My name is Abosede Omoakholo. Everyone calls me Bose. I’m a reluctant illegal immigrant. I never planned to leave Nigeria. Lagos was good to me. I had a good job as the deputy branch manager of one of the biggest banks in Nigeria. But, love brought me to America. My fiancé, Tunde, was in Baltimore. Now, love has shredded my heart to pieces. My only refuge is my diary. I started writing it on the plane three and half months ago. It’s taken me until now to have the courage to share it.
I will share a NEW ENTRY EVERY MONDAY.
Read my story
Coming to America
I woke up for the third time in five hours. I’m flying across the Atlantic Ocean. I’m going to America to meet the
love of my life, the father of my unborn children.
I woke up because the flight attendant was offering me another meal. They feed you a lot on these international
flights. Anytime I flew within Nigeria, all I got was a bun that could shatter the plane’s window if you fling it
But on this flight, it was food every two hours. Good food too. I couldn’t even pronounce some of the meals on the
Now I know why all those rich and powerful Nigerians travel abroad and return with puffy cheeks and potbellies.
It’s the airline food.
I took the warm meal from the hostess and shoved it in my mouth. Unlike the other meals, this one was tough on the
“It’s a hot towel, ma’am,” the hostess said as she tried hard not to laugh. “You use it for the face.”
I almost died out of shame.
Back home, I was what you’ll call a city girl. I grew up in Lagos, the city that is really a metropolis but we call
a city because that was what the British colonialists called it and someone has not thought it was time to call it
a metropolis. I went to the University of Lagos, one of the most urbane universities on the continent. And, I was
an assistant branch manager in a bank on Broad Street, a place some call the financial capital of Africa.
In Lagos, I was an “it girl”. But, on this plane, I had just acted like the ultimate bush girl.
I smiled sheepishly at the hostess as she moved on to the next passenger. I looked around; saw everyone wiping
their faces with their towels. I did the same.
“Don’t worry about it,” says the middle-aged white woman next to me, “I used to do that all the time too”.
I knew she was trying to make me feel better. No one chews a hot towel twice. But, it still felt nice to hear it. I
nodded my thanks.
“Where are you flying from?” she asked.
Well, there goes my attempt to blend in. I was hoping people would think I was from England because I boarded the
plane in London.
“Lagos,” I answered.
“Where is that?” she asked.
“Nigeria,” I replied.
“Oh, the place where they send those fraudulent e-mails and faxes,” she added.
“Pardon, me?” I shot back with a frown.
“I get the e-mails all the time,” she continued like a doctor passing the death sentence on a patient.
All of a sudden, I’m angry with his woman. I have watched a lot of MTV, BET and CNN to know enough of the American
culture. I know a lot of Americans are good people. But, I also know some of them like to pass judgment on things
they know little about as if they were Jesus Christ on the throne. I wasn’t going to let this woman off the hook.
“So, where are you from?” I asked.
“Roanoke, Virginia” she answered proudly.
“Ah, the American South!”
“Your great-grandfathers came to my country with the Bible and stole millions of my people. Turned them into
I had never seen a white woman turn morbid pale that fast.
“That is not a nice thing to say,” she fumed.
“You think what you said was a nice thing?” I asked..
“You think everybody from the South was a slave trader?” she shot back.
“You think every Nigerian is a criminal?” I asked. This was funny; we were answering questions with question.
Maybe she’s a Nigerian in disguise because that is what we do in Nigeria, we answer questions with questions.
“It’s not the same thing,” she said.
“Oh yes, it is,” I responded.
She pouted, turned away and looked out the window at the bluish skies. I closed my eyes and let my mind drift back
to how I came to be in a plane headed for Baltimore Washington International Airport.
I had dreamt of this trip for four years. But, it was coming two years sooner than I had planned. Or, we had
The Day Before America
I have come to America for my Tunde. He is the love of my life, the ordained father of my children, the man I would
spend the rest of my life with.
I met Tunde Oluyomi six years ago. I was 21 and he was 27. I was an advertising executive. He was a journalist. I
was from the Ishan tribe. He was from the Yoruba tribe. I lived in Oshodi on the Lagos mainland. He lived in Sango
Ota, on the outskirts of Lagos.
We had very little in common.
“Why you dey always show me your break light?” he asked me one day in Pidgin English after I’d dropped off an
advert copy for his newspaper.
“What do you mean,” I replied in my polished English. I’d just graduated from the University of Lagos with a Second
class upper degree in Economics and I wasn’t going to waste my tongue speaking Pidgin English. That language was
“Every time I say hello, you just whisper hello back and scram,” he complained.
“Okay, hello, “ I answered and proceeded to theatrically count from one to three.
