I am tired. I am tired of fighting the system. I am tired of filing paperwork. I am tired of advocating, tired of asking, tired of demanding. I am tired, and I feel like going home.
You see, I don’t think Canada wants me much. Since I had cancer, I’ve joined a class of people termed “medically inadmissible.” Canada doesn’t want the sick people, the people who’s bodies have been invaded by capitalism, the people who bear the mark of corporate greed in the form of amputated body parts, shortened life spans, and what they perceive to be a “burden on the health care system. I’m tired of petitions, second opinions, exceptions. Perhaps if this was my first go-around with immigration, my first set of applications and scans and finger prints and attorneys, perhaps then I wouldn’t be so tired. Perhaps then I would shrug, and continue to pour money into the bottomless pit that is legal support, visa fees, and the like. But it is not my first go around. Not even close. We’ve fought immigration for years.
You live in a country to which you hold a passport? Extraordinary privilege. You have a partner who’s passport matches yours? Even more privilege. You live in a country where at least one of you holds citizenship? I’m jealous. Sam has a Mexican passport. I have an American passport. We live in Canada.
You may have never thought about the mounds of paperwork. Maybe you don’t know how we save every wedding invitation, the envelopes from bank statements, and copies of old leases to prove we are a couple- because that is something we have had to do in the past- sit in front of a border agent who lifts his left brow when you can’t recall your partners’ toothbrush color. It’s something we’ve had to do in the past, and its something we fully expect to have to do in the future, evidenced in the file folder we keep that reads across the front: “Us. <3. Real.”
Maybe you don’t realize we live in two year cycles. Two years until another visa expires. Fifteen months until we have to pay the lawyer a four-figure fee again. And then we’ll need to procure documentation about our work, our health, our bank account, and our life together. It will be assembled, we will sign and initial, and then we will pay another fee. And another. We will give finger prints and hand over screen shots of our finances and try to remember exactly which date we first entered the US, seven years ago. Because that is a detail we will be asked- maybe in customs, and when we falter, nervous and tired from travel, it will be understood as a crack in a lying scheme, and we will be detained and questioned. We will be treated like criminals, finally released, and then we will breathe easily for a couple of months before it’s time to gather evidence, do biometrics, write checks, and wish we didn’t have to. It’s so familiar, this cycle of convincing someone to let us stay, to let us be together, to let us live easily. We’ve done it in the States, in Canada, in Mexico. With a few notable differences, it’s mostly the same, involving headaches, finger prints, and an absurd amount of paperwork. And waiting. There is always waiting, tension filled waiting.
Today I took the English test for Canadian immigration. An English test. I kid you not. When I checked in, the man had to call over a colleague to deliberate over whether it was actually me, in my passport photo. As if I’d take this boring test for someone else- sorry I got cancer and my hair is thirteen inches shorter than it was when I took the passport photo, dude. Four hours sitting in a room. One hour for reading, one hour for listening, one hour for writing. I finished each section in fifteen minutes. And then I had to wait, in silence. I took off my sweatshirt and hung it on the back of my chair. The test proctor came to notify I was not allowed to remove my sweater. Seriously. That happened. I did not check my work. I drummed my fingers. And then came the oral piece. I had to bite my tongue several times, lest I lash out in feminist rage at the stupidity of the questions, including “Do you think male and female relations in marriage are changing, and is that good or bad?” (don’t EVEN get me started on this one) and “Does everyone enjoy family gatherings?” (do YOU enjoy every family gathering?) and “Do you think all families should have children?” (Why? You couldn’t come up with a better question?)
I am tired. I want to stock up on my medicines and move back. I don’t want to deal with attorneys and passports and English tests. And I would, however the reality is… health care. I have it here, and I don’t have it there. And so I continue to slog through, for today. But part of me wonders, who cares? What if we went home and nothing ever happened? What if we went home and something happened? Would it matter? What matters? What’s done is done, and I had cancer. Besides, if I couldn’t get my estrogen blocker because it was too expensive, then maybe the bone pain and stomach irritability and weight gain would become but a memory. That’d be nice. Honestly, I’m just too tired to care. Too tired to care if I have an oncologist, too tired to care if I ever get the expander out of my chest, just too tired to care.
Between cancer in a country that’s not mine, and visas and PhDs and proving we are actually in a relationship, I’ve got stacks and stacks of folders and envelopes and records and forms. We’ve spent tens of thousands on visas, lawyers, and records. I spend time on the phone getting medicines approved, time emailing people for letters that prove I worked here and there, time remembering dates so long ago and so not important in life that there’s no reason anyone would retain the information. I am tired of spending my time this way. I am tired.
For tonight, the tired will be cured with magnesium and a temperpedic pillow. And in the coming weeks, we shall see what pans out, how the border agents draw their lines, who can stay where, and when, and how. But tonight, I will dream of a land where two people can fall in love and live together happily, peacefully, without proving anything, without paying anyone to format documents, without becoming nervous each time we cross a border, filled with the very real fear that we could be separated. Tonight, I will dream of no visas, no health crisis, no borders.