I woke up so excited. Showered. Dressed in my most “I’m stylish and put together everyday, naturally, and will be a fine, upstanding, no-trouble-causing resident if you grant my visa request” outfit. I thought about wearing a suit or at least a blazer and decided it would look like I was trying too hard and had to compensate for some lack of good character. So, I wore black skinny jeans, a delicate winter white crew neck sweater with three-quarter sleeves, low black-patent wedges, and a gold and tan-leather statement necklace. I put my hair up in a neat bun and donned my long black winter coat. “Would you give me a visa?,” I asked S. “Absolutely. I’d give you two.” I showed up responsibly early to the 8:00am meeting. I had all of the documents that they told me to have: passport, passport photos, bank statement, letter of support from S and his landlord saying that I have a place to live, a copy of the lease, and a few other forms.
Walking to the appointment, I was dreaming of all the places we’d go in the next month because I was sure the visa office would stamp my passport right away, granting me the ability to live in Germany for the next year, and allowing me to purchase a U-Bahn card and buy lots and lots of half-price train tickets. In my mind S and I had already packed a picnic basket of cheese, prosciutto, and a nice Côtes du Rhone for a weekend train trip to Berlin and another one to Paris.
Fast forward thirty minutes and I’m sitting in the midst of bureaucracy – perched on the edge of a metal chair in an institutional and completely impersonal office of a girl about my same age, maybe a year younger, with my dear friend J who is a German attorney and acting as my translator. The girl looked at my forms and, after a few moments of silence in which the gravity of the situation, in my mind, built to a palpable degree, asked J something. J turned to me and said, “You need a reason to be here. Moving to live with your fiancé is not a ‘reason.’”
And the DJ cut out with a screech.
What? Love is not a reason? Love doesn’t give you a free pass to impulsiveness? Love doesn’t entitled you to quit your job, move to a university town outside of Frankfurt to live with your fiancé, go on long romantic bike rides, and learn conversational German?
Tears began to well in my eyes.
“But I’m taking a German class. Is learning German a reason?”
“Yes, but you need a class for a whole year. Your class is only a month. If you sign up for another month, they can extend your visa for one month.”
Wait? Am I talking to the devil or the voice of reason? Is she completely heartless or is love really not a good enough reason? The room took on a heaviness that got heavier the more I thought about it. DID I MAKE A HUGE MISTAKE? Should I move back to the US and beg for my job back? Go back to seeing S every six weeks? How many stars are really in the galaxy? Who was the second shooter on the grassy knoll? What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of my life?
Ok, that might be a bit of a dramatization of what was going through my head at the moment, but the tears were welling up and and I was questioning the existence of a “heart” in German bureaucracy, as well as my own decision making in getting to that point. As the Germans say, “so,” the girl booked me for a follow-up appointment in late March. Awesome. Almost a month for my anxiety about deportation to build and chew on my insides.
Not usually one to succumb to pessimism, I allowed myself to spiral into a dark hole. I held in the tears while J drove me home. We joked about German bureaucracy (I know that the US immigration process is incredibly more difficult and I’m lucky that I’m just trying to get a residence visa in Germany) and talked excitedly about our plans for Fasching that coming weekend. When I got into my apartment, I face planted on the bed and sobbed for about a minute. Not nearly long enough to make me feel any better. Then I ate some bacon and about a pound of chocolate leftover from Valentine’s day and watched a couple of episodes of the Bachelor. What could be more depressing?
S came home for lunch to cheer me up. It’s only lunch time and I’ve already gone from feeling like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday to Renee Zelweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary (in the scene where she’s drinking vodka and eating ice cream)? This realization of my complete 180 and path toward a totally unproductive day and additional cellulite made me even more frustrated and disappointed.
That night, after I calmed down, I realized that Bridget eventually finds happiness with Darcy, even though she has to run through the streets in granny panties to get there. I prayed that it wouldn’t take that sort of incident for me to get a visa, but you never know. It seemed to work out ok for her.
Today is March 17th. I wrote the above about a month ago, but didn’t have courage to share it then, as the potential for failure and heartbreak, things I usually like to remain private, loomed in the future. But now I have good news! And it’s safe to talk about that time I almost gave myself diabetes and got deported, but didn’t. Also, I did not have to run through the streets of Mainz in my undies. Here we are on St. Patrick’s Day and I have just come home from the immigration office with my passport feeling a little heavier as it now contains a shiny new German visitor’s visa!! The Luck o’ the Irish was truly with me today. Now S and I are off to buy our U-bahn cards and plan an adventure by rail and I am wearing pants.