This is how my sister told it to me.
‘Mum’s stuck in Immigration. They’re not letting her get on the plane.’
‘Can they stop her?’ I was tidying the kitchen after Ben and the kids had left for Saturday morning sport. I hadn’t thought of my mother in months; hadn’t seen or spoken to her in seven years. Still, my question was stupid. I knew as well as anyone else no one could stop my mother doing a thing.
‘They’re showing her articles about Nigerian love scams. Like she doesn’t know.’
‘She called you?’ I flicked on the kettle and got out a teabag. Conversations with my sister had a way of eating time.
‘No, I called her. To tell her about Nanna.’
‘What’s happened to Nanna?’ I put the phone on speaker so I could at least pack the dishwasher and feel like I was getting something done.
‘Last night she wrote letters to everyone except mum, cooked a batch of Ladies Fingers, and then swallowed a bottle of Temazepam.’
I nodded. Almost every member of my mother’s family had threatened suicide at one time or another. None had ever succeeded. Uncle Elio came close when he drank a bottle of Domestos.
‘Anyway, I was ringing mum to tell her Nanna’s on life support.’
‘What’d she say?’
‘They should turn it off.’
‘Who was dumb enough to give Nanna Temazepam?’ I asked, filling my teacup with boiling water and at the same time remembering the kids had finished all the milk. I’d have to add it to the list.
‘Some shit doctor she goes to. She told him her daughter’s run off with a black man and she can’t sleep, so he wrote her a script.’
Unfortunately for everyone, my sixty-nine year old mother had recently discovered the Internet and, with it, Facebook. There she discovered her new husband-to-be: a fifty-nine-year-old white American guy from California. Really he was a twenty-three-year-old black Nigerian guy named Richard (I had doubts about the name) who stole a photograph of a middle-aged Turkish real estate agent and used it for his profile picture.
‘How is she?’
‘Nanna? Pretty pissed off she’s still alive.’
‘No, I mean mum. Will she get on the plane?’
‘Who knows? She’s going nuts they won’t give Richard a visa and let him come here. Calling them all racists. And she’s fighting Florrie on Facebook.’
‘Richard’s girlfriend. In Nigeria. She’s hot, looks about twenty. I’ll text you a picture.’
I thought of the officials at Immigration, laying down documents in front of my mother and showing her articles about lonely women who’d been tricked into online romances by smooth-talking scammers. Women who’d lost everything. Women who’d gone missing. Women who’d been murdered.
‘Stupid bitches,’ I could hear my mum say, pushing back her chair and standing up to catch her plane.