“See, I’m not running away. I just have to go,” I told him after I counted to three.
He laughed, showing a perfect set of white teeth that contrasted beautifully with his chocolate skin.
“Can I take you to lunch some time? I really want to know you,” he asked boldly, as if he was rolling the dice.
“I’m a busy girl. I don’t do lunch,” I answered.
We both knew it was a lie. But, we both knew he wouldn’t call me out on it. That would be the ultimate romance deal
“Breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekday, weekend – name it. I’m there,” Tunde offered.
“I’ll see you around, Bros,” I replied as I walked away.
“Bros” was a romantic death sentence. It means “big brother”. It’s worse than the friend zone. It’s the “never
ever” zone. Tunde knew it as soon as I said it. But, he never relented.
He sent me a romantic e-card every day. He sent me bouquet after bouquet of flowers. He bought me chocolates and
sweets. And, he never showed his face to pressurize it. He always sent a driver from his office.
Most boys in Lagos don’t pamper girls. The older men do. But, that’s why they’re called sugar daddies. The girls
are toys – mistresses who balance the drudgery of married life. The sugar daddies buy their mistresses cars, rent
them posh flats and fatten their bank accounts. But, it’s never a permanent thing. One day, a younger girl always
takes the place of the mistress.
Lagos boys are not romantic. They are bottom line guys. Dinner, movie, club then your back on the mattress. Tunde
was different. He romanced me as if he was consulting a romance magazine. I am a good Catholic girl who had
promised God and my mother that I would keep my legs closed until my wedding night.
But, Tunde grew on me. Two days before Valentine’s Day, I called him.
“Will you be my Valentine?” I asked boldly.
I was breaking another little dating rule for girls in Lagos. Never ask a guy out. It diminishes you. But, I felt
really good about Tunde. I didn’t think about it. I just dialed the phone and said the first thing that came to my
I will always remember Tunde’s joyous laughter on the phone. It was a delight. I wish I had saved it on my
voicemail. It would have been the perfect ring tone.
My parents didn’t approve of him. He was a “Yanmiri”, a Yoruba boy that should not be trusted. I don’t even know
what the word means. But, I know it’s a bad word.
His parents didn’t approve of me for the same reason. I was an “ajeokuta ma mumi” which meant “he who eats stone
without drinking water”. It was originally meant to describe people of the Ibo tribe. I wasn’t Ibo. But, to a
Yoruba in the Nigerian tribal politics, if you’re neither Hausa or Yoruba, you were Ibo. It came from suspicion
built during the civil war.
The funny thing is, although I am Ishan, I was born in Lagos and I have lived there all my life. I have only made
two trips to the village. The first time was for an ill-fated Christmas vacation that was cut short because my
grandmother claimed one of my grandfather’s other wives was a witch and had promised my head at a big witches’
meeting. The other trip was for my grandmother’s funeral. But, in Nigeria, you’re from where your forefathers were
Tunde’s mother told him I am an “Ogbanje” because I was fair-skinned. An “Ogbanje” is a child that made a pact with
the spirit world to die young. They come to this world to torture their parents. They always die at very important
periods in their life cycle. Since I already had a university degree, Tunde’s mother was convinced that I had made
a pact with the spirit world to die on my wedding day.
“You’re just postponing sadness, Tunde. You will remember what I’m telling you on your wedding night when she drops
dead,” she counseled Tunde.
But, nothing could come between Tunde and I. We had two great years together in Lagos. We were inseparable. He was
one of the rising stars in political correspondence in Nigeria. Politicians called him every hour of the day.
With Tunde’s encouragement and active support, I went back to school part-time, got a masters degree in Banking and
Finance and got a job in one of the new banks in Nigeria.
Tunde was very ambitious. He set goals he had to meet at certain ages. He wanted to be an editor by 30. He wanted
us to be married when he was 31. We would have our first child when he was 32. All I had to do was say Amen. I
loved my man and I thanked God everyday for him.
Then, Tunde decided to write a weekly column about the plight of the people in the oil-rich but devastated Niger
Delta. In Nigeria at that time, it was the easiest way to die. During the brutal Abacha regime, journalists were
jailed. In the new political dispensation, journalists simply disappeared.
Tunde was offered bribes and political appointments if he’d simply report the speeches and press releases of the
politicians and let the Niger Deltans continue their decades of suffering. But, my man had a conscience as big as
the ocean. He stayed on the side of the people.
After a couple of attempts on his life, Tunde and I decided it was time he fled the country. He would go abroad,
study for a master’s degree and return when the situation was better. We even had dreams of owning our own
newspaper. He would run the publishing side and I would run the business side.
