Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Photo: R.C.O.

Today is Thursday, November 10th, 2016. My husband was at his job this morning, minding his own business.

He usually wears paint-splattered jeans and t-shirts with stains. He works with his hands over the course of his day and things gets messy. His job involves moving repeatedly between his job’s three buildings.

My husband’s skin is the color of dark cherry wood. His cheekbones sail out over his jawbone. Lately he’s been wearing a old beige and white baseball cap over his full head of wavy black hair.

He walks to get around, so he was outside, walking from one building to the other. Between projects. Between thoughts. Between plans. A caulking gun in one hand, a tube of silicone adhesive in the other.

Today, Thursday, November 10th, 2016, for the very first time after two and half years at this job, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security patrol car heads directly towards my husband and slows down to a menacing speed. Right up in his physical space. Clearly trying to threaten and intimidate. The two DHS officers in the patrol car saw my husband. His skin color and pronounced cheekbones. His paint-splattered clothes, his worn-out baseball cap.

And they made a decision about him.

The U.S. permanent residency visa that my husband received in 2013 wont protect him right just then.

Thing is, from the multiple lives that my husband’s led, this isn’t the first time in his 43 years that men in a car have come up at him like that. In uniform or otherwise. He does not challenge the DHS officers. He does not walk away quickly, pretending not to see them. He does not run.

My husband slows down his walk. His spine made of steel arcs towards the sun. He looks directly at them with neutral eyes.

Their patrol car almost comes to a full stop now. That horrible moment before the moment where shit can go down five different ways within the frame of ten seconds.

All three men are silent. Right then, my husband takes a good look at them and sees that both DHS officers are Latino. One of them types something into a laptop.

Eduardo Galeano’s open veins pool all around them.

The sound of an airplane taking off nearby permeates the space.

The DHS officer driving the patrol car suddenly guns his engine and they speed away.

My husband, due to his job and his way of being, doesn’t text me regularly during the day. But this morning? I look down at my cell phone and see that I have five texts in a row from him. And no call. I read the messages where he tells me what happened, my left hand pressed across my face to push the scream back into my mouth.

And he ends his unusual text wave with this in Spanish: Next time, I’m going to have FaceBook Live ready. Because this will continue to happen.

I’ve spent this day sobbing on and off. Remembering his sweet smile when we walked through the San Francisco International Airport in September of 2013, his new U.S. permanent residency visa in his hands. A new chapter. A new leaf.

The results of this election didn’t take me by surprise. Hell no. Too many signs for way too long.

But the fact that my husband was threatened and harassed by U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers right outside of his job two days after this election? Yeah, that took me the hell by surprise.

And if I start to cry every morning that I drop off my husband at work because I’m scared that he won’t come back home at the end of the day, he’s going to start taking the bus. My husband’s a loving man, but also a practical one.

So I need to fix my literal and figurative face. Because I’m going to drive my husband to work tomorrow like I do every day, with my silver hoops on at 6:15 am, and my black puffy winter coat over jeans and a t-shirt because it’s cold at that hour.

I’ll be ready.









Reset Button

ImageBy this time next Tuesday my husband will have walked through the gates at the San Francisco International Airport.

The reality is that my heart will believe it when I hug him on U.S. soil. But the plan on paper is that he’s here by next Tuesday at this time.

I jump and swerve between two extremes. On the one hand, I’m psyched out of my head that my husband’s coming. On the other hand, I’m freaking out about hitting the reset button.

Let me backtrack a minute to explain.

I had a Skype call with Picasso this past Sunday. It was a wee bit all over the place, both messy and straightforward. It was a long walk in the conversational woods about about money issues, future jobs, politics and art, with a big analysis about Mexico’s National Soccer team possibly not making it to the World Cup.

I was talking with Mr. Vulcan afterwards about the conversation. I shared with him the tensions around money and future jobs. At one point, Mr. Vulcan said this:

“Look, this is naturally an extremely intense and overwhelming time for the two of you. It’s as if you’re hitting the reset button. Your life as you knew here in the U.S. as a couple stopped twelve years ago.”

Through hot and silent tears I said, “Yeah, that’s it.”

A large part of me is hesitant to blog about what comes up post-visa approval, I’m hesitant because there are so many of us out there in immigration situations who’d kill to be having these post-visa approval issues. I understand the deep and real privilege inherent in the emotions I’m grappling with right now.

The decision to continue to speak up and out is everyone’s personal choice. But I know that I really do want to talk about life post-visa approval. One big reason is that there are so few of us out there with the means and the desire to talk about what happens after.

So while there’s a lot running through my jumpy and swerving mind, the thoughts that are the most insistent are these:

While my husband was deported for the second time from the U.S. in 2001, and that act in itself was quite violent, the pre-9/11 U.S. that my husband knew is so truly and very different now. This militarized, Patriot-Act-wielding, Internet-and-cellphone-humping, Big-Brother-is-watching United States of America takes some getting used to.

The impending permanent move that we’re planning in the next few months for Picasso and our two cats is going to cost some serious hard-core cash.

And the thought that cartwheels through my mind the most?

We’ve been in a long-distance relationship for the past two and a half years, i.e, me here in the U.S., Picasso in Mexico, with a two-hour time difference between us. We both sleep alone in our beds for months on end, with the exception of my visits. We both have our ways of meeting the morning and ending the day that don’t involve one another.

So this reset situation?

Yeah. When an elevator is slow, and I’m in a rush, I’m one of those people that stabs the up/down buttons with my index finger like I’m tapping out a morse code message.

Picasso isn’t like that.

I’m counting on him to hold my hand so that I don’t break my index finger.