Man at Embassy: Do you have any relatives in the United States?
Man at Embassy: Do you know anyone in the United States?
Man at Embassy: Do you have anywhere to stay in the United States?
Noodle (sheepishly): Ah, viagra sales search no. Not yet.
Man at Embassy: Have you arranged employment in the United States?
Noodle: No. No, discount I haven’t.
Suddenly, help I’m aware. As this part is actually verbalized, I’m aware of how silly and mad it all sounds. Noodle living in the US. Stupid teenage dream. Might as well go back to reading romance novels with windswept Fabios and quivering girlie bosoms on the cover.
I’ve already shed the US$435 to be asked these questions, but the cash outlay doesn’t really bother me. It is a lottery after all. I’ve opened my life for inspection. I’ve shown my bank account, been jabbed with multiple vaccinations—three for good luck—and had radiation shot through my chest to see if my heart is bigger than Phar Lap’s. Just between you, me, and the x-ray machine, I reckon it is. But now, standing in front of this guy, I don’t feel too confident about the application. Realise I sound like a dreamer. But, I think to myself, at least I took some happy snaps of some Benjamin Franklins while I had them.
US Green Card. It was a nice dream. Better than that one about my teeth falling out and the black blood in my mouth.
2 1/2 hours earlier.
The immigration dept at the US embassy is chockers. I am visibly nervous. My taxi couldn’t pull up out the front because of terrorist threats. I set off two metal detectors. When I get called to the first available window, I drop all my documents on the floor. When I go to hand over my number, I miss the slot completely and crash my hand into the metal divider. This is not good. I feel like assuring them I have no explosive footwear, honest, but I know that would be frowned upon.
I hand over my preliminary stuff, one item at a time, through the little slot. Passport, birth certificate, education docs, bank statement guff. The woman checks it all, stamps all my photocopies, and then informs me that I must pay before they go any further. When they see my receipt, they make me sit. In a very hard chair.
I sit for a while. In this very hard chair. My name is called. They use my middle name when they call me…it’s ok. They don’t know any better.
The woman says, “You haven’t indicated your address in the US.” I explain I haven’t decided where I’m going to go. We talk. I need an address. I must decide. She says I should organise one and fax the address to them when I have it. She then hands me a big brown envelope with the x-rays of my chestal region. I yearn to rip it open and have a look. I have not seen my chest from the inside before. I resist.
“If you get your visa, “she says, “You have to hand this over when you land in the US.” My chest does have value. I feel empowered. I sit down again. The chair is still hard. The big brown envelope beckons, but there are still quite a few people around.
For the next couple of hours I see people get their non-immigrant visas, I see people get rejected for their non-immigrant visas, I see people get told they need further processing. Still I wait. The crowd thins out. Pretty soon it’s just me and one other person. It’s freezing in here. I rub my arms. Finally, I get called.
The man that interviews me is blind. My ravishing good looks are obviously not going to help me in this case. Unconsciously, I think of Graham Downie at the Canberra Times and what a clown he was/is. What a joker, a true Aussie classic. It’s strange when you don’t think of someone for a while, then remember them in a rush. Thinking of Downie reminds me of Goanna (the band)… funny how things make you remember other things. For some reason, I then think of David Jolliffe. I remember him telling me how Downie loved Goanna and Shane Howard. Has that baby turned up yet, Dave?
I raise my right hand.
I say an oath.
I swear, oh I swear, believe me. Truth is my mantra. Lying makes me puke now. I wouldn’t even know how to do it. I wonder what happened. I know I used to be a supreme liar when I was a kid, Dad told me. But now, I can’t fib about anything. When did I develop this conscience? When did I develop these ethics? It will keep biting me in the arse, but still, I persist.
He asks me the questions. I think to myself, “Why? Why am I drawn to this?”
I want to say, “I love Australia. I just don’t want to be there.”
I want to say, “I don’t mind being a little fish, I just want a bigger pond.”
I don’t understand how a person can feel drawn to an existence in Australia, yet feel repelled by it at the same time. And when I say repelled, I don’t mean repulsed. Maybe compelled is a better word. Compelled to seek something different. It’s a ‘like poles’ magnet situation. There is this part of me that is drawn to my family, the need to be near them. And yet, I can be looking at that, the love and stability, and be looking longingly away at the same time. It’s stupid. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. So un-grounded.
The guy asks me about my job. To explain what it is I do. It’s like a job interview. I ramble in my Noodle fashion. He asks about my superannuation. “Can you access that money?”
“No,” I say. “It’s for my retirement, when I’m like, 65 or something.” That is bad. He thinks I have no cash. I’m sunk and I know it. We chat for a bit about what I hope to do. I explain my hopes of getting a transfer with my current company (even though I’m pretty sure that’s not an option). About how I’ve saved like a crazy woman to make sure I’m ok in the US.
“What if that doesn’t happen?” he asks. “What if you don’t get that transfer?”
“I’d probably try to get work in interactive media, or an advertising agency. Something like that.” I say.
“I was going to say,” he says, “Advertising sounds like a good fit for you in the US.” And then straight after he says, “I’m approving your application.”
I’m stunned. I was so sure I was sunk. I finally manage to mutter a hurried, “Thank you”. I stand there for a while, collecting my documents and thoughts. I’d planned so hard for rejection; I’d never counted on approval. And now, it’s a reality.
Huh? I’m so happy I’m confused.
Toodle-Noo. Here endeth the missive.
©Janeen McCrae 2002