A Different Home
By Mayowa Fagbure
Sunshine fills the room; this place that I occupy for the time being. The duvet sits above me, protecting me from the rambling wind outside of my window.
It is 8am and my lecture starts in an hour. Toast is my breakfast, quickly made and buttered. I settle onto the plastic kitchen chair, hearing my flatmates’ accents before I see them. The two other people I live with come through the kitchen door.
I am greeted with a forced smile, as usual. Once, when I had tried to socialise with them, the differences between us were made evidently clear. Every word I said was met with a puzzled look; they didn’t understand my accent. This accent that I never even knew I had before leaving Nigeria.
They enter the kitchen and continue chattering away. I scroll through my phone and try finishing up breakfast, quickly.
“How are you?” one of the flatmates asks, pushing a bowl into the microwave. I mumble, “Good”, over the sounds of the beeping controls.
That question does not seek an answer. That and many other things I have come to understand are normal here.
“Ah, good” she responds. “Just got a lecture.” She rolls her eyes. I should sympathise and understand. The only thing we have in common is that we are both University students.
The accent is what I have not been able to perfect. My friends from back home, who came here at the same time as me, have become fluent in switching. On the phone with one of my friends, I heard the Nigerian and British accents waft through her voice as though two people lived within her. I just can’t seem to get the pronunciations down. On the outside, I act like I’m too stubborn to switch; that I’m too pro-African. Asking, “They don’t switch for us, so why should we for them?” But inside, I understand that knowing how to switch would benefit me.
She grabs her heated up bowl of food and leaves the kitchen with the other flatmate.
My mother wonders why I am not closer to my flatmates. It is not only the cultural difference that distances us, but the fact that they do not want to get over it. There is the presence of difference, but the continued acknowledgement of it, is what creates barriers between people.
I drop my empty bowl in the sink, unwashed. I know there will be a message on the flat group chat later today. Something along the lines of ‘Could we please remember to wash up after we cook and eat? It’s really not that hard like just do it xxx” The passive-aggressiveness of their messages amuse me. Sometimes I don’t wash up, on purpose. Just to see what they’ll text next.
I track back to my bedroom, staring at the mirror as I put my clothes on. I can understand how a bedroom can be a haven for some. After a long day out, it must feel great to come back to a place that is all yours. But for someone like me, who hides out every day underneath her duvet, in this bedroom it is the opposite. The outside has become my haven.
I am already late for the lecture but only by 5 minutes. I take longer to pull my boots and coat on before I lock up my room. The routine of my life sickens me. As does seeing groups of my people – people my age, who I should be friends with but am not, pass by me. They are going to my places – lecture rooms in tall buildings. But I walk alone.
In the lecture, Stella smiles at me and walks over. It’s odd that now I only have one friend. Compared to the number of people I had been friends with in secondary school. Then, I had craved my own company; needed a break from friends. It’s funny to look back on that now.
“So cold today” she whispers as the lecturer greets the class, answered by a stark silence.
“Yeah” I answer, smiling back.
“What did you do yesterday?” She asks. “There was something at the Union?”
“Okay,” she says. Always smiling, she is.
“I had this British guy trying to dance with me all night. They’re so clingy!” she laughs.
After the lecture, we walk back to our accommodation buildings. I like speaking to Stella. We bond over being strangers in Britain, far away from home. I can’t do that with my friends from home, who are here. They seem to have adjusted quickly to all that comes with living here. I feel left behind.
“We should go to the cinema on Saturday, if you’d like to come?” she asks.
“Yeah. That would be nice” I answer.
We keep talking until we get to my building, then hug goodbye. I exhale deeply before walking in. I know that this is my life now. It is something I have to accept. I was happy that it snowed the other day. I felt euphoric, seeing that for the first time. It’s a daily thing, adjusting. Living with myself in a strange place. Soon, the switching will fall upon me and I will become who I am meant to be here. And then people will understand me. And then I will have friends. I have to keep learning how to make Home here.
By Mayowa Fagbure
Mayowa Fagbure is a Nigerian writer who enjoys using words to paint vivid pictures and capture the human experience. Her stories and poetry cover a range of emotions – from pain, grief, joy, melancholy and nostalgia . They are all written with an eye to understand and encapsulate the mystery of life. She blogs at www.mayowafagbure.wordpress.com.
The Limit showcases the creativity that exists within the student population, creating a sense of community.