That whatever deep unhappiness she had would be

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that whatever deep unhappiness she had would be compounded if he said no, and so he had taken the jam home, where it was still languishing in the fridge, unopened. “Thank you, thank you,” the Indian woman said, as Obinze and Nigel installed the new dishwasher and rolled away the old one. At the door, she gave Nigel a tip. Nigel was the only driver who split the tips down the middle with Obinze; the others pretended not to remember to share. Once, when Obinze was working with another driver, an old Jamaican woman pushed ten pounds into his pocket when the driver wasn’t looking. “Thank you, brother,” she said, and it made him want to call his mother in Nsukka and tell her about it. ne morning in early summer, Obinze arrived at the warehouse and knew right away that something was amiss. The men avoided his eyes, and Nigel turned swiftly—too swiftly—toward the toilet when he saw Obinze. They knew. They had somehow found out. They saw the headlines about asylum seekers draining the National Health Service, they thought of the hordes further crowding a crowded island, and now they knew that he was one of the damned, working with a name that was not his. Where was Roy Snell? Had he gone to call the police? Was it the police that you called? Obinze tried to remember details from the stories of people who had been caught and deported, but his mind was numb. He felt naked. He wanted to turn and run, but his body kept moving, against his will, toward the loading area. Then he sensed a movement behind him, quick and violent and too close, and, before he could turn around, a paper hat was pushed onto his head. It was Nigel, and with him a crowd of grinning men. “Happy birthday, Vinny Boy!” they all said. Obinze froze, frightened by the complete blankness of his mind. Then he realized what it was. Vincent’s birthday. Roy must have told the men. Even he had not remembered to remember Vincent’s date of birth. “Oh!” was all he said, nauseated with relief. Nigel asked him to come into the co ff ee room, where all the men were trooping in, passing around the mu ns and Coke they had bought with their own money in honor of a birthday they believed was his. A realization brought tears to his eyes: he felt safe. Obinze was mildly surprised when Vincent called him that night, because he had called him only once before, months ago, when he changed his bank and wanted to give him the new account number. He wondered whether to say “Happy birthday” to Vincent, whether the call was indeed related to his birthday.
T N “Vincent, kedu ?” he said. “I want a raise.” Had Vincent learned that from a ! lm? The words sounded contrived and comical. “I want forty- ! ve per cent. I know you are working more now.” “Vincent, ahn-ahn. How much am I making? You know I am saving money to do this marriage thing.” “Forty- ! ve per cent,” Vincent said, and hung up. Obinze decided to ignore him. He knew Vincent’s type; he would push to see how far he could go and then he would retreat. If Obinze called back and tried to negotiate, it might embolden Vincent to make more demands. But he would not

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