I am an asylum seeker in Boston, Gemy tells himself. I walked past South and North Carolina on my arrival in America because I spent half my life fleeing typhoons in Zimbabwe only to be told by a CBP officer at Charleston Airport that, all hurricanes that wallop the Carolinas are born in West Africa!
I wasn’t furious, Gemy tells himself. We, refugees, are the last people expected to hate America.
Of course, I am from Zimbabwe, Africa’s most expensive country where a packet of sanitary napkins costs twice a kilogram of cereal. Hence, over there, 25-year-old women are praying for menopause to arrive.
Here in Boston Gemy lives at 1080 Rue St. Jacques Street in a posh suburb of Boston because when the asylum seekers’ thirty-day dormitory closed, his first entrance into a real American home apart from a Starbucks lounge, was the real estate office. The Realtor beamed: “Of course, we want to rent you! Refugees work their asses off. Safe wages.”
Gemy got the apartment and a flatmate Cox, a 61-year-old white American man who refuses to be a proper white male.
Fifteen months have lapsed since Gemy arrived in America, and all of them endured with feverish bouts of nighttime masturbation. Masturbation is a way to subdue the stress of asylum hearings. His duvet now reeks smell from a dozen months of dry sperm. He dreads the smell of his cranky output more than asylum.
Tonight, Beatrice; Gemy’s Facebook girlfriend, an intern doctor 9200 miles away in Harare, back home in Zimbabwe arrives home at 2 am which is 7 pm in the Eastern Day Time zone. Dr. Beatrice jives in her underwear across Gemy’s iPhone screen until Gemy trembles into a pitiful ejaculation. He weeps from messy desire – being a good refugee kills one from want. Then he sleeps, crushed with want.
In the morning, in Boston, Gemy is that odd thing, a refugee with a six-word job title. He is an assembly-line-fabrics-cutter-machine-operator at Intercolli Fabrics Factory. The job is so hectic that his week is planned a fortnight ahead. Vials of Coca-Cola are lined in the fridge to defeat 5 am rush hour tea making. Swabs of bread are charred with marmalade jam four days ahead. Finally, a pack – a pack of underwear is dried under his mattress, ten days in advance.
Later in the afternoon, Gemy receives his first-ever paycheck from Intercolli Fabrics Factory today. Therefore, he is sparkling mood when he glides down the stairs to catch the subway “metro” train at Mt. Royal Station. Chase Bank has just cleared his check, so, apart from masturbation, he is flushed with money and he stops at a hastily assembled farm harvest stall by the station ́s mouth.
The cashier glances at Gemy and says, “Just wanna make sure you know the price of the apples”.
“These are apples, right?” Gemy asks.
“Sweet…species,” she replies, “The color is atrocious.” Meanwhile, her white customers are buying apples and getting a little fuss.
Gemy shows her his debit card. She serves him apples and waves him off in the direction of the train, “Enjoy the rest of the day, next…” she says.
Once inside the train, Gemy spots an empty middle seat and avoids man-spreading. He munches my apples hoping to forget the rogue cashier. One slow canine bites at a time; I must show off the noir flesh of my Paula Red apples. All eyes are on me, on my apples, until the train stops at Sherbrooke Station.
Red blood stains leak from Gemy’s gums and pigment the flesh of his apples. All eyes are on him tonight.
In the morning, at 5:30 am, Gemy sprints up Cremazie Station, as is daily, to catch Bus 100 to Intercolli Fabrics Factory. Once inside the bus, he is squashed between three burqa-wearing women. The one standing in front of him has an itchy cough which almost rekindles his own cough until she smothers it all by swallowing a banana. Gemy then twists his face towards the lady behind him. She munches an apple when she sees his mannerisms. Despite his loud banana, he is now squeezed between two burqas and fruits. The women appear to catch a whiff of Gemy’s banana smell at once. The one in front cranes her neck back, and they frown together at once. Well done. Bus 100 is not the feel-good-territory of the Boston metro. On the train everyone is swift to give up their seat for 80-year- olds; being conscious immigrants who conform to “our American values.” In Bus 100, among bullish immigrants, no one deserves pity or a seat.
Gemy bottles up his entire banana cough until he departs Bus100 at Parsley Isabey Darney Station. One step out, he lets off a thunderous sneeze and sprints to catch up with a bevy of Indian workmates who stomp across the frozen lawn of a nearby Maserati car dealership. He stops when he almost hops over a puppy that’s foraging the dealership’s yard with a beam of light stuck in its neck.
“I don’t like my fabrics-cutter job,” Gemy shortens his job title and tells Ching on arrival at Intercolli Factory. Ching is the Chinese tailor who needles through the factory’s embroidery patterns.
She wiggles up to Gemy’s ear and discovers that apart from his mourning, his trousers sag from diminishing weight. “Next Monday I bring a belt. It holds your waist bones in place when you bend,” Ching tells Gemy.
I have no other way to confirm this: work on the Gerber Paragon fabrics cutter machine has shaved off a pound of me in a month. So, Gemy’s mind is in a spin when he disembarks from the return Bus 100 at Cremazie Station at 4 pm.
He loiters into a shop packed with cheap snow boots.
“This one is $80, I make a plan for you, $60 today,” whistles the Arab shop owner as he clips out a rat trap zapper and locks it under a plumy shoe.
Gemy sees the rodent trap and thinks of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
He bolts out of the Arab shop and heads home to refine a draft for a pitch accepted by the editor of Tellest Magazine in New York. The editor asks for Gemy’s bio picture. The publication is tonight. He’s joyful until they snap: “Hey Gemy, we only publish pieces from men identifying as women or non-binary. Good luck placing it somewhere.”
Defeated, Gemy gropes his bedroom curtains and obsesses about Brenda. Brenda is the 32-year-old on Twitter, born in Zimbabwe but raised in Boston. Brenda spurned my proposal via Twitter DMs. I obsess over her Master’s degree which she earned at 29. I degreeless at 35. My brain is vivid with imaginations of her hefty salary. Gemy scribbles in a Google search bar: “Social workers salaries Canada…Master’s Degree salaries Canada…”
“Dear Gemy, we are worlds apart luv,” Brenda texts Gemy back.
Outsmarted by Brenda, Gemy’s knees bulge as he walks humiliated to the back garden where Jacque his French neighbor who, since his arrival from Lyon, France, has been stringing bits of English words along his thick French accent.
“How ́s she, the little girl?” Gemy asks Jacque about his daughter who dances with a hockey ball beneath the trail of his cigarette smoke.
Jacque suddenly forgets all English.
“What were you thinking Gemy?” Cox his flatmate rebukes him when he stumbles back to their apartment’s common kitchen for supper. “You are a black man from Africa; they know you’re a refugee; wishing well a two-year-old-white French daughter?”
12 February, 2023