I do not live in Dallas… but that’s where my fiancée lives, and wherever she is, I am home. There was doubt as to whether I would get here, and that doubt has weighed on us both for months.
Until July of last year I was living in California. I was on a work visa that came to an abrupt end when I lost my job. Thanks Covid. In normal times I would have packed up and gone back to Canada. These were not normal times, and the border was essentially closed. I made the best of things. I took some online training contracts, I played a lot of golf. I then took a mid-term contract with Microsoft. Life went on.
As soon as flights between Canada and the US started up again, I booked a flight to go visit my children. I had not seen them for nearly two years, and that was the first thing that came to mind. I booked a round trip ticket, figuring I would go to Canada, come back to the US, and then close out my affairs so that I could move back to Canada. The only problem was that when I tried to enter the US, I was denied entry. Covid shmovid… I had stayed in the US without status, and that was a no-no. I was not excluded from the US, simply told to stay in Canada for six months and then come back for a visit.
To say that was a stressful event is underselling it… but I got through it, got my affairs in California closed out, and I got my life in Canada back on track. I was getting close to Leslie at this point, and she was dealing with her own crap… but she was living my crap too. I do not know if things would have gone so well between us had it not happened… but here we are, ten months later, engaged to be married.
Over the course of those ten months, Leslie came to visit me frequently. Truly, while we both put the effort in, it was her boots on the ground that got us here. Of course, at a certain point she started to get miffed that it was her boots coming to Canada, and that I had not visited her. These conversations started before the six month waiting period ended, and I had to remind her that it was not my choice, but rather the US Government’s.
It was mid-February when that period ended. My ambivalence did not end there though. I was not doing a lot of work because I am still waiting for my security clearance, and I knew that the Customs and Border Patrol officers would not look favorably on my situation if I was not working. In truth, I was scared. I am certainly not the time to shy away from my fears, but at the same time, I did not want to rush the issue… that is, I was told to wait at least six months, and I did not want to show up on six months plus one day.
Around mid-April we talked about it. Leslie came to see me in April and we were going to Cuba together in May; she was likely going to come to Canada for my birthday in July, so that left… June. I looked at Leslie’s custody schedule, and I booked my flight for… yesterday, as it happens.
Great, right? No. Well, yes… but my employment situation had not budged, and I now had anxiety that I would get turned away again. The last ten days really the anxiety started to build, and while I tried to hide it, Leslie is a very perceptive woman, and she figured it out. The last four days were very hard for both of us.
There was nothing anyone could do… I had to show up to the airport, check in for my flight, go through Security Theatre, and then stand in the extremely long line to speak to an officer. There was nothing else… believe me, we had tried.
Knowing that after that long line I was going to be brought into the back screening office, I decided to arrive at the airport extremely early for my flight. I was comforted in the knowledge that I had nearly five hours to get everything done… and thank G-d I did because it took nearly that long! The initial line at Immigration was two hours long. I was escorted by the officer to the screening office and told to have a seat. That lasted another forty-five minutes before I was called. Outwardly calm, but my insides were doing somersaults.
Did I mention that when you are in that screening room you are not allowed to use any electronic devices? No phone, no tablet, nothing. You sit there waiting for an agent to call you. you play games, looking at the other people waiting around you, trying to guess what their stories are.
Officer Ortiz called me up and he asked me my story. I told him. I named the officer who had denied my entry last year, and explained the situation that led us to where we were. He told me he knows the officer, and is surprised that he had not tried to trap me in a lie. I told him that he had, and that the good thing about not lying is that there is no lie to trap me in,
We had a very good conversation. I answered all of his questions, and skied a few of my own. As I predicted, the moment he stamped my passport, the anxiety drained out of my body completely and instantly. We chatted for a few more minutes about fiancé and spousal visas, and then I was on my way.
The moment I was through the door (which lets you out into one of the worst Duty Free shops in North America) I pulled out my phone to video-call Leslie. After so many trips to see me, she is quite familiar with that shop. The moment the video connected she said to me: “You are in the Duty Free Store!” This was then followed by about twelve minutes of emotional blubbering from both of us. I was officially on my way to Dallas, Texas.
I write this from somewhere over the mid-west, from my very own private row near the front of the aircraft. There is an hour left before we land. I have no doubt that by the time we disembark the airplane, walk to the baggage carousel, and I retrieve my suitcase, it will be another 45 minutes. However that doesn’t matter… sometime in the next couple of hours, I will have my baby in my arms. We will kiss, we will cry, and then we will drive off together. That’s the part that counts… we will be together.
It has been far too long…
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