While he was gone, I also embraced my new life as an emergency nun. Men offered me the world if I would go out with
them. I always said no. I was going to wait for my Tunde.
“The way you’re going, this useless boy you’re waiting for will need a drill to get inside that vagina when he gets
back,” one exasperated colleague told me after six months of trying to get me to go out on a date with him.
My father also had plans of his own. He wanted a man that would take care of me, not a boy who ran away from his
country. He promised me to a politician from my state who was a few years older than my father, had three wives and
had a breath that stank like rotten cheese.
“If it’s abroad you want to go to, I can re-locate you to New York after we marry. I have a house there. You’ll be
my American wife,” the politician told me the first time I met him at my father’s house.
It all came to a head one, weird day two months ago. My father had called me that morning and said I should make
sure I come over to his house after work. I was worried all day. I thought something was wrong. I thought for the
briefest of moments that someone in our family had died or had a terminal illness.
When I got to my father’s house, the politician was waiting. There was a used car outside the house too. It was a
gift for my father. My father was over the moon. He had worked for the government for thirty years and he couldn’t
afford a bicycle. Now the politician had given him a car. My fate was sealed. I would marry the old man. I had no
say in this matter. My father’s word was law.
“He can’t do that. My family brought him wine before I left. We are traditionally married,“ Tunde cried on the
phone when I told him later that night.
“I think the politician’s money has made him crazy. He now has selective amnesia. You have to save me, Tunde,” I
“What are we going to do?” he wailed on the phone.
“I don’t know! I don’t know! If I can get a visa, I would come over there,” I replied between sobs.
“Don’t even try those embassy people. It’s just another heartache,” he advised.
“You have to come up with a plan, Tunde. My father man is planning to marry me off before Christmas,” I pleaded.
“I’ll work something out. I promise. No one can take you away from me,” Tunde professed.
But, Tunde could not come up with a good plan. For our sake and our future, I had to take matters into my own
One morning in September, I rounded up my brother and two sisters. We went to the American embassy and applied for
We had to go to the embassy before September runs out because the politician decided he wanted to do the
traditional wedding during Independence Day in October. He was running for office and he wanted to use the wedding
as a rally for his supporters.
The embassy rejected my application. But, they gave my youngest sister a visa. There was no logical reason why she,
a jobless graduate, got a visa while I, a gainfully employed banker, did not.
But, it all worked according to my grand plan. The reason we all applied for a visa was a shot in the dark that one
of us would be lucky to get a visa. My siblings and I look alike. If my brother had gotten the visa, all I had to
do was cut my hair.
Three days before my traditional wedding to the chief, I jumped on a British Airways flight bound for America.
During the stopover in London, I made two calls.
The first was to my father. I thought he would blow a lung or rupture his kidney in anger. But, all he did was
curse me. I didn’t mind the curse. In Nigeria, we all know curses are local – they don’t travel across the ocean.
Then, I called Tunde. He was so stunned I was on my way to him that he couldn’t quite express his happiness.
I was happy. I was free. I was going to meet my man. In America.In America
“The World Bank, huh? Is that like Bank of America or Citibank?” asked the Immigrations Officer as she looked at my
She looked black. But, she could also have been Latina. Or, bi-racial. You can never tell with these Americans.
But, my bigger problem was that I couldn’t really make out what the woman was saying. No matter how much CNN, BET
and MTV you watch, nothing prepares you for an American accent when you hear it face to face.
“Pardon me,” I said.
“You’ve not done anything wrong, no need to ask for a pardon,” she replied.
“I meant can you repeat the question,” I said.
“Is the World Bank like Bank of America or Citibank?” she asked.
“It’s like the Bank of America, only this time for the whole world,” I said because I had no clue how to answer the
question. There are no two World Banks.
But, this woman was no ordinary cookie. She takes her job seriously. She cannot be fooled easily.
“You traveled all the way from Africa for a two day meeting?” she queried.
“They won’t let me stay away longer in my office,” I lied.
Her smile faded by a slight shade. Trouble. I dug in.
“Plus, my sister is due any day now. She’s married to a no-good guy who is in prison. I’m on standby on three
flights every day. If she goes into labor right now, I’m turning back,” I lied.
It’s crazy the things you do for love. I am a church going girl who gives ten percent of her salary as tithe to the
church. And, I’m Catholic – they don’t enforce those Old Testament rules in the 21st century. I always frown at
lying and deception. Now, I was Ms. Deception. All because of my Tunde. All because of love.
The immigrations lady shot me an affectionate look. I could swear I saw tears floating in her eyes.
“I so know what you’re saying. My sister is pregnant too and her man is in jail. I don’t know what she’s going to
do,” she blurted out.
