“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Glasgow, and you?”
“I have an aunt who lives in Bannff, Lena McClaren.”
“She lives right next door to my mum and dad!”
“No f…g way!”
And with that we became inmates for the day. We were tied together by both nervousness and determination. If you thought my experiences with attorney’s were bad, you should have heard his. I’d been waiting almost 9 years, he’d been waiting longer. Both of us had married an American citizen, (not the same one!), both had invested into business’s and both of us had lost tens of thousands to get to where we now stood. With all that said, so had the other’s who joined us that day.
At around 10AM, we were rounded up and given a pink slip to go to a Harley St doctors office for our chest X-ray and HIV test. We were told that we had to make our own way there and then return at 3 PM to the embassy for the results. I was still clinging to my top-heavy briefcase wondering when they were going to go through its contents to prove that I was who I said I was. So far, nothing, and no one had asked to examine one iota of evidence, and that seemed to be the case for all of us except one woman, who was grilled for at least an hour before they let her join the rest of us on our trip to the doctor’s office.
The embassy didn’t provide any transportation to Harley St and with rain poring down, we all decided to get on the nearest tube train and go cattle class all the way to this dreaded date with reality. We arrived, and were once again herded into an office where music played quietly in the background and where you could cut the tension we were all feeling with a blunt knife. It was frustrating. Not one of us ever imagined having to take this test. After all, did it really matter? Yes, of course it did, and when I thought through the consequences of allowing anyone carrying the AIDS virus into the USA, I could see clearly the paranoia of screening every new immigrant to the nth degree. We all sat a joked, all be it half heartedly about what we would do if we were HIV positive. You have to realize that at that point in time, no one really knew the extent of this epidemic and it was affecting not only the Gay community but heterosexuals too. The authorities had also released figures and studies suggesting that the virus could incubate in anyone’s body for as long as ten yeas before being found. I’d gone over and over in my mind who I’d slept with, praying that each one was OK and that today was just a formality. “please, please, don’t let this be the day my dreams are shattered” I kept repeating.
“Zoltie!” came the shout that broke the tension. I was up first. Reverse alphabetical order! Yeah baby, get me in there and then let’s do lunch!
One prick, no not me, and it was over. Then came the chest X-ray. One hour and I was done, and so was my new best buddy Tom, from Scotland. We hit the pub, or rather the pub hit us. I actually had a beer, or three. We sat, chatted, sweaty, nervous, fearful like conversation. Nothing helped. I wanted to know, and I wanted to know right there and then, as did everyone. We tried to eat, we talked about what we were going to do when we got to America, all the time knowing that it might never happen. Everyone knew someone who lived in the States illegally. Everyone! The sad thing was, if you were illegal, and that could be for many reasons, you were stuck in a country of 300 million people and were unable to go anywhere outside that country and perhaps even the town you lived in. Being illegal wasn’t seen as being criminal, even though it was, it was really something that came to most by accident and not by choice. Some had come to make a better life in a country more prosperous than the one in which they lived. Some had come in on a visitors visa and decided never to go back. Some were just plain stupid and done both. No matter what, none of them had gone through the right channels, the right methodology and the correct legal process to assist them in their plight in becoming a citizen of the United States of America. Not a good idea unless you’re seriously happy about doing jail time or being deported. I had little sympathy for such people, mainly because of the trials and tribulations that I and millions of others had been through following the system to the letter of the law in order to achieve or goal and not cheating or short cutting what had been made clear for a hundred years or more. If you want to join us, follow the planed route!
We had another drink and then it was 2PM and time to leave. Taxi!!!!!