Why do you think I’m from India?

By Ray Mwareya
photo by: Ray Mwareya

Why do you think I’m from India?

With his asylum concluded, Gemy was still determined to quit his job at Intercolli Factory the next day. For good. However, his departure should not be the main spot of the tea-room conversation.

So, when he enters the tea room, Gemy avoids Amrik the Punjabi Indian, who must not know of his planned quitting. So Gemy sits next to Alaa, a gigantic Egyptian man who arrives for lunch carrying enormous layers of Falafel bread topped up with insanely reddish tomatoes. Alaa looks posh; perhaps he is an Intercolli Factory gas engineer, Gemy thinks, until Alaa gobbles four giant peppers and has the nerve to drink warm tap water!

“I thought you are an Indian from the subcontinent,” Alaa says to Gemy when he stretches into a bench across the table.

Gemy rolls his eyes past him. This is the most flattering of occasions, an African refugee from Southern Africa mistakenly thought to be an Indian from the subcontinent inside a Boston factory!

“Why do you think I’m Indian?” he asks, freezing his shoulders and slapping some saliva onto his lips.

“Because you’re friendly to Amrik, the Punjabi,” he answers.

Gemy nudges the pores on his finger skin to prove Blackness. “I’m from Malawi.”

“South?” Alaa says, biting his lips and peppers to which Gemy drums up his jaws. This time he says– “I am from South Africa.”

“Oh South Africa. South of Africa,” shouts Alaa. He cranes his neck low towards Gemy and darts his eyes as if to watch out for shadows.

“I was in the Egyptian Army in Sinai,” whispers Alaa, dampening his excitement and tightening his mouth.

Gemy figures out the rest. Alaa is a deserter from Gen. Abdel Al Sisi Egyptian national army. No wonder he’s doing all the top jobs at Intercolli Factory!

Alaa quickly changes his demeanor and grabs Gemy’s apple. This immediately put Gemy in a dilemma.

“I brought my “weekly apples” ration at once to the factory, by mistake. And I must give some to colleagues like Alaa who finishes his apples in a day. Apples are so important in an asylum waiting period, Gemy thinks to himself. Yes, masturbation carries me through asylum anguish but dear apples; apples calm me after masturbation.” Gemy says to himself.

That’s when the bell tinkles to end the tea break in the factory’s dining room. Alaa says to Gemy that they ought to steal two more minutes but Manager Lorna ́s voice booms from the Gerber machines room, “Amrik, Alaa, Gemy come down here!”

Gemy, Alaa, and Amrik the Indian whimper down to Lorna on the factory first floor.

Lorna swings up a heap of shoulder pockets . “Count the plies, supposed to be 25 pairs for each bundle. One bundle in the bin, 10 Euros,” she says, rubbing a broom across the messy floor. “10 Euro means $11; no, $13 to the garbage.”

She dutifully does an exchange rate conversion. “The humiliation; as if we don’t know the Euro. Here I am, a refugee inside a Boston factory; I am in the United States, the land of the famous Greenback dollar coin. I am being insulted in Euros.”, Gemy says to himself.

Lorna ́s fury is scuttled by Amrik ́s bulging coughs as her broom swings more dust into our faces. “This dust gives me a problem,” Lorna tells the three of them. “You guys must sweep, sweep every day with a broom. Not me.”

They nod and she touches the hair follicles on her left arm and gaggles her voice: “Me, I´m sick,” Lorna the manager whispers. “Cancer.”

At once, Gemy, Alaa, and Amrik (the Indian) stop and touch her shoulder. They are almost teary at once. They then sniff more dust from the floor– and tip-toe away from Lorna.

Hearing of Lorna ́s cancer, Gemy’s thoughts swirl to aunt Joji back home in Africa in Lilongwe City in Malawi. Aunt Joji buys up funeral insurance contracts for all family members. Aunt Jojo ransoms family members ́ signatures and never buys them health insurance policies. She is in collusion with funeral insurance salesmen in Malawi. When a death occurs, (greenish dirty municipal tap water causes many corpses in Malawi) Aunt Joji policies the payouts. No one in the family vouched for $60 to buy blood infusion bags for Tapiwa in his last week of lung failure. Rumor has it Aunt Joji commanded Tapiwa ́s nurse, “Smash his azithromycin antibiotics in two, save…”

Tapiwa died in Lilongwe protected by a $4,000 life insurance contract but no $60 blood infusion bag – Gemy curses in his mind.

12 December, 2022