The passage of true love never runs smoothly. Somebody clever said something like that once, I’m sure.
They weren’t kidding.
Money was always going to be a problem, especially since The Idiot hadn’t coughed up the requisite amount of cash for Her severance. So She set about selling Her life.
To make up the difference, Her plan was to sell Her huge, handmade wooden sleigh bed, bought only a year earlier for $4000, also the car would have to go, along with as many of their belongings as She could sell in a series of garage sales. I kept Her company during those long afternoons sorting through the accumulated memories and acquisitions of a lifetime, deciding which few possessions would be coming with them on the plane and which would need to go into storage until we could afford to send for them.
I chatted to Her on Skype video, occasionally making futile attempts to charm customers into spending more money, or present myself as the romantic English boyfriend, come to sweep this American beauty off Her feet. Playing the heartstrings for profit, so to speak.
And all this time we were doing research; scouring government and UKBA (UK Border Agency) websites, visa advice specialists, immigration consultants (including a nice lady called Nikki, who gave me lots of free advice and links to all the approved Home Office resources that we would need to make a successful application for a “fiancee” or Family Settlement visa) and generally making sure we did absolutely everything completely by the book.
We spent hour after hour surfing the net whilst chatting on Skype, both of us looking into the bewildering selection of rules, regulations and qualifying criteria required by the faceless bureaucrats who presume to decide whether people in love get to spend their lives together. It was like dealing with something out of a Kafka play, crossed with one of the ministries of misinformation from 1984.
To say they make it complicated is a massive understatement.
It did occur to me to lead you through the entire torturous process, an attempt to instill in you the same primal horror of labyrinthine officialdom that I now experience when faced with yet another form to fill in or even more documents to find, but apart from the sheer amount of typing it would involve, it would make very dull reading. Suffice to say I wouldn’t want to do it twice.
Basically the plan (as dictated by the serried ranks of the Home Office and UKBA) was this:
– I would send Her the documents to show my suitability as a “sponsor”, consisting of payslips, bank statements, evidence of suitable accommodation for the three of us, my passport and proof of booking a wedding date at a registry office.
– She would print off and fill in the reams of official forms from their website and gather the various passports, birth certificates, medical histories and divorce papers needed to satiate the monster’s appetite for documentation.
– Finally, one day only a month later, She would travel to Chicago and get an appointment at the British embassy. There, She would hand over the mountain of paperwork and have a short interview. After that, it was a matter of killing a few hours in the Windy City before returning to the embassy to collect their visas that same afternoon.
What could be simpler than that?
As it turned out, practically everything.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. At this point She is still out of a job, about to get evicted, trying to sell almost everything She owns and without medical insurance. Hardly the best time for Her fibromyalgia to suddenly flare up then. Not that there is a good time.
It was very frightening.
It began with Her complaining of a stiff neck, then within a few minutes She said that it hurt to even curl Her toes or turn Her head. Straight away I knew this wasn’t right, She never made a fuss about the pain She experienced on a daily basis, so if it could etch lines of agony into the face that I loved in such a short space of time it was obviously serious.
A friend arrived and rushed Her to a local walk-in clinic where She had to sit and endure the pain for more than two hours before being seen by doctors, who immediately put Her on a steroid drip and pumped Her full of painkillers, the steroids almost instantly starting to alleviate the symptoms and allowing Her to return home that evening.
It brought it home to us how much this was affecting us (fibro attacks are often exacerbated by stress and that’s probably what set this one off) and I’m very grateful it wasn’t more serious and that She recovered quickly.
But if we thought the stress was over then we needed to think again, the worst was yet to come.