— At midnight, in the cosmopolitan town of peckham, precisely two hours before due labor, Adugo stared blankly at the images reeling on the 14 inch plasma television. She had tuned in for the recent update on BBC, seated idly on a leather-made, red sofa abutting a glass-fitted rectangular shaped centre table stacked with outmoded Metro Newspaper and The Sun. A humble collection of journals peddled throughout the Metropolis and distant Esplanades to the far flung corners of Brighton, stretching beyond the timeless farmlands that lent New England a countrified impression.
It was winter and the pageantry of Christmas was on the cusp between high-octane celebration and the anxious fever pinch of New Year – the sky-rioting pinpricks of fireworks, the revelries of life marking the genesis in the epic page of a fresh start in the sky of London. Within African families, black individuals flooded the streets in blizzard conditions, toiling for a pittance in yet another round of revamped slavery not with a sense of profound terror but with a conscious approval of their perpetual servitude – a tacit consent of their unspoken willingness to be enslaved under the pretext of survival – a quest for better life, in an alien enclave they deem as home in contrast to their place of origin.
For Adugo, migrating from the benighted city of Onitsha to the suburb of London felt more depressing, more challenging than she had envisaged. Her perception about life in the UK as black, bordered on wishful thinking. Within six months abroad on a visiting visa, there was nothing to comfort her in the serene sequoia pasturage she had flocked into as an unsettled bird, settling in an alien nest. She had gathered that Africans, in spite of their undeniable contributions to the growth of the UK – their insipid past as Slaves has become an intrinsic part of black history – the condescending identity of the black race.
It wasn’t until she was on a plane, flying for the first time in her life on a BOIENG 331, from Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, as she was drifting over parts of Abuja she had hoped never to set foot again, and then even farther, outside the purview of Nigeria, that she had realized how difficult it was to be black. ‘If only I was anything but black…’ Her husband – Chime, had told her one fateful night. For the past sixteen months, ever since he arrived in Oxford on a student visa, nothing burnt more deeper in his memory than the night he was racially abused by a band of white youths who thought it wise to animate a stinging parody of his resemblance with a monkey.
Throughout the experience, the growing discomfort, the systemic racism, Chime never faltered in his determined quest to start a family – to raise a child in a country he felt unwelcomed. It was not the joy of fatherhood, which he knew somehow, he would become. It was the undeniable consequence: a search for greener pastures. In some ways, the painful moment of that night made less sense to his existence as a black migrant, the scenes he remembered so vividly and engraved so fully in his consciousness grew more profound, shedding light on all that was illogical, all that was unfair about the world. It was not the memory of pain that ravaged him; he had no memory of that page at all. It was simply the memory of racial baiting, the conscious discrimination, the persistent fear overwhelming his spirit, that he might never be considered human enough, to secure a dignified future, to be treated as an equal member of the human race. Each passing day, to bolster his spirits, his marriage to Adugo reminded him of a favorable future in England, the day he would no longer shudder at the thoughts of his visa on a countdown to expiration. He would finally breathe the air of freedom. It was for this, each day, that he and Adugo had envisioned another sort of future of having a child in London – an anchor baby, an attempt to achieve a sense of safety, of being a cellular part of the entire body that represented the ideal pasturage…
It was twelve midnight, already bed time in Peckham’s busy day. And now that there was barely space inside her, Adugo waited with great anticipation for the moment. It had been series of sleepless nights, the slow wintry mornings in bed, the dull throbbing in her back, her swollen face aching against smudged Mary Kay foundation. A strange sensation flooding her abdomen as she gasped for air, tossing the orange fruit with a slight thud on the carpeted floor, daring to pacify the enduring spasm of contraction, so violent, she could almost feel her baby arriving out of the blue. Pressing her back against the sofa, she cried out to attract swift attention to her side. London seconds tick tocking on top of her pulse rate. She is sweating now, subconsciously incoherent when she spoke or uttered a sound, her fingers gripping on the side cushion. For an instant, she felt the overriding weight of the baby pulling her universe down to her knees with striking urgency. Six months in London and she still was not acquainted with the speed dial – a call for emergency – it was not the type of thing Nigerian wives do when the labor pain kicks in. Tears and confusion feeding on her countenance. Even when she called out to Chime, she did not say his name. He was not even there. It never occurred to him that her delivery time was due. It was unprecedented, unscripted. Given the nature of his job, he barely spent time at leisure in the comfort of the scarcely cavernous space – a two bed-room suburban flat. The neighbors could not hear the loud shrieks renting the air, pulling the height of the building with banging echoes. No. they too were black migrants with anchor babies, toiling in the wintry night to add economic value in the foreign country they had inhabited.
Home was never an option, even though they lived amongst the host as commoners and revamped slaves, it was a poison worth a sip. They reasoned that: as long as their children are born within the purview of Britain, it mattered in their struggle for a new freedom. Adugo realizing she was alone, surrendered her fate to Providence. The living room was apt to play the unscripted role of the maternity home. In the luxury of uninterrupted privacy, she launched the first push of life as the baby’s head eased out in slow measured movements. Holding her breath, amidst the wailing, the terrible crunching squeal, the loquacious commentary on BBC, the world drifting over her face while she pressed on. Images of death flickering in her turbulent mind, she could taste her death from the tears crawling down from her swollen eyes, dripping into her widened mouth. With the last ounce of strength, she redoubled her efforts, streaks of blood gushing out from her temple. A living creature draped with sticky white paste popped out, releasing her from the blistering pain between her thighs. With the instinct of a mother, she held it on crossed-feet, shivering with disbelief as the sound of a newborn fluttered incessantly. She knew it was over, emptied from inside. Her eyes drooped prominently. She screamed for help but to no avail. She clipped the cord with bare hands. The circles beneath her eyes enveloping her sight, looking on the verge of eternal sleep. Her baby piercing the grave silence with a long-lived cry, as if aware of the dead pulse on the feet cradling its head. Adugo was gone. Her child partially orphaned in a strange world. She would never know, if her anchor baby will be considered human enough – a soul in black skin. She could only hope on the other side, that the flesh of her flesh, the soul of her soul would be called HUMAN by the host and not labeled as yet another monkey from Africa.