Departure and Refusal

By Matthew Rush

Your life was empty of new opportunities until today. You remember how you felt when your parents said you were moving to Australia to study mining engineering at a university: excitement and despair. You were excited for the chance to leave the city of Lagos in Nigeria and the chance to study at a university. But you also felt depressed that you would be separated from your family. You will miss them supporting you through thick and thin, always there to help when you’re in need. Your loving mother who would cheer you up when you were down, your father always pushing you to try your best. And finally, your sister, with her humour and sharp wit. But you knew her opportunity would come through you for a better education.

Now it’s too late to turn back. Your parents had already committed the money they had spent years saving on your education. Making do and going without, standing in line at embassies, listening to conversations, trying to make a way forward for you. They had spent years planning this out; they knew they couldn’t count on winning the green card lottery. However, you knew you were doing it for good reasons.

You would be studying in a field with a skills shortage, which meant you would be able to apply for citizenship. You would work the hours allowed for foreign students to help support yourself. You could then bring your family to Australia under the family reunion visa scheme. When you asked your mum why you were going to Australia and not America, she said it’s safer in Australia; they have laws against guns down there.

You walk into your room with the partly broken window and mattress on the floor and lie down. You slowly drift off to sleep, contemplating the next big leap you are about to take in your life.

When morning comes, you’re all set to go. You’re carrying your brown satchel over your shoulder, dressed in traditional Igbo clothing, a wool brown shirt, leather sandals and cotton wrist wrapping, which were very special to you because they were a gift from your sister who made them from your mother’s old cotton shirts.

You walk out through the front door while your family waits in your father’s car. It was a small red car, or at least it used to be red when he bought it, but the weather and time took its toll, and it was now a rusted orange colour.

You walk towards the car, glancing back at your house in goodbye. As you drive away, you look through the back windshield and watch the house get smaller. Leaning against the window, you watch the buildings pass and the scenery change with every passing second, like a slideshow in an everlasting loop of memories you refuse to let go of.

The memories you shared with your family on these streets are endless and almost unforgettable. The time your mother gave you your first pair of sandals. You hugged your mum and refused to take them off for weeks, even while you slept. There was also the time you found a children’s book on the sidewalk and brought it home for you and your family to enjoy. In it, there were twelve short stories – all very different yet similar in values – but either way, you loved that memory and the book. If only you could remember the name.

You wake from your thoughts when your father tells you to hop out. The door swings open. Grabbing the satchel, you jump from the car and slam the door shut with a thud.

You walk into the airport, and the first thing you notice is the spotless white floors and the blue chairs that most would wait in until their flight arrives. You and your sister wait in these chairs while your parents purchase the tickets in the line. She asks you if you will ever come back, and you tell her of course you will because Lagos may not be the best possible place in the world but it’s home. It’s where your family raised you. It’s where you were born. It’s where you were taught, and it’s where you’ll come back when the time is right.

Your parents return with the tickets, but the flight isn’t scheduled for another hour, so you wait with your family. You lean on your mother’s shoulder, thinking of the life you’re about to leave behind and the one you’re about to begin. A small part of you hopes the flight gets cancelled or that your parents have made a mistake and decide to take you home. But unfortunately for you, no such moment comes.

Your father wakes you out of your daze, telling you it’s time. You grab your belongings and proceed to the gate that leads to the plane. You hug your family tight, hoping that you won’t have to let go. You say your farewells and don’t look back.

You go to the flight gate, give your ticket to the employee and board the plane. You take your seat on the left side of the plane and stare out the window. After a couple of minutes, the plane starts to take off. But as you stare out the window, you see your father’s rusted car driving away from the airport, and think back to that moment you were hugging your family. This is the memory that will haunt your life.