Waiting for Ijemma
Monday. I’ve a class at 9. A strong coffee in the café across the road from the Coviran supermarket. My student is a mother to two kids and married to a man who owns a bakery in Villafranco. He is father to her young son who is aged 7. I’m teaching him today too. At 4 o’clock, after he finishes school. I see my student returning from the Colégio Publico Pablo Ruíz Picasso. She’ll have dropped off the boy. The older child, a girl, goes to the Instituto round the corner. She’s 16. She’s been my student, but now she’s studying for the ESO, the high school diploma. She needs at least a 7 in every subject, if she wants to go on the two extra years, get the Bachillerato and escape from our small town to University.
Ijemma is Mum’s given name. We had four lessons before she told me that. She answers to Txema, she gave up on the pronunciation of her Nigerian name after six months here in Andalucia. Thing is, well – usually anyway – Txema (pronounced Cheh-Mah) is a guy’s name. It’s a nickname, if you like, mostly among Basque footballers baptised José Maria. Ijemma spent ten years in Basle, in Switzerland, where her daughter was born. Ten years making beds in a posh hotel. They left after her daughter cried when Ijemma confessed that she couldn’t afford to buy a Coke from a street vendor. It’s funny what she does tell me. They came straight to Southern Spain. I still have no idea why.
Nor do I yet know how she met The Baker of Villafranco. Perhaps I never will. He hasn’t formally adopted Ijemma’s daughter, but I know those things are really complicated in Spain. So, mum’s a resident, entirely legal, since she’s a Spanish citizen’s wife. But Julia – pronounced Hoo-lia – isn’t. I’m not even sure if that’s the name on what documentation she does have. I do know that Ijemma must have been pregnant when she left Lagos, around 17 years ago.
The Baker gets up at around 3 every morning, Ijemma has told me, and drives from their nice flat in Alhaurin on the Avenida de la Libertad to the bakery in Villafranco. There’s a flat above it. Sometimes they spend weekends in that, instead. Villafranco’s one horse died of loneliness about ten years ago, from what I’ve seen of the place. Ijemma wanted to live in a bigger town, so The Baker bought the flat on Libertad. It’s nice, modern, has 3 bedrooms and is in a good neighbourhood.
Sometimes I wonder how hard it is for Julia and Txema. The only people of colour the Andalucians see are the Looky-Looky men on the coast. Selling tat and counterfeit goods to get by. Both mother and daughter are birds of rare plumage inland, in small towns like ours. It must be harder still for the boy. He was baptised Juan Pablo, often shortened, but not by much, to JotaPe. People take him for a Columbian, unless they see him with his mum on the walk to Ruíz Picasso. Well, duty calls. I drain the coffee cup, leave a euro coin on the counter and cross the road to the block entrance.
I would like to meet The Baker, he must be a great guy.
[I never did].
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