Once a week Obinze allows himself to go into a coffee shop to read, so he can feel like he is really Obinze again. He continues to read American fiction and news. The British news is all about immigration, and it makes Obinze frightened. A young Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi woman and her little boy come into the coffee shop and share Obinze’s table. The woman talks to Obinze. He says that he lives in London, but thinks of how that doesn’t truly describe his invisible, frightened existence.
Obinze has to live as someone else as he works, and must answer to the name “Vincent,” so he must indulge in small pleasures like reading just to feel like he is still Obinze. We get more details about the feelings of invisibility and worthlessness that come with being an illegal immigrant in a country terrified of foreigners.
The woman mentions her husband, who died last year, and she looks longingly at Obinze, obviously attracted to him but still in mourning. The woman leaves with her boy, looking wistful, and Obinze thinks of love, and then he thinks of Ifemelu. Suddenly Obinze feels horny, and he texts a woman he has had sex with before.
Any thought of romance or love immediately reminds Obinze of Ifemelu. He has been romantically involved with other women, but no one has replaced the pure connection he felt with Ifemelu.
Obinze gets on the train and sits across from a woman reading the newspaper. There are many articles about immigrants. The British seem suddenly afraid of foreign people seeking asylum there. Obinze thinks of how they are denying their own history of colonialism with this—it seems only natural that the people once ruled by Britain should eventually come to Britain—but it must be comforting. Obinze thinks of Ifemelu and his mother, and the life he thought he would have had by now, and he feels incredibly lonely.
This is Adichie’s own critique of the immigration situation in England. The British Empire (among other colonial European powers) divided and ruled much of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and even after these areas won their independence, they were still deeply scarred by their colonial past. And so poor or unsatisfied citizens of such countries eventually make their way back to England, who started it all and benefited from the colonies’ oppression.