The Adventures of Saudiq Amao- Oríolórí
This short story contains foreign language, Nigerian slangs and some inappropriate use of diction. This is for the proper portrayal of the character.
Saudiq Amao had landed in America; the land of his dreams and beneath its soil he intended to be buried. If indeed he was buried elsewhere, he swore his spirit would roam and haunt anyone to whom he chose to show himself. The plane had come to a stop and he immediately joined a chorus of applause that had erupted from the rear of the craft. Was it customary to clap for the driver when he got to his park safely? He thought about his years of thoughtless pursuit of the Naira, exerting himself from the early hours of the morning, driving a bus full of passengers who were forever ungrateful and full of opinions about his driving.
“Reduce your speed”, one old woman would cackle. It was always the old women who commenced the chorus of ingratitude; like they had doubts about living forever.
“Small, small o, oga”, a commuting student would lament.
“I heard they have charms, these bus drivers”, an assertive female voice would add, “My cousin was in an accident and the driver kissed a ring on his finger and disappeared just before the head-on collision!” Necks strained and eyes would glance at Saudiq’s finger but then dismissed the tale, since there was no validation.
Sometimes, whenever he missed their banter, he hit the brakes suddenly, dropping from 120km/hour. He chuckled at the astounded cries and yelps, usually from those who had the irritating habit of falling asleep in public transport. He would admit that it would have been enjoyable if they clapped whenever he got them to the motor park of their destination. Instead, they would get off his bus and thank Jesus, some grunted in relief or were on their phones, already making calls.
The plane ride was very frightening and he wished he could talk to the driver to reduce his speed. He instead told the flight attendant to tell the driver that he needed to reduce his speed. During the flight, he had been awakened by the tossing of the aircraft. The cabin tilted left and right and bolted up and down. By then, he was pressing an invisible brake pedal beneath the chair in front of him and holding on to his neighbor, an old catholic woman who prayed her rosary. He held on to her rosary too.
Saudiq walked slowly, taking in the newness of a place outside Nigeria. In the real sense of it, he had no idea where he was on the planet but he knew this was not Nigeria. The moment they had been let off the plane, suddenly, there were so many oyinbos everywhere, mingling with the new arrivals. Some of them carrying traveling bags too. So the oyinbo sef dey travel? Everything was talking. He saw a moving staircase and made a mental note to stay away from it. Then he saw people moving along a floor belt without walking, it was like the brother of the moving stairs. The brother seemed to be speaking, a voice was carried in the air followed by a loud pinging sound. Music came from invisible speakers. He walked behind the Catholic woman because he didn’t know where to go. Where would he go? How did one get out to the streets of New York? When Remi had given him the passport, he hadn't given him all the answers but he told him not to be timid at the border.
“Let them know you know what you are doing,” he said in that low tone which made people recommend him for all shifty transactions, stammering intermittently, especially when he was trying to instill courage. “Je kan mo kpe, JJC* ko ni e o.”
In truth, Saudiq had no idea what he was doing. All he knew was that he was in America in the land he would die and be buried, even if it meant he never had to leave the airport. There were signs all around but he couldn’t make out what they meant. There were green signs and yellow signs. He had tried reading them but gave up, reading was never a strength. Instead, he pressed respectably close to the woman who walked rather briskly for her age. Soon she turned into a row of waist-high obstacles connected by blue bands of belts, like he usually saw at the bank. She came to a stop behind a short queue. At the beginning of the queue, people walked forward to speak with uniformed men behind glass windows. There might have been one or two female officers but not many. He made a mental note to go to the women. He always had better luck with them, which explained his endless list of illegitimate children.
In less than 10 minutes, he was standing before a grim-faced white man, most of his hair near his ears.
Saudiq passed him the passport and stared through the glass, his heart thumped as the officer looked at him and passed back the passport.
“This line is for U.S citizens only, please go to the other line.” He gestured to the right. Saudiq followed his hand movement with his eyes and nodded but remained in front of the man, determined not to look like a JJC. What did the man say?
“Next please”, the man signaled to the family who stood behind him- a young Nigerian couple.
“Sir”, the officer spoke to Saudiq, “Please move over to the next line. You go to “All other passports, OK?”
Saudiq nodded and remained still.
The couple were now standing next to him.
“Oga, the man say make you shift go that side. This one na for people wey be Americana.” The young man helped.
Saudiq grinned widely, exposing a gold tooth and a gap in the lower rack of his teeth. “Ose! I no dey hear anything he talk. So you don turn Americana? Chai, God o.” he smiled brightly at them, prayed for them in Yoruba, much to the wonder of the immigration officer and the amusement of the young wife.
“Passport, please.” The new officer had more hair, gold hair, like an albino's. He also had blue eyes. Why did he have blue eyes? Saudiq found it unsettling, these blue eyes. He immediately disliked the man because he had no darkness to his eyes.
“So Mr. Kenneth Amah, why are you here?” The officer flipped through the passport.
“Yes.” Saudiq answered.
The blue-eyed man looked up at him.
“I asked why you are here, Mr Amah? Why are you visiting?”
Remi had not mentioned an interview. He thought they would check his luggage and stamp his passport and let him go. He thought paying N250,000 for a passport that already contained an American visa would grant him access to his new life. He could almost taste it.
“Because of work”, he said honestly.
“Sir, do you have a work permit, a green card or any document you can present showing you are authorized to work in the United States?” Did the man with the blue eyes have a soul? His eyes made his being look porous. Was he a spirit? Did he know he had bought someone’s stolen passport? How did he know?
“Sir, are you authorized to work in the United States?" He repeated.
“I don’t understand you—sir”, Saudiq said. Did everyone say "Sir" here?
“Are you here to work and can you work?”
“Yes, sir. I can work, Sir. I am here to work.”
“So can I see your work card?”
He remembered a few handy tips Remi gave him. The Americans don't discriminate against religion. He hadn't understood what that meant. Remi rephrased, "Tell them you don come see different churches, you wan start your own church for Naija."
“Sir, I don’t understand you before. I am here for the work of God.”
He waited for the officer to bite.
“You mean, you are a pastor or a minister? Do you have an invitation or a certificate?”
“No, not pastor. Just worker. For God.”
The officer began to show impatience.
"Sir, have you ever been to the United States?"
The blue eyed spirit-man gave Saudiq a prolonged stare.
"Sir, could you tell me what your name is?"
"It is Saudiq Amao", he said thoughtlessly.
"Sir, the name on this passport is Kenneth Amah.” He showed the detail page of the passport to Saudiq. “Please step aside, sir.”
Soon three uniformed officials led Saudiq into an inner room. They sat him down at a small table and started to speak. Saudiq didn't understand most of what they said. He understood later that evening however, when he was placed on a flight back to Lagos.
3 months later
Saudiq Amao had landed in Ukraine; the land of his dreams and beneath its soil he intended to be buried. He looked into the eyes of the immigration officer and out of his head stared blue eyes. Today na today.
Copyright ©2016 by IkeOluwapo Adegboye
*Oyinbo: A Nigerian slang used to describe a foreigner or anyone seemingly fair in complexion
*JJC: A Nigerian slang which is short for "Johnny-Just-Come"; used to describe an inexperienced new-comer (synonym: Newbie)