She stamped my passport and passed it to me without another question.
My heart raced with delight. My palms were sweating. Even though the hall was fully air conditioned, I could feel a
line of sweat dribbling down the back of my neck.
I am officially in America!
“Thank you,” I said.
“I love your accent by the way,” the immigrations lady said.
“Thank you,” I replied and hurried away before she realized I was an impostor.
I wanted to jump up in joy. But, I had to be composed for a few more minutes.
Just to show me how lucky I would be in this America, God arranged it that as I got to the baggage carousel, my bag
was rolling down the chute. America is going to be good to me.
I got my luggage and strolled towards the arrival hall. I could see people in the arrival lounge waiting to receive
Then I saw him. My Tunde. He was holding a bouquet of flowers and several balloons. He had the biggest smile on his
face. I was so happy I wanted to cry. I would have run to him if my luggage wasn’t slowing me down.
I was a few steps away from the arrival lounge when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw the
glowering face of a customs officer looking at me. His dog bared his fangs at me.
“Please come with me,” the custom officer said.
It was an order. Not a request. He turned sharply, took his place beside me and marched me to a room at the far
corner of the hall. As I walked beside him, I could feel my heart slipping into my stomach.
The door opened and I stepped into a room with poor, shadowy lights. Two large, intimidating men stood at either
end of a table. They stretched their rubber gloves for effect, as if choreographed. I saw a sinister smile curl up
on the face of one of the men.
I swallowed hard. I’ve seen this before. In the movies. Anal probe. It all adds up. I’m from big, bad Nigeria. I
must surely be here with some drugs hidden in my bowels.
I set down my luggage, took off my jacket and started undoing the zipper of my trouser.
“What are you doing?” the man who had not been smiling barked at me.
“Getting ready,” I answered tamely.
“Getting ready for what?” the smiling agent who was no longer smiling shouted.
“You want to do a search, right?”
“You hiding something?”
I zipped my zipper back up. Perhaps the Americans have a new, more sophisticated way of searching for drugs that
didn’t include anal probe.
The officer who had led me in took my luggage and dumped them on the table. For the first time, I noticed the
yellow tag on my bags. It wasn’t there when I left Lagos. My mind was racing with a hundred thoughts. What did I do
wrong? After all I’d gone through to run away from Lagos, I couldn’t go back. Besides, my father’s curse was
waiting for me too.
“Do you have any banned food, agricultural produce or dairy in your bag”, one of the officers asked.
“No,” I replied.
One of the officers unzipped one of my bags. He flipped through the neat rows of clothes, magazines and books until
he discovered the five bounded herbal roots in a plastic bag at the bottom of the bag. The second agent grabbed
what looked like an x-ray of my bag from the top of a file cabinet. They compared the plastic bag and the x-ray
image and nodded in agreement. Then, they turned to me with that snarling smile of a boxer who has just shoved his
helpless, hapless challenger into a corner and is winding up for the kill.
“What is this?” the agent with the sinister smile asked.
“Herb,” I replied.
“No, it’s a drug”.
“A drug!” they chorused.
“Yes. A traditional drug,” I replied.
“You know penalty for trafficking drugs in the United States?”
“I am not trafficking. It’s for my private use”.
“Finally, a honest criminal!” the agent with the sinister smile declared.
I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that my medicinal drug, albeit of the traditional variety, was being
confused for a hard drug. At that moment I didn’t know that in America, a herb can be a weed and a weed can be a
herb. I also didn’t know that in America, a drug was called a medication.
Panicked, I told my first truth in America.
“I brought it as a precaution, in case I have malaria,” I said.
“You take drugs for malaria?” the non-smiling agent asked.
“Yes. It’s an African treatment. It’s faster than normal drugs,” I replied.
“You’re calling a medication a drug?” the agent who brought me in asked.
“Yes. We call a drug a drug or a medicine. But, medicine is too long,” I told him.
The agents shared a curious look. I could tell they were confused. Working at an airport like this, I’m sure they’
ve heard a lot of things. But, I guess they’ve never heard this.
“I tell you what, you prove that thing is what you say it is and we’ll let you go. If not, your ass is off to
jail,” the agent with a sinister smile declared.
“Can I have two bottles of sprite or 7Up please?” I pleaded as two lines of sweat dribbled from my scalp and down
“What for?,” the smiling agent asked.
“To prove myself,” I replied.
“You sure you don’t want a coca-cola? You know, ‘coke is it,” the agent with the sinister smile said with a sneer.
“I’m sure, sir,” I muttered.
“How long is it gonna take?” he asked
“At least four hours,” I responded.
