Isn’t it amazing how life gets in the way of our plans? As most of you know, I came to the States almost 8.5 years ago on the pretense that I would live, work a little then leave. I craved a change of scenery, a shift from the mundane. Wow, I got my challenge wish (just with the USCIS alone). My plans started, but didn’t end that way.
If you know Immigration much, you’ll know it’s not easy to gain willful employment here without a Social Security number, something I learned after my 6-month visitors’ visa and I stepped off the plane in broad daylight in a comfortably warm San Francisco, early December 1999. It was a far cry from the dark, 3-week long, frigidly cold rain-fest I left behind in Scotland.
Short of wishing I had been blogging back then, or at least jotting down my thoughts in some way (without fear of having them read and critised*) I can only share my sketchy memories at best. Everything was different: the concreted highway roads, the 100-foot high billboards dotting the Interstates, the amount of traffic lanes, the blinding sun.
After getting over the initial jet lag and culture shock, and perhaps even lifestyle shock (I was used to Clubbing every weekend and always being on the go, to — nothing), and even after applying for jobs, sitting filling out application forms until I couldn’t fill in anymore blanks, I resigned myself to the fact that when it came down to it, I was stuck here for at least 3 months and I had to find something, anything to do. The house was straightened, the laundry done and hung up and put away, carpets were spotless and meals were cooked. Where much is given, much is required. I refused to clean the litter tray or make her bed though. At first I was glad to do it, just to do something to fill my day. I’m not the type to just sit and do nothing, I have to be doing SOMEthing.
After a while I started getting, “Anita at work wishes she had someone like you at her place. She wants to borrow you, but I told her you were my wife and she wasn’t getting you!” Funny? Maybe. I wasn’t laughing though. It implied my busyness was almost being overlooked and horribly under appreciated and taken for granted. It also implied a dark, sick joke and I wasn’t going there.
I needed some intellectual stimulus, anything to fill the void I was feeling after working for so long. Online gaming was fun for a while, but I got lonely with no one to talk to except the two cats. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats, but there’s only so much one-sided conversation you can take before you realise there’s a thin line between interacting with them and morphing into the psycho cat lady with no life.
I soon found an online forum with some like-minded (non-cat related) sarcastic-fuelled antagonists — all in fun, of course. Soon after, Bryan joined the group and I felt drawn to him in a I’ve-known-him-for-ages kinda way. I wasn’t looking for any sort of relationship, but definitely liked the attention my uber-sarcastic persona was attracting — the good, and the bad. The bad just validated it for me and encouraged more of it.
After a week or so of chatting with Bryan, I added him to my messenger and we left the forum behind. We’d chat until it was daylight. One night we chatted right up until he had to leave for work that day. It still amazes me how everything unfolded. He was, and still is, easy to talk to. He exemplified many traits and qualities I admired and wanted in a mate, but I never really thought for a moment – at least in the early days – that anything would come from it. It’s still interesting to me how being online and getting to know someone from the words on the screen breaks down many barriers society and even social etiquette teaches us. Some of the limitations we even impose upon ourselves taken from past experiences and relationships. But when you don’t have that to complicate everything, you open up and share things you’d probably be a lot more reserved about sharing. And being British, I’m reserved by nature anyway.
As time passed and our trust grew deeper, I felt myself letting my guard down more and more which made our connection stronger and our friendship deeper. It was a surprise. It totally crept up on me; us. Neither of us were looking for a relationship, but are we ever? And just when you feel like you’ve given up on relationships and the complicated emotional headaches they can be, and you’ve reigned yourself to having to settle, settle for something less than you know you’re worthy of, you’re handed something you’ve wanted but didn’t really realise you wanted it. Until you realise you could lose it.
One night in mid-May and approximately 3 weeks before my Visa expired and I’d have to head home, I got an e-mail from Bryan saying he was sorry he couldn’t talk to me that night that he was tired from work and Uni and was heading to bed, but wanted to share something with me. He told me that he’s not the spontaneous type (and he’s totally not, he has to plan things, make lists and bloody spreadsheets and pivot graphs…) but had booked a flight to California to come meet me and spend 4 days with me over Memorial Weekend, 2000.
I was excited, scared, elated and panic-struck all in one breath.
But mainly excited.
He was just the kind, compassionate, sensitive but strong man I had grown to know and love across the 600 miles that separated us. His gentleness and spirituality mirrored each other perfectly. He was that mix of responsible but fun I’d been waiting for. He was my best friend, and still is.
It almost sounds crazy now, but just 4 months after the initial meeting, and after I went out to Yellowstone with him and his family and spent three weeks with all of them (on his dime), I moved states to be closer to him.
My love for him over the years hasn’t changed, but expanded and transformed into something greater. He remains the most amazing man I’ve ever met. The roads we’ve walked together have been rewarding and very difficult at times, but they have brought us closer together and made us stronger; and especially, have given us perspective and a respect for what we have now.
Things won’t always be easy and I know there’ll be more times in the future where we have to make difficult decisions, and sacrifice something for something better, but I feel better prepared for it having Bryan at my side.
I am so grateful God helped me find you eight years ago. I am a better person because you love me.
* I could write 6 or 7 blogs on this very subject (old room mate). I have it all written down. Maybe one day.