A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part Fifty, read it HERE
After what seemed like the longest week of my life, Maria Joana informed me that she had obtained and sent the required documents to the Spanish embassy. I was immensely relieved, but I knew it would be premature to start popping the Champagne just yet. I still needed to return to the embassy to be interviewed, after which they would decide whether or not to issue the immigrant visa to me. I prayed and fasted, asking God to make them grant me the visa. I was at my cousin’s house in Ikeja, and when I left her house the morning of my interview, no one thought I had a chance. But their doubt and underestimation only spurred me on. Fortunately, just as I had prayed, my interview went very smoothly. I was issued an immigrant visa, which would allow me to apply for the European Union resident’s permit when I arrived Spain. I was overjoyed. When I returned to my cousin’s house and showed everyone my visa, they were all shocked.
I traveled back to my state to bid farewell to my family and friends. It was amazing to see the change in people’s attitude toward me once they realized I would indeed be returning to Europe—they suddenly became very nice again. I didn’t care, though. I had seen them all for what they were and didn’t want to be associated with them. This was easier said than done; it would be very difficult to untangle the web of extended family tradition that had been enshrined in Igbo culture for centuries. But I knew the most important thing was to chart a course for myself and not worry about anybody but my immediate family.
I spent a few days with them and my grandmother Eunice, leaving enough cash to sustain them for a while. Most importantly, I let them know that it would be a while before I would be able to send them money, and that I would not be returning to Nigeria anytime soon. I also gave them the bus I had bought for the transportation business. I reckoned that the money it would bring would be more than enough to take care of all their daily needs, including my siblings’ school fees, in the absence of regular financial help from me. My family was happy with this arrangement, and I was pleased to know that I could focus on myself and not worry about how they would survive while I struggled to make my way in Europe or America.
At the beginning of May 1994, I returned to Barcelona. I had never thought I would be so thrilled to return to Spain after trying unsuccessfully several times to run away. But after my stressful experience in Nigeria, I was more than happy to be back, despite the challenges ahead. Not much had changed since I had left. However, there was a notable change in Maria Joana’s attitude toward me. She wasn’t mean, but there was a certain coldness in her demeanor. I asked her about it and she eventually revealed that her bank was poised to transfer her to Las Palmas, Canary Island, or her hometown, Palma de Mallorca. She loved Barcelona and wasn’t eager to move, but she was willing to choose Las Palmas if I would move there with her. This certainly wasn’t part of my plan. I had already submitted my application for the resident’s permit and was hoping that as soon as I got it, I would start the process of migrating to the USA. At the time, though, she was still my meal ticket and I couldn’t have her think of me as ungrateful. After deliberating on the issue, I started to think it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to live in Las Palmas. After all, that was where I had started and I was still very fond of the beautiful island.
I told Maria Joana that I liked the idea of Las Palmas, as long as I could travel to the U.S. and get my education first. She was very pleased, and from then on, it seemed like fate had once again aligned our future.
What had started as a marriage of convenience gradually turned into something of a real marriage. Maria Joana, who previously had no inclination toward childbearing, suddenly agreed to try having a child with me after we moved to Las Palmas. I had no idea why she changed her mind; maybe she suddenly realized how much she loved me, or had grown very familiar with me and was terrified of not having me around. For my part, I was obsessed with having children while I was still young and able, and as Maria Joana had suddenly changed her mind, I felt inclined to reciprocate. The idea of spending the rest of my life with Maria Joana had suddenly become very appealing to me, as long as I could go to school in America. Our plan seemed good and reasonable, and we were both very pleased with it. It was settled: I would go to the U.S. to study while she moved to Las Palmas, and during every vacation I would join her there. I would move back to Las Palmas permanently after obtaining my degree. With that decided, I waited patiently for my resident’s permit to be issued. The process usually took three months.
Life was great for a while. Everything was going according to plan, and there were no major misadventures or indiscretions on my part. I was even beginning to enjoy married life and had been faithful. Then, one afternoon in July when I was on my daily walk with Quis, he managed to break away from his leash and took off, with me running after him. Understandably, Quis got even more excited. He had been cooped up in the house all day and exploited the opportunity of being outside for a few hours. At some point I couldn’t see him, so I sped up, worried that I would lose him and that Maria Joana would be furious with me.
I made my way into the plaza, still running. Right in the center of the plaza, two municipal police officers were approaching from the opposite direction, and as I tried to run past them, they rudely ordered me to stop. The municipal police was supposed to be the friendliest organization in Cataluña. They had no power to enforce immigration law, and their job was mainly to patrol and guard municipal infrastructure and enforce parking laws. I obeyed them and stopped. They were heavily built and had an unusually menacing demeanor for municipal police officers. I was about to tell them that I was running after my dog, but before I could open my mouth, they started shouting at me: “Negro son of a Dam, what are you doing here?” They violently grabbed me and started to punch me, and I was completely stunned. I begged them to stop, all the while thinking it couldn’t be happening. I had done everything possible to avoid breaking the law, knowing that my getting a resident’s permit was contingent upon me having a clean record. It would be their word against mine. Usually, I wouldn’t fold my arms and let anyone, irrespective of who they were, to use me as punching bag. But on this occasion I let them. They threw me on the ground, stomped on me, and continued to punch me in the face and all over my body while I lay there, helpless, in anguish and riddled with pain. Within minutes a crowd gathered, but no one made any attempt to rescue me. Even if they had wanted to help, I don’t know how they could have. They were indeed as helpless as I was because the two men committing this atrocity were the authorities—the ones who were supposed to protect people and property.
After twenty minutes of beating, my limp body was dragged two hundred meters to Guardia Civil Station. I was later transferred to the central police station, and was processed and fingerprinted for a crime I was unaware of and that no one had explained to me. I was thrown in jail, awaiting trial. I remained confused throughout the entire ordeal because I didn’t understand why I was being detained; nonetheless, I remained calm and hopeful. I had no one to fight for me and wasn’t sure Maria Joana would know what had happened or where I was. Worst of all, I didn’t know what had happened to her precious dog. I eventually made peace with myself, knowing that I had done nothing wrong, and as usual I prayed, asking God not to let me spend more than three days there. The next day I was transferred to another detention center, where I was to remain until my court hearing.
To Be Continued…