Your head feels like it will soon split in two. You have done your best for it to mend, but it seems even your best is not effective enough. Any slight noise that, on normal days, you barely notice, now annoys you. Someone upstairs, for instance, is walking about at a constant pace on what seems to be a wooden floor, and the noise, gentle as you have always considered it to be on normal days, is now like a tinsmith’s hammer pounding unceasingly on your mind.
You try to take some very hot sugarless tea. Somebody once told you taking tea is good when you have a headache. But an hour after taking the tea you feel no change. The headache started not because you have lost your job or you’re failing to buy food. In any case, it’s been a long time since you last roamed the Cornavin train station looking for food in the dustbins of cafés there. You also have not started worrying about accommodation yet. Mr Manyama, the Tanzanian owner of Umoja Pub where you work as barman, has, in exchange for cheap labour, generously allowed you to sleep in the storeroom at the back of the bar, where there is space for a small mattress that can accommodate one slender person like you. Still, compared to those dark days of Rosarno, where you slept in a shack without electricity and water, where you wondered whether you had indeed landed in the Europe that had for many years resided in your head, the place you now sleep, here among the crates of Heineken and Feldschlösschen, is like a five-star hotel. No, the headache has nothing to do with all that.
It started a few days ago when your sister Mayamiko – or Maya, as you and everyone in your family back home call her – told you on Facebook that she is coming to Geneva for a week-long seminar a few weeks from now.