Almost two months went by without any news. Two months easier to handle than the first four of 2012 because my ankle was free, free, free!
We went to the beach for Memorial Day and feeling the sun touch my skin and the sand covering my ankles when I burrowed my feet in it, felt heavenly. We felt almost normal; those four months have been a dark time for us. I hadn’t felt like me, as positive as I tried to be I hadn’t acted like me throughout those four months. I didn’t joke all the time and laugh all the time and teased all the time like I used to. I felt my former self slowly coming back to my body, as if my soul had trickled out and was just now tip toeing its way back to my body.
My friend Dick and his wife had a date for their baby to be born and we were all excited to go to the hospital to meet him. I got a call from my lawyer that week. Our appointment with the immigration judge had been set. “As in four day from now?” I asked. “Yes, be ready” I could hear the excitement in his voice.
That Wednesday night we left work and drove to Miami to stay at my sister’s house. We didn’t want to risk traffic or anything keeping us from that appointment. I carefully selected my outfit and spend the night talking to my sister and watching the Women’s Diving qualifications for the Olympics.
The appointment was at 1 pm the next day. We went to have breakfast across the street where I decided to go all out and eat a Croissant the size of my head. If anything went sour at least I had enjoyed some buttery carbs. We drove to the place, twenty or so minutes away from my sister’s apartment. We ended up getting into an argument because DH wouldn’t park where I told him to park and had to walk a couple of blocks and arrived at the place all wrinkled and sweaty. The nerves were getting to us and we kept snapping at each other like angry cats.
We walked into our assigned courtroom, where another lawyer (incredibly inappropriately dressed) sat with her client and reviewed the case; since my darling layer was running late they decided to review their case while we waited. The prosecutor looked like an uncompromising woman with no sense of humor and I hoped she was feeling generous, not only towards me but also the guy with the sexily dressed lawyer because his case sounded like a nightmare.
Finally my lawyer arrived. He walked in and called me to sit next to him. Dear Husband tried to get up and sit with us but there was no chair for him. It seemed to me an oddly symbolic moment. He was requesting them for me stay as his wife, but in that moment I alone would be judged. I would be the one to face alone, unlike the interview when we sat there holding hands) the review of my life, my case and the decision.
The judge started stating the case for the record, my name, date of birth, country of birth and case number. He asked my lawyer “How do you want to proceed?” he replied “We want to move forward with a dismissal of the proceedings (which meant dismissing and removing my deportation order) so we can continue to apply for permanent residency in the local USCIS office” (or something along those lines). The judge then asked the prosecutor how she felt about that. She replied “I am alright with that, your honor”.
And that was it. The Immigration Judge signed the paperwork, gave a copy to the prosecutor and one to my lawyer. In less than three minutes the whole thing was over. My deportation order had gone away as if it had never happened. What had taken three years and three months to solve was concluded in a Court with a Judge in three minutes. Three minutes. It took longer to record my information for the court’s records than to resolve it. I sat there stunned. My lawyer said his thanks, grabbed my elbow and pulled me from the chair. We walked out and closed the door. I knew what this meant; he didn’t have to explain it. He still smiled big, took my hands and said “Congratulations, in three years you’ll be a citizen” Dear Husband laughed and shook his hand. He explained that the local USCIS would send a letter to conclude the interview we had in January. They said we should have an appointment in a month and to contact him so he could put some pressure if they hadn’t.
He shook my hand once more and DH and I got on the elevator and hugged each other and laughed. Laughed in relief, laugh away the tension that had sat on our shoulders for three years. Laughed at how easily they took a road block that had kept us from moving on with our lives. How simple they made it look, with a few words and a signature on a piece of paper.
See, the journey wasn’t over. I knew there were other steps to take, more bureaucrazy to deal with but this was the biggest issue, this was the Damoclean Sword finally removed from above my head. We walked to the car, went to pick up my sister and drove home talking about feminism and Rookie Magazine (at least my sister and I did, Dear Husband just rolled his eyes at us).
After meeting my friend’s new baby (who weigh 9 pounds, 11 oz) we went home, had dinner and watched TV. So normal, so like every other day and yet everything had changed. I was not done, it was not over but I was finally free. I could travel within the country without fear of getting deported. I would not be rounded up like cattle and taken away from what was now home.
I went to bed holding DH’s hand and contemplating all the possibilities that had now open before me.