I took a trip two days ago to my country’s capital, Abuja, to sit for a visa interview at the States embassy. Just wanted to get it renewed; the last one I had expired in late June. Unfortunately it didn’t go so well, as you can see from the above listed document. According to them, I’d spent a much longer time frame in the States during my previous visit, and I hadn’t shown signs of acclimatizing myself back in my country. Those guys sure know how to give you devastating news with legalese type of language. I reckon folks won’t need to visit doctors anymore to enquire whatever’s wrong with them; a lawyer, or at least someone who knows how to talk with fancy words would do the job just right.
Wasn’t like I had much of a choice, or that I was aware of this. It’s hard meeting with literary agents, let alone knowing when you’re ever going to get word from them regarding them reading through your work. Not saying those guys don’t do perfect jobs, but . . . between me being homeless when in New York City, and eventually returning home a month later, back in the past . . . I think something happened along the way. Something I missed, because right now I can’t think a single thing I ought have done but didn’t. Reminds me of that Eryka Badu’s song from her ‘Mama’s Gun’ album:
“I’m trying to decide
Which way to go
I think I took a wrong turn back there somewhere.”
– Eryka Badu: Didn’t You Know.
Did it hurt getting turned down? Yes, it did. But what’s done is done. No use crying over spilled milk. What next to do is what I don’t know.
I’m going to see about getting that old manuscript of mine ‘The Rabbit’s Man’ published on Lulu and set it at a free price. Everything about the book disgusts me presently. It’s been the bane of my troubles, and I’d like nothing but cast it off my eyes.
I’m so lazy when it comes to updating this blog of mine. Don’t know why, but I’m always lethargic when it comes to me talking about myself, not to mention writing about myself. I know if ever I do become famous, I’m never going to sit and write my biography. I won’t even want to read it. Biographies are never meant for writers. Sure, a statesman, a holder of public office, a celebrity, or someone of notoriety can pen a biography, and who wouldn’t want to read about them. Look at how many biographies have been written on Elvis and the Beatles already . . . but not for writers. I don’t want to read J.K. Rowland’s biography and hear her mention where she was or what she was doing when the idea for Harry Potter came to her. That’s dumb. So, for those who do get a chance to stop by here, forgive my lateness, and let me resume from where I stopped . . .
* * * * *
It’s a strange and surreal feeling when you’re landing in JFK airport in New York. Hearts drumming, yet trying to maintain poise even as the plane’s wheels touched the tarmac and rolled toward the terminal 4 building and then we all filed out. Always a lengthy queue in there, especially in the tourism section, but that’s to be expected. Everybody dressed for the summer . . . except me, of course. I doubt if I was dressed at all for anything. Just couldn’t wait to get past Homeland security and see what the country looks like outside the airport.
I did eventually walk past the front doors, and that was when I got a shock of reality: I’d made it! I’d made it into a new world. Everything looked so different. Hard to explain for an American to understand, but for someone coming from where I did, you wouldn’t understand and I can’t find the words to express the joy, happiness, sadness and awe that rolled through my gut as I walked toward a taxi. It won’t be the first time, but right then, it might as well could have been.
I’d quit my job back home and now I was in the land of sharks. It was either sink or swim from here on, and trust me when I say that nothing ever really prepares you for this. Africa felt like a distant planet from where I was. No way to communicate with anyone back home, and even if I wanted to, I doubt they were going to give me any good news.
My friend still lived in the building I’d visited him last time in Mount Vernon. Though it wasn’t a happy reunion this time around.
The need to travel was an urgent desire I couldn’t stem down. Like a fire burning in my gut I felt would consume me had I not set my mind toward it. My date of travel was set on June 12. My birthday was a few days away and I was determined to spend it in a foreign land.
Was I afraid to be doing this? Very much I was. I was so afraid some nights as the inevitable day approached, I thought I felt my blood boiling underneath my skin. It was a big risk I was taking: quitting my job and setting sail for a world I’ve never been to before, all to see about chasing after a dream of becoming a published writer. Some might argue (and really, a lot of my friends already did before I took this decision), against my going all the way to the U.S., to see about getting my book published. The irony is that I know few people around me who indulge in the habit of reading anymore. Creativity is something that’s lacking in my society, and even then it’s hard getting normal folks to understand the magic behind stringing a pair of words together to create a thought process.
The day arrived, and I boarded a flight from Port Harcourt to Lagos, and spent several hours in a lengthy queue before getting my passport stamped at the Lagos Muirtala Mohammed Int. airport. Plenty of travelers there, though I doubt any of them had the same journey mentality as I had. The hour arrived and we all filed into the plane an hour before midnight. I must have held my breath when the plane took off into the air, and plenty of fellow Nigerians occupying the Economy class section of the Arik flight burst in high spirits of hand-clappings and praising as the plane’s wheels left the earth and took us into the sky. I looked out my window and the city’s disappearing lights, wondering if I would see everything again in the same way as I was then leaving.
I remained in my seat soaking up everything in disbelief. I had a novel in my hand, but I was too caught up in the moment to think of opening a page. Moments like this, you feel your life flash before your eyes: everything you’ve been through before and how it all possibly somehow led to this moment, to this action happening. You weight every choice you’ve made against choices you didn’t take, and you keep beating yourself over the head about it: Am I doing the right thing or not?
That question has never left my head since I arrived in the U.S., and even after I left. Even as I sit down to write this, I still don’t think I’ve arrived at the answer. I can only take a cue from that classic movie The Sound of Music:
“Somewhere in my youth or childhood,
I must have done something good.”