He sat in the shadows, the glass of wine hanging loosely in his hands, the soft sound of Coldplay floating in the room like suspended musical chords. His eyes stared blankly into the distance, seeing nothing yet transfixed by the imagery in his mind. A partially-cooked smile lingered on his face, his eyes glazed and moist as the memories trickled in...
"6 years ago, a young naive student stepped off the plane from Naija. He was dressed in his favorite jeans, a thick light-brown sweater his dad had given him and a pair of timbaland boots. He had $5000 cash in his back pocket, money that was to tide him over for the next couple of months. Like every newbie, he believed that he would find a job shortly afterwards and begin the pursuit of the american dream. He spent his first night in his hotel room on the 10th floor, overlooking the Newark skyline, giddy with excitement, watching the stars as they twinkled and whispered their welcome to him..."
"A few weeks had gone by, no one told him it would be this hard to get a job on campus. He had filled out countless applications, polished his nigerian accent as best as he could and smiled as hard as he could while dropping off his resume at different offices. The smile felt permanently etched on his face, like a mask that couldn't be washed off. Beneath the smile, he was nervous and worried about the future. The academic work wasn't an issue for him, but his naivety about America being the promised land was gradually wearing off..."
"Finally! At last! He heaved a huge sigh of relief as he started his first job, a desk attendant. His Warri friend back in Nigeria had laughed when he told him with pride that he finally got a job. "Na security work u dey do for there?", was the question. He sought for the words to explain that being a desk attendant was different but at that point he didn't care, he would have gladly taken a security gig if they would hire him. The job paid $8.15 an hour for the graveyard shift, all he could hear in his head was the sound of gold coins...ka ching..."
"Bros, I'll give you a simple word of advice: Find someone and arrange your papers. You can't make it in this country on an F-1 visa, that was the 'advice' he heard from his fellow africans in diaspora. "Nna men, you gotta do what you gotta do, just arrange the thing sharply, else you go roast for here". He laughed it off, that was not even an option for him. He still remembered when he first went off to Port Harcourt for his undergrad, his father's advice had been : "Biko, don't get any girl pregnant, those Port harcourt and Calabar girls there are very fine o". His mother had retorted angrily "How will he get someone pregnant? He is just a young boy, abi all the bible we have been reading in this house is in vain? Emma ekwu zi na o di ihe a (Emma, stop saying things like that)". So he couldn't imagine himself 'marrying for papers', that was simply impossible. By conventional standards he was pretty intelligent, so getting a job after graduation didn't look like a daunting prospect for him. Moreover, Abraham had a son at age 100, how hard could this possibly be...
"He pulled the tie off his neck in anger. He had spent hours at another frustrating career fair, smiling like a circus monkey, speaking polished English, and handing out his resume to prospective employers. It was all a ritual, they would accept his resume, gush about his excellent grades and qualifications, commend his almost American accent, and then hit him with the common chorus "we'll get back to you...". But they never got back to him, he looked at the mirror in despair. Maybe it was his skin, but he was fairer than Obama for pete's sake! Or his accent? C'mon, even the Indians thought he was American. So what could it possibly be? After a few minutes, his eyes finally opened. He realized that being referred to as an "International Student or F-1 student" was not a compliment, it was just another fancy term masking the harsh reality of life. He jumped on google and tried to trace the path to making it in the promised land the hard way, the chart read: "F1-H1-Green Card-Citizenship-American Dream". He found it quite funny. "So which dream i dey since?", he wondered to himself.
NB: This is dedicated to a special group of people, my Day 1 homiez : G.Sachs a.k.a. Confam Bubbler, Fuji Rockstarz a.k.a. Mushin,Yung Ronaldo, Femo, Babse, Chris Phelps, Fola_Munchen and Remix... We go make am one day!