that whatever deep unhappiness she had would be compounded if he said no, and so he had taken the jam home, where itwas 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 oldone.At the door, she gave Nigel a tip. Nigel was the only driver who split the tips down the middle with Obinze; the otherspretended not to remember to share. Once, when Obinze was working with another driver, an old Jamaican woman pushedten pounds into his pocket when the driver wasn’t looking. “Thank you, brother,” she said, and it made him want to call hismother 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. Themen 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, theythought of the hordes further crowding a crowded island, and now they knew that he was one of the damned, working witha name that was not his. Where was Roy Snell? Had he gone to call the police? Was it the police that you called? Obinzetried to remember details from the stories of people who had been caught and deported, but his mind was numb. He feltnaked. He wanted to turn and run, but his body kept moving, against his will, toward the loading area. Then he sensed amovement behind him, quick and violent and too close, and, before he could turn around, a paper hat was pushed onto hishead. 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. Thenhe 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 coffee room, where all the men were trooping in, passing around the muﬃns and Cokethey 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 “Happybirthday” to Vincent, whether the call was indeed related to his birthday.
TN“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 youare 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 wouldretreat. If Obinze called back and tried to negotiate, it might embolden Vincent to make more demands. But he would not