My mind was in a riot. I was not going to bring the herb. But, my mother had insisted. She said she read once that
when people had malaria overseas, they sent them to Liverpool. Thanks to the game Americans call soccer, my mother
knew Liverpool was not in America because the city had a big football club in England.
She said the Americans would put me in a cage with dogs and send me to Liverpool where I would arrive with rabies
and other diseases the English can’t treat. In the end, a very short end, she emphasized, they would dig me a hole
and wait for me to die.
But, with these five bounded herbs, I can be my own doctor. Once I felt the chills of malaria, I can soak them up
in a bottle of gin or sprite and wait a few hours until the medicine seep into the sprite. Then, I can let the
herb-juiced sprite or gin loose on the malaria. It was better with gin but I know these agents will laugh me to
prison if I asked for a bottle of gin.
The officer who had marched me in returned with two bottles of Sprite.
“You want anything else?” he asked
“Yes, can I have my Bible? It’s in my briefcase,” I replied tamely.
He opened my briefcase, removed my Bible and handed it over to me.
I soaked two sticks of herb in a bottle of Sprite, closed the lid and opened my Bible to the book of psalms. I may
be in the land of Christopher Columbus. But, even Columbus bowed to one God. I was going to pray to that God. I
opened my Bible to the book of Psalms.
“Psalm 23 ain’t gonna help you,” the officer chuckled as he and his colleagues left the room and shut the steel
I was on Psalm 122 when the door opened again. The agent with a sinister smile and the unsmiling agent entered.
“What you got?” asked the agent with a sinister smile.
I opened the bottle of sprite with the herbs. The color had changed. I grinned. I can now prove my case to them.
Then, I tasted it and cringed. There was still too much sprite and too little herb.
“It’s not fully ready but a pharmacist can confirm the medicinal content,” I told them, spewing what I later learn
was called bull shitting in America.
“In this place, we’re the doctors, lawyers, nurses and pharmacists. As a matter of fact, we’re the judge and jury
too,” the unsmiling agent said.
The unsmiling agent grabbed the bottle, smelt it and frowned.
“It don’t smell like sprite no more,” he declared.
“Well, if you put shit in water, it’s gonna smell different,” the agent with a sinister smile answered as he fished
a handcuff out of his pocket.
The unsmiling agent tasted the herb-juiced sprite and flexed his jaw.
“It kindda have a kick,” he declared.
Curious, the agent with a sinister smile took the bottle and examined it for several seconds.
“Fuck it, I have insurance. Might as well use it if I have to,” he declared.
He takes a sip. Then a little more. He sets the bottle down, shoots me a confused look for a few moments then turns
to his colleague.
“It sure tastes like a goddamn syrup,” he said.
The agents looked at themselves for a few seconds. It felt like a lifetime. Finally, the unsmiling agent shut my
bag, put the handcuffs back in his pocket and smiled.
“Welcome to America”.America at Last
Five hours and forty-three minutes after the plane landed, I was finally free. I was in America. Tunde was waiting
“What happened?” he asked as soon as I walked out of Customs.
When I told him, he laughed so hard tears were streaming down his eyes. Then, he grabbed me in those firm, muscular
arms of his and lifted me up right outside the arrival hall.
“Welcome to America, my darling,” he said in a soft, happy voice.
I looked at America in the fading light and shrugged in surprise. I had imagined a sunny city with people so happy
it’s infectious. I had even glimpsed the sun and seen the people from the customs area.
Now, it was dark and gloomy and a little bit chilly. It was late September. I’m told this is the fall season – the
prelude to winter. People were wearing knickers and shorts. But, I was freezing.
If it ever gets this cold at any time of the year in my country, they may well declare a national emergency. Not
that it would help much though because the last time a president declared a national emergency, it was about the
infrequent power supply. At that time, we had power six hours every day. After he declared it a national emergency,
we were lucky to have power six hours every week.
But, why worry about the cold, I told myself. I was with the love of my life.
“I told you, didn’t I? Our children will be Americans,” Tunde said, reminding me of a promise he made to me on the
phone during one of his thousands of calls.
“And I told you, there is no place like home. We will stay here for a few years and go back home,” I responded.
“You call that place a country! With all those illiterates in power,” he hissed.
At that moment, Nigeria was the farthest thing from my mind. I was in God’s own country. Why worry about the
devil’s backyard? I pulled Tunde closer and kissed him. His lips were cold and chapped. But, it was the best kiss
I’ve had in four years. Heck, it was my first kiss in four years.
“I’ve made the best plan for your start in America,” Tunde announced. “Tonight, we sleep at the Hilton. Tomorrow,
we’re going to Atlantic City for the weekend. It’s going to be a blast”.
