“So you think you’re a big girl now Miss England?”
“No. It’s just that the last time that we all worked together, I ended up doing most of the work.”
The only thing that Ezimaka hated more than group projects, was her new nickname. She never thought that she would miss people calling her ‘easy maker,’ but she expected to feel safe at home. She expected to feel the comforts at home, but the domestics that she engaged in made her feel all the more foreign. Miss England. How ironic, she was not English or even British. When she got to Heathrow airport, the immigration officer stared her up and down, she was bewildered. She commented on the fact that it is very rare to see Africans leave the UK to have their babies, she then went on to enquire whether or not she was flying to the USA instead and after hearing Ezimaka’s response, her bewilderment turned to pity. It was not until she was sitting in that study room, that she realised that it was not only him that she missed, but England.
She was not a big girl. Just the daughter of a big man. A big man, a man who was so ashamed of his daughter’s truth that he turned it into a secret. When she returned to Enugu, she did not feel as though she had returned. Her family was unfamiliar. Everything was unfamiliar. She expected everything to be the same but her room had been turned in to her mother’s second wardrobe so for months, she walked around the room, as if on eggshells.
“That’s one thing I hated and loved about you, Ezimaka, you never stood up for yourself. You still don’t.” He spoke to her as if he was speaking to a child, not the mother of his child, of her child, of their child. It was not that he didn’t respect her, he was just tired. Tired of the fact that she spoke as though she were a spectator of her own life. He was tired of the fact that she was now in his house for around thirty minutes but she had still only managed to tell her about how hard it is for the African diaspora at home and abroad. He was well aware of that. A product of the Windrush, he knew what it meant to not feel at home. He had so many questions that he wanted to ask her but he did not want to rush her. He was scared. Scared that she would leave again.
He looked different. She thought that he had aged well. She wondered if he thought that she had aged well. His words stung her. He spoke about his feelings for her in the past tense and she knew that she had no right to demand him to acknowledge her in the present. She was grateful. Grateful that he even invited them in.
Them. Ifechi could cut the tension with a knife. He had never felt so awkward in his life. It should not have felt like this. He did not know how it should feel, but he knew that this was not the feeling. As he looked at the two of them, he hated himself. He put a full stop where there should have been a comma. He knew that his parents could have been but because they became his parents a full stop took the place of a comma. As he glanced at his mother, he had never seen her so weak. He found it hard to believe that the woman sitting beside him was the same woman who shouted at her own mother as she put their bags into the taxi as they headed to the airport and who worked 16-hour shifts most days leading up to Christmas. Her weakness made him realise that his mother dreamed that this full stop was, in fact, an ellipsis. But as he looked at the pictures on the wall, of his dad and the woman that he would soon come to know as ‘Angela,’ he could see his dad had seen the full stop and not just started a new paragraph, but a new chapter.
It was not that she had never spoken up for herself. Miss England was forced to find her voice when she returned to Enugu, she was forced to become a big girl and in order for her to be a big girl, she had to learn to speak her mind despite being comfortable in the silence. It was not that she had never spoken up for herself or that she was still the young girl that he knew. She was scared. Scared that he would ask her to leave.
There were many unspoken words that day and many words spoken that had no purpose but to fill the air. It was in that room that Ifechi found his voice. He was the semi colon, bringing together two sentences who alone were strong but only realised how incomplete they were once in the presence of each other.