tactic you learned back home.
Your visa expired yesterday. You have exhausted your six months. You need to take it to the nearest immigration office for an extension before we can recruit you.
She closes the passport and your hope and hands it back to you.
Your brain is closing up slowly on you, a cactus on an errant fly. You do all you can to make your feet walk towards the big bloody red EXIT sign. Back on the street, the howling winter wind bites into your bones deeper and more mercilessly. Your chest gets heavier, the heaviness of a camel carrying stones to nowhere. You want to cry or scream, but to whom shall you cry and who will hear your scream?
You feel hot liquid trailing down your ashy cheeks. You are crying without crying. You don’t care to wipe the tears; they warm your cheek as you sit on the cold bench in the bus stop. You rest your bag on your lap and hold your passport in your hand, your index finger stuck in page five. Two police cars and an ambulance scream past. The ambulance reminds you of Pius. You have to get home fast to the goodbye note you left for him. It is no time for goodbye yet.
Victor Ehikhamenor was born in Nigeria. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, CNN African Voices, Agni Magazine, The Washington Post, Wasafiri, The Literary Magazine, Per Contra, and elsewhere. He is the author of Excuse Me! a collection of creative non-fiction essays which was listed as one of the books to look out for in 2013 by The Guardian UK. He is a 2014 recipient Norman Mailer Center Fellowship for Fiction
Ehikhamenor is also a painter and a photographer whose art and photography has been widely exhibited, collected worldwide, and used for notable book and journal covers, including Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Helon Habila two novels, Measuring Times and Oil on Water, The Caine Prize for African Writing 8th Annual Collection, Jambula Tree and Other Stories, Dreams, Miracles and Jazz: New Adventures in African Writing, edited by Helon Habila and Kadija Sesay and many others.
Ehikhamenor holds an MFA in Fiction from University of Maryland, College Park.