Although I have a lot of travel anxiety, particularly with airport navigation (once I’m on the plane, I’m pretty calm!), this time definitely went a lot smoother. I checked in my bag at exactly the fifty-pound weight limit and said goodbye to my family at the security line. The attendant there said if I walked through the airport hotel down the hall, there’d be a different (and much shorter) security checkpoint line. So after saying goodbye to my family 2.0, I eased through security and found my gate within twenty minutes.
I sat alone, texting a few people to calm my nerves, and kept trying to convince myself this was actually happening. It still didn’t feel quite real yet. Not even when I got in like to board, not even when I swung my suitcase in the overhead bin, not even when I buckled up and watched clouds swarm my window. It sure did feel real when I got stopped at border control though.
I texted Jas when I got off the plane to let her know the border security line wasn’t too long, and that I would probably get through it before she even got to the airport. The officer at my window asked lots of questions about my job, about money I had available, about Jas, about where she worked, about where she lived, about where her family worked, about how I knew her, about how we met, what social media website we met through, why I wanted to be here for so long, how much money I had accessible through via cash, bank accounts, and credit lines, verification of my booked return flight, what would I be going back to the States for, etc.
I’m not quite sure what flagged her, but I can only assume it was the four-month stay. Even though I verified the purchase of my return flight, she asked me for Jasmin’s phone number, had me turn my phone off, and told me to sit in a tapered off section guarded by another officer. My stomach turned and gurgled inside me and sweat beaded up on my neck. I couldn’t find a clock and had no concept of how long I’d been sitting there, waiting to know whether I’d be allowed in or not. I made pleads with some kind of higher power, “please just at least let me stay for Christmas.”
The officer guarding my area told me I had been waiting for an hour and asked if I needed the toilets. Soon after, a new officer called me to a new window and asked me the same round of fifty questions. She asked again why I wanted to be here for so long. “I want to spend a lot of holidays here.” She asked why didn’t I come closer to Christmas then, and I said about being here for bonfire night coming up, and my American Thanksgiving.
She asked more questions about Jas, who I consistently referred to as “my friend.” After some time, the officer interjected, “Do you mean your partner?”
I swallowed. “Yes.”
“Why didn’t you say that before?”
“I don’t know.” I did know.
Directly after this, she explained she was going to let me in, but I absolutely had to leave on my return flight date, February 18. She stamped my passport with this date. “Yes ma’am,” I said to her. I don’t think I’ve ever said “yes ma’am” to anyone unironically in my life. I went light-headed with relief.
After collecting my checked bag, I found Jas and her friend, Holly, waiting for me. I was almost in tears explaining what had taken me so long. The fear of not knowing what would happen while sitting alone for over an hour took days to shake away. It still comes flooding back as I write this even weeks later. And again my heart races just reading over this for editing. I’ve really never been so scared in my life. I genuinely thought they were going to send me back without even getting to see Jas. Tears stung in my eyes as I explained this to her.
Her voice soothed me. It was real again and softer in person, but less fuzzy and more crisp. She was wearing leopard print and I teased her for it. We held hands walking to the parking lot to put my suitcases in Holly’s car and held hands the walk to the tube station in the airport.
We had made plans a month back to meet some people breakfast the morning I landed, and we were an hour late due to the security snafu. Luke, author of Codename Villanelle
(and our friend?? somehow??? I don’t know how we are cool enough to be friends but???), greeted us with hugs and lead us to the cafe where we met our friends, Gloria and Alex. I did a small awkward jog towards them once i could see them, and hugged them both. Jas and I met them all through Killing Eve, a show we’ve been a little obsessed with since it’s release on BBC America.
Luke asked some about what I do for my job, which made me realize I’ve never actually shared this in my blog before. I am a contract writer for a communications company, but more specifically, I write image descriptions for textbooks. This makes textbook images accessible to visually impaired students by listening to the descriptions via audiobook. It’s not an ideal job, but it’s a decent job that uses my degree and lets me travel. Eventually, I want to be doing something more creative, and ideally, something that combines mediums. But this career panic is getting postponed for now.