I wanted him to keep talking. I loved that he was still a romantic. I loved the sound of his voice. I even loved
the faint lisp that creeps into his speech sometimes. He was cute. He could be sitting on a toilet right now and
I’ll think he’s the cutest thing on God’s earth.
I didn’t want to go to a hotel or to Atlantic City. I wanted to go home and cook him a true Nigerian dinner. I
wanted to get in bed with him. I wanted to start working on a baby as soon as possible. I wasn’t getting any
younger. I was 27. And, I know a grandchild would heal the rift between my father and I.
“Just have a child as soon as you can, your father will forgive you. A new child solves every problem,” my mother
advised me on my last night in Lagos.
But, Tunde has a plan and we have to stick to it. That’s what a good wife does.
Just so we’re clear, dear diary – Tunde and I are legally and traditionally married. He paid my dowry before he
left Lagos. His family brought yams, wine and bags of rice to my family. Unknown to everyone but my two sisters,
brother and Tunde’s best friend, we were also legally married.
On the morning before he left for America, we drove to the registry in Lagos Island and took out a marriage
license. The reason we kept it a secret was because we are Nigerians and we like big wedding parties.
We had to get married before a priest then throw the mother of all parties – a party that was sure to disrupt
vehicular traffic in our neighborhood. It’s the only way we know how to do weddings in Nigeria. It doesn’t matter
if the next day, we’re as poor as church rats again. All that matters is that for one day, we were the talk of the
As soon as we got into the hotel room, I pounced on Tunde and drained every fluid in his groin. I woke up three
times during the night just to catch up with my sex quota. Four years is a long time for a girl to go without.
Tunde was so sore he screamed when water poured on his penis in the shower in the morning.
The next morning, we got in his car and headed for Atlantic City. My America journey was about to begin.
Something is bothering Tunde. He’s not saying what it is. But, a girl can tell. It’s the way his gaze drifts into
the distance when he should be ecstatic. It’s the slow, deliberate way he chews his food. It’s in the way he looks
at me when he thinks I’m not looking.
“Is everything okay?” I asked on our second night in Atlantic City.
“Yes, why?” he replied.
“I don’t know. I just feel something is on your mind,” I said.
“You worry too much, my darling,” he re-assured me. “Come on, get dressed, there’s a nice club I want to take you
“We can sleep in tonight. I have jetlag, “I protested.
“If we stay in, you know we won’t sleep,” he replied with a knowing wink.
“Well, I’m not getting any younger. My goal is to have our first child within a year,” I confessed.
“You’re not God. You can’t force these things,” he said.
“Heaven helps those who help themselves. It’s in the Bible,” I responded.
“We have plenty of time. I want to show you some of my latest moves,” he pleaded.
I gave in reluctantly. I don’t want this man wasting his energy on the dance floor when we can be using that energy
to make babies. But, a girl needs to keep her man happy.
Tunde has indeed learnt a lot of dance moves. Back in Lagos, he was like a programmed robot on the dance floor.
But, now on the dance floor, he’s moving like a leaf in the wind. He could move in so many ways you’ll think he was
a ballerina in a previous life. We were a hit on the dance floor, well, Tunde was. Half the night, I was stealing
glances at the many girls who wished he was dancing with them.
I woke up very early this morning. It was time to return to Baltimore, Tunde’s base.
I had dreamt of Baltimore for four years. Tunde has told me a lot about it. I could picture people eating seafood
at restaurants. I could picture Tunde at work in his small newspaper office. I could picture the town home he
bought a little over a year ago in anticipation of my coming over.
I was eager to start my new life.
Tunde slept longer than usual. Sometimes, I felt he was looking at me but when I turned around, his eyes were
firmly closed. Maybe I was too eager to leave this crazy city with the gamblers, drunks and casinos, and go home
with my husband.
Finally, he woke up and looked at me with such sad eyes I thought someone had died.
“What’s wrong, darling?” I asked.
“There is something I have to tell you,” he started mournfully.
Whatever it was, I knew it was bad. But, this is why we’re partners, I told myself. We can face anything together.
“What is it?” I asked.
“When I told you I had my papers, I wasn’t telling the truth,” he continued.
“You’re still illegal?” I asked.
“No, I’m legal now,” he replied.
“Well, it’s all a matter of details. You don’t have to tell me anything if it makes you feel bad,” I assured him.
“It’s the way I got it,” he said.
“Tunde, don’t worry. You got it. I’m here. We have each other. That’s what matters to me,” I told him.
“I had to marry a girl to get my papers,” he muttered sadly.
