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Together, alone.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Isn’t that the phrase? Well that’s only because “Absence makes the chest tight, the breathing ragged, the hands shake and the heart race madly” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely.

Somehow the fact that we were now, theoretically at least, nearing the end of our journey through the Kafka-esque maze of online bureaucracy, made the feeling of disconnection and solitude even worse.
Like being able to see Her, the woman I so desperately needed, trapped behind an invisible barrier, knowing She was only inches away and yet unable to reach out and touch Her, hold Her.

It was a fortnight of constant tension, a sensation that was becoming unpleasantly familiar to me by then and not one that I enjoyed. It seemed to have been my default setting for far too long now; an underlying feeling of mild and indefinable panic or anxiety that robbed everything in life of its shine, made it difficult to be positive and cheerful when talking to Her and made it harder than ever to be alone when She wasn’t there.

On good days I’d think to myself; “It’s all going to go perfectly, there isn’t a single reason why they would refuse the application.”
Whilst on a bad day I’d constantly be worrying and getting myself worked up about the most innocuous things, magnified through the lens of paranoia into insurmountable obstacles.
And all the while, She carried on calmly and serenely, soothing my nerves whenever we spoke and convincing me (apart from the Voices in the Dark of course) that I was worrying about nothing and it was only a matter of time.

We stopped using the word “soon”, as it seemed to have lost its meaning.

Meanwhile, She had one last mission to accomplish, the trip to Detroit for their Homeland Security biometric records.
Her friend from the lake house drove them the two hours down there and She arrived to find that with only minutes to spare until Her appointment, She had to return to the local library to pre-pay for the entire visa process and get a receipt.
Rushing there and back just in time, She managed to get a cancellation for both of them, (Her daughter’s appointment had originally been scheduled three hours later than Hers, as it took that long to fill in each application and submit them online) had all their various readings and measurements recorded and that was that.
All that remained was to post the whole lot to the UKBA and wait.

Except…the receipt She had to print off for our priority service and place in the envelope, to pay for the return postage, wouldn’t print, the button on the link was inactive.
After much fiddling around, changing computers and printers She managed to get the link working and duly inserted the receipt and posted the envelope, consigning our future to the faceless bureaucrats once more.
Oh, and She had to e-mail an electronic copy of the receipt to New York.
The e-mail button didn’t work.

Honestly, you’d think they did it on purpose.

She was finally able to send a pdf from Her phone I think, or maybe it was from the computer in the library, I’ve given up trying to remember the ins and outs of the official ineptitude we encountered during the whole infuriating process.
But that was it.
It was done.

Then, only a few days later She got an e-mail from our designated Entry Case Officer, asking for details of Her daughter’s biological father. (His name didn’t appear on her birth certificate, he was not in any way part of Her life, She had bought up Her daughter completely independently from any support or input from him since her birth)
They were basically asking for proof that he hadn’t made any claim for paternity or custody, nor made any attempt at paying maintenance or wanting to be involved in raising her.

How do you prove the non-existence of something?
People don’t go round giving out documentation every time they don’t do something.

So She wrote a letter stating categorically that there had been no contact whatsoever from the father and that She was, in every way that mattered, the sole parent to the bright and bubbly little girl whose life She was trying to enrich by giving her a new start in life with a loving family.
This wasn’t enough for the Faceless Ones, they reiterated their demand that She provide concrete, legal proof of non-involvement.

Take two: This time Her affidavit was accompanied by notarized statements from officials at both the County Court and Public Records Office, where She had conducted record searches to establish that there had indeed been no claims on Her daughter from anyone.

Again we waited.

A final e-mail, requesting that She send a current issue of Her daughter’s birth certificate, “…to allow me to ascertain that there is in fact no claim for paternity and that you are indeed the sole parent…” was easily complied with and, with no further missives from on high, we once more trusted our fate and our future to the unsentimental and inscrutable men from the ministry.

Root of all evil.

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October the fifteenth. That was the day on which they were supposed to have arrived. Two days before that, on Monday 13th, I moved into what was to be our family home.

I thought I’d done rather well, securing a two bedroom, ground floor flat with a private garden, for a reasonable rent in a quiet close on the edge of town. I’d managed to furnish it on a budget by buying everything from one local house clearance specialist and, along with a few pieces of my own homemade furniture, had the flat looking like home in no time.

Being able to afford it was another matter, in the long term at least, as that depended on Her earliest possible arrival, enabling us to marry, (after a month or so of further bureaucracy and shelling out yet more money for Her “spouse” visa of course) and for Her to be able to start work.

But since our little setback with the ministry of misinformation had put paid to our plans, I was about to reach my financial limit and the longer we were delayed, the longer I’d be paying all the bills.

It was all a bit of a gamble.

Now I admit that talking about such prosaic stuff as mere money, when discussing true love, lifelong happiness and general hearts-and-flowersiness may sound a trifle cold and mercenary, but these were genuine concerns that had begun to worry me.
It was all very well having a nice home to live in if I couldn’t afford food or heating.
One of the main causes for financial concern were the aforementioned spouse visas, which both She and Her daughter would have to apply for after we got married.

At a cost of £600 each!.

And because we couldn’t afford to wait the {insert random number here} weeks for them to be processed, we were going to have to pay for yet another “priority” service, costing a staggering £400 for each visa, making a total of another £2000, a month after She entered the country and without Her being allowed to earn a living.
Why do they have to make everything so difficult?

Cue the appearance of another of our guardian angels, our emergency rescue service if you will, in the shape of an old friend of mine with very sad news that was to have tragically happy consequences.

(Sometimes I think the Universe may just be taking the piss,…you know what I mean?)

This was exactly the sort of juxtaposition of emotions I’d been experiencing for a while, but not even those stomach-clenching moments of stress prepared me for this bombshell.
A friend I’d known since I was 15, one who I’d only recently been back in touch with after nearly 20 years, rang me to tell me that he had been diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer.

We are very good friends and although the subject was hard, the call was surprisingly relaxed and I could tell that he was coping better than I expected with the news.
Even so, for my part the conversation consisted mainly of;
Shock.
Disbelief.
Acceptance.
Sadness.

I visited him soon afterwards and unsurprisingly, he didn’t want to dwell on the subject and instead was eager to hear of any news I had about our ongoing romantic drama.
So I told him about our latest battles with the authorities and all the crap they were putting us through, just updating him on the story so far and chatting about old times when he said;
“So when d’you need this two grand then?”

I told him it wouldn’t be for a month or so and he simply said;
“Well if that’s all you’re worrying about, you can stop worrying. When you need it just tell me, it’ll be there. I’m leaving you some money in my will and if you can’t pay it back then it’ll just come off what I’m leaving you. Of course if you do pay it back, you’ll get it back when I die anyway,”, and he laughed.

I nearly cried.

So that was it. At a single stroke we suddenly had no more financial worries about the visas and could concentrate on getting the formalities processed.

This had to be the home straight….didn’t it?