I know Luke has read this blogging series, so if you’re still on board, Luke, this is a special hello to you. It means so much to me that you, a grown ass successful author, spent time reading these blogs. And even more so, reached out and made the effort to tell me.
Validation comes in odd waves, and most of the time it’s easily diffused into pools of discouragement. I love blogging, even when it takes me weeks (or months) to put out a post. But there’s always that voice (which interestingly enough, sounds exactly like my dad), saying, “Why are you putting time/energy into this? Shouldn’t you be working on getting another job? How do you expect this to pay the bills?”
And yeah, maybe I don’t ever expect this blog to pay the bills. But the fact that my blog reaches people, that’s enough. The fact that several people have reached out to tell me my blog helped them in some way, that’s enough. And having people tell me that my writing is good and my prose is on point, it reminds me that this is something I have to keep doing. I don’t ever want to lose this.
“I wonder if this series could work as a book,” Luke said to me in the Cafe Nero.
As the series continued into an actual narrative, I always thought it could be something bigger than a blog. But not yet. Luke and I both knew why it wouldn’t work right now. There’s no ending.
“I wonder what that resolution might be.”
The moment I turned the first blog post into a series, I knew the ending. “When we break the distance.” I looked at Jas across the table next to me. It was a little loud in the cafe and she couldn’t hear us talking. But dimples accented her smile.
Luke asked a little about that. It was a refreshing yet frightening twist because most people don’t ask. Maybe they think they’re being too personal with questions like, “Where are you going to live?” And, “How are you going to do it?” I always assumed that my parents and family don’t ask because they’re too scared of the answers.
We think the UK is the place for us for now. Jas is still in education and I have more means of getting a better job now that I’m out of school. But we aren’t set on the UK forever, and these basic reasonings doesn’t make it any easier to get there.
We told Luke we looked into work visas as a preliminary research, which is looking dreary, and frankly, hopeless. There’s no shortage of creative people trying to get into good jobs, and I haven’t got the experience or list of qualifications that puts me above any UK resident. Sponsorship through a workplace feels like a chance of 1 in a million.
Marriage is another option, but even as we began to mention it, the group mumbled together understanding that this isn’t the reason we want to get married, that we want it to be more than a status. Still, the option isn’t off the table.
Maybe a lot of people—our parents, our friends, our families—they don’t ask because they don’t like the uncertainty either. Don’t get me wrong, Jas and I are very happy together. I love her, and I’m glad we’ve managed to work through the distance for this long, and I love the opportunities knowing Jas has given me. But in a heartbeat, I would change this all if I could. If I could suddenly switch nationalities and be born here, done. Or vice versa with Jas, done. Long distance—especially international long distance—it’s shit. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s constant uncertainty. It’s balancing an uneven Jenga tower on all the right guesses you’ve made up to that point.
We spent the rest of the time walking around London, some very, very expensive parts of it. Every few steps, one of us from the group would point in a window and say, “Villanelle would wear that,” or “Can Villanelle kill me in that?” Or simply give one another a squinty-eyed look after nodding at some tight suit in the windows.
When we said goodbye, I hoped we’d see them all again, even Alex who lives in France. If things happen to work out, we may be able to see them in January when Jas and I take our trip to Paris. We were lucky enough to see Gloria and Luke again the next week.
I miraculously adjusted to jet lag within a day, and Jas and I went into her hometown for some shopping and lunch. I love this town. I love the older buildings stacked on top of each other and squished in between. I love the brickwork in the streets and the old churches towering over the shops. I love the crowded McDonalds with vanilla and floral scents wafting over from the Lush just next door. It’s different, yet all familiar, even if this isn’t my home. I squeezed Jas’ hand, walking past sausage stands and women handing out leaflets. I felt her soft hand squeeze me back. That’s my home. Through this uncertainty, I know we’ll figure out how to keep it that way.