I burst into laughter. I have heard about this and know people pay women to pretend they are their wives so they
can get a green card. I was laughing out of relief. I was relieved that my Tunde was still the same. He never lies
“It’s okay, darling – I hear everyone does it,” I reassured him.
“You’re sure?” he answered with a frown.
“Oh, yeah – you did what you had to do,” I told him.
“Oh, thank God. I was worried,” he exhaled.
I pushed him on the bed and started kissing him.
“You are all that I care about,” I told him.
“You don’t know how relieved I am. We’re gonna have to make some adjustment for the next year or so?” he said.
“You’re still paying her?” I asked.
“Technically,” he replied.
That was a red flag. When Tunde dribbles himself into a tight corner, he always throws out the word, “technically”.
“How technical?” I asked.
“Well, um, we kind of live together,” he muttered.
“What?” I screamed.
“I had to do it for real or she won’t buy it. But, don’t worry, I have about ten months left before my permanent
green card comes,” he said, rushing the words, maybe in the hope that I wouldn’t hear every thing. But, my ears
have never been more alert.
“You are married!” I yelled.
He had no answer. He couldn’t say a word.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I screamed.
“I tried,” he replied.
“Holy Mary mother of God!” I exclaimed.
“Listen, honey – just bear with me. You’re the most important person to me,” he pleaded.
He kept going on and on. He pleaded, cried and pleaded some more. I think this is what they call a shock because my
mind went blank. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t cry.
In my haze, I heard him say he already told “Sandra”, that was the name of his wife, that his younger sister was
coming from Nigeria and was going to stay with them until she sorts herself out.
I left Nigeria to be with the man of my dreams. In America, I was his sister.
My Husband’s Wife
Sandra is a plump, colorless, pasty white woman with a voice that sounds like metal grinding on metal. She is
twenty years older than Tunde. She is the kind of woman I knew Tunde would not give a second look. Tunde is her
third husband and she looks at him like you would look at a favorite puppy.
I guess the green card makes a man do strange things.
What Sandra lacked in looks and figure, she more than made up for with personality. She was kind, caring and had
everything you look for in a big aunty. But, she was my husband’s wife. That made her the devil.
“Hey, Ralph, you brought my new sister home!” she screeched as she ran over to the car to welcome us.
It took me a few moments to realize he was talking about Tunde. I didn’t know he had become Ralph. His parents
didn’t name him Ralph. He’s a Moslem. His first name is Ramoni.
I nodded subconsciously at Sandra. I couldn’t look at her. I feared I would jump at her and tear her into pieces.
So, I looked at the floor. She thought it was the way Nigerians showed respect.
“You see the resemblance, sweetheart?” Tunde asked as he kissed Sandra.
“Oh, yes – honey. Almost spitting image,” Sandra declared.
I felt like throwing up. I felt like running away. I felt like screaming. But, all I did was shake my head and
force a grin.
“I’m just trying to make my baby happy, sweetheart. You don’t look like him. You’re a very beautiful woman,” she
whispered as she hugged me.
I was limp in her arms. I guess my body was cold too because she pulled away and gave me a really strange look.
“Are you okay, darling?” she asked.
“She has a cold. It’s never this cold in my country,” Tunde offered before I could say anything.
“Oh, poor baby. We need to wrap you up and get you some tea and soup,” Sandra said as she hustled me into the
A chill ran up my spine as I sat in the cramped living room. I couldn’t look up because the sight of their wedding
picture was giving me a massive headache. Her hand touching me made me squirm. Sandra thought I was shivering with
“Poor you. We’re having an unusually early cold draft this year,” she said as she handed me a cup of tea.
“Thank you,” I muttered as I sipped the tea. It tasted like poison. I loved it. I wanted to die.
Tunde pranced around like a kid in a toy store. He was making an African soup in the kitchen and acting like all
Half an hour after we got into the house, Tunde brought me a tray with a bowl of egusi and pounded yam on it.
“Your favorite food, huh?” he beamed.
I wish I’d taken an acting lesson in Lagos. A lot of people were. Everyone wanted to be part of Nollywood. Except
poor, stupid me. Now, I regretted it. If I had been part of a movie in Lagos, this would be a piece of cake.
Sandra was watching me keenly. I felt like I was in front of a shrink. I hate shrinks. I hate to be analyzed. In my
country, if your health required the attention of a shrink, you were unofficially categorized as “crazy” and cast
off. I was determined not to allow Sandra analyze me.
I swiped a mound of pounded yam, swished it around the bowl of egusi and slotted it in my mouth. It felt like a
thorn as it slipped into my stomach. I was beyond caring. I stuffed myself. Tunde was happy. Sandra was amazed a
smallish woman like me could eat that much. She didn’t know I was trying to gorge myself to death.
