Life is wild. That’s the only way to describe it; although I’ve wasted many others on trying to do just that and will, no doubt, waste many more.

A week ago, I had a job I loved. It was hard, no doubt. But I loved it. It looked like maybe I had stumbled on this much vaunted career specter, after all. And it’s gone – the wisp of a carpet as it is pulled from beneath your feet.

A week ago, I was waiting for the results of my visa application as I had been for three months – the timeline provided by the lawyer who cost more than my education. I say this. It isn’t true. Education is expensive. They told my mom when I was born that she’d need to save one million in our currency to send me to university one day. This was a time when millions were still absurd numbers in everyday life. Something made up by someone from somewhere else. So we didn’t pay her more than my education, but we paid her more money than is thinkable to my South African Rands brain. Hell, it’s more than is thinkable here too.

We were waiting. With nothing but her word that I was safe until then; and all the nightmare stories of the Home Office circling – my own and millions of others, as the Windrush Report is finally published and Priti Patel declares her remorse in Parliament, trying not to twitch as she checks her phone to see the latest plane of deportees has departed.

We call the Home Office hotline, finally because I can no longer bear this hollowness beneath my breastbone. I say we. It is my husband who speaks to them; in case my panic triggers the response I have only just learned is normal from The Body Keeps Score and I, the ever eloquent drama student, am unable to speak.

They’ve sent the result; efficiently and on the accurate timeline of 8 weeks not 12. Less than that. It took them less than that for the case worker to approve of me; and the Home Office to decide she was wrong. The lawyer has had the answer for over two months. My fourth rib is clenched instead of my third. She has appealed. The H.O. ruling is based on a technicality that is no longer accurate. She is full of assurances when she answers her phone. There’ll be a court date. Six months is usual – but with the current chaotic crisis, who knows? In the meantime, I cannot leave the country. I cannot visit my family. Even if it is safe by then, we will not be able to return home for our wedding in December.

The lawyer promises she will send something over in writing that day so that I am no longer afraid I have nothing to prove my legal right to be here in the middle of a national, and international, pandemic. That was a week ago.

I remain a writer without paper.


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