Then, I gagged and threw up. All over the white rug.
I expected Sandra to blow a lung. But, all she said was, “poor baby, we have to get you to bed”.
The best lie Tunde told on my behalf was my cold. Sandra took me into the guest bedroom and tucked me under layers
“Get some rest. When you wake up, you can have some soup. I never liked any of that white flour thing Ralph eats
anyway,” Sandra said as she left the room.
Later I found out that Tunde had told Sandra that he was working back-to-back double shifts at his nursing job then
driving to New York to pick me up. Then, he called from New York that I missed my flight so he was staying an extra
day in New York. That was how he finagled the Atlantic City trip.
I didn’t even know Tunde was a nurse now. When he called me in Lagos, he told me he worked in a local newspaper. He
told me he has a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia. He told me he missed me and was scared he won’t know
what to do with me when we meet again because he hasn’t been with a woman in four years.
He fed me lies. And, I ate it all up. I hate the word love right now. Love sucks.
I couldn’t sleep that night. How could I? My husband was making love to his wife in the next room. Americans don’t
build walls with bricks. They use wood. Sandra wasn’t a quiet woman in the sack. She ran a play-by-play account of
I also couldn’t help but realize that today was the first day of October, the day the old politician was going to
marry me. I could be laying beside him right now and planning a move to New York as his American-based wife. I
could have moved to New York, got myself a lover or two on the side and when he comes to town every other month,
I’d pretend he was the center of my universe.
I had little to lose. Life expectancy in Nigeria was below fifty. The man was in his sixties. He was already on
overtime. With a little luck, he’ll be dead in a couple of years.
But, I ran away from it. I ran to doom instead.
I drifted to sleep hoping I would die before dawn.My Life Sucks!
I did not die.
I woke up to an empty house. I think I half-expected Tunde to take the day off on my first day in his house. In
Nigeria, you can call off from work at the last minute and everything would be fine. But, as I would find out
later, in America, you don’t do that. Every hour counts. You have to pay the bills.
I wasn’t in the mood to see anyone anyway. When I woke up, I listened hard to make sure there was no one in the
house. Then, I got up and found the note under the door.
“Aya mi, hope you had a good night. I’m off to work. There is food in the fridge. I’ll see you later, oko re to to,
Tunde” the note read.
For the first time in my life, I felt like killing someone. If Tunde was in the house at that moment, I would have
taken a kitchen knife, carved out his heart and hung it on the front door as an example for every dishonest men.
His note basically said, “My wife – hope you had a good night. I’m off to work. There is food in the refrigerator,
I’ll see you soon, Tunde, your true husband”.
This man is not only a lying, cheating scumbag. He’s also heartless.
I walked around the house in a daze. I didn’t eat the food in the refrigerator. I wasn’t hungry. My stomach was
filled with grief. My heart was aching. I hated myself.
How did my life get to be like this? Why didn’t I take the hint in Tunde’s voice when we talked on the phone before
I left Lagos? Now, I can see why he didn’t suggest I run to America when I told him my father was trying to marry
I didn’t feel bad for myself. I despised myself.
I was due for a promotion to branch manager in two years in my bank in Lagos. It was a position that came with a
car, a house, a cook, a steward and a big expense account. Before I left Lagos, I had a flat, a used car and a
I left all that for love. I bought a ticket to hell.
Tunde came home first. He had that stupid grin he always wore on his face when he was excited. Stupid me, I used to
think that grin was cute. Now, I can see it for what it really is – a silly look on a grown man’s face.
“I left work early. I did some shopping for you,” Tunde enthused as he handed me a bag of clothes and shoes.
The bag slipped off my hands and fell to the floor. Tunde grabbed it and shot me a confused look.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
Somehow, that question snapped something in me. I grabbed the bag from him and flung it at the television. Tunde
ran to the 42-inch television, catching it before it crashed to the floor. He steadied it back on the wall and
turned to me.
“You think this is easy for me?” he asked.
“Stop patronizing me. I am not a fool. I’m not going to play your silly games!” I screamed at him.
“What games? This is for us, our future. I need the papers for us,” he pleaded.
“There is no us. There is you and there is me,” I yelled.
“I know you’re angry. But, just reason with me right now,” he said, holding my hand.
“Don’t you ever touch me,” I said as I yanked my hand away.
“You can’t do this. If Sandra knows what’s up, we’re both fucked. We’ll both be in Lagos before the weekend,” he
“That’s your bag of wahala”, I replied as I stomped up the stairs to the guest bedroom and slammed the door shut.
I didn’t open the door for the rest of the day. I don’t know what lie Tunde told Sandra. But, she didn’t bother me