Miedo 3: Fragments of Fear
Journey of a Lifetime
“There comes a moment on a journey when something sweet, something irresistible and charming as wine raised to thirsty lips, wells up in the traveller’s being.” Patrick MacGill, The Amateur Army.
It had been a long journey that had started with a short bus ride to the train station in Hull, England, followed by a five-hour journey on the midnight freight train from Hull to London. I had to be at the American Embassy upon opening the next morning in order to receive my immigration visa… if it had been approved; the key word obviously being, if.
I was at the US embassy pretty much all day. I spent most of my time staring in awe at the guards. I have never seen live armed guards before. I just couldn’t take my eyes off them. As much as I tried looking away and taking in the surroundings, my eyes just wouldn’t stop returning to the guns holstered on these uniformed guards. They had to have been used to it because it didn’t seem to faze them a bit. They had to have known I was staring. I kept admonishing myself not to stare, but I just couldn’t help it. Then I started to worry that the guards might catch me staring and arrest me on suspicion of something. (Way too much Television!)
The fantasy world started taking form and things were looking very dark and grim for Kevin Cooper who was now on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. God, he didn’t even know what the crime was yet, he was too busy figuring out an escape route just for getting out of the damned embassy – just in case.
‘Shit, I can’t go that way there’s another guard at the door! Damn, he’s seen me looking! Now I can’t even pretend I’m just going out for some air…Shit!’
Kevin pretends to tighten his shoe laces but can’t help himself from taking a peek to see if the guard at the door is still watching him.
‘No, don’t look at him… That’s what got you into this mess to begin with!’
He is quickly becoming a nervous wreck and knows that this will arouse even more suspicion.
‘Damn it! Breathe slowly; stay calm. Ooh look, there’s a window over there. look at the interesting window… Mm, could I escape through that? Oh good, no guard near it.’ (Sly grin) ‘Okay, don’t stare at window, that might tip ‘em off. Time to do the, stare around innocently act, followed by the, pretend to get up and stretch act… here goes!’
“Mr Kevin Cooper?”
‘Damn, talk about timing!’
“Here.” I say rather meekly. I responded like I was still in school and had been caught daydreaming by the teacher. ‘For god’s sakes, put your hand down!’
The guy in the suit looks at me with a face completely void of emotion.
“This way please.”
I obediently follow.
Needless to say, it was a great relief when my name was finally called and I was dragged back into reality to be interviewed. (And much relieved that I was not being interviewed by the armed guards!)
By mid-afternoon I finally emerged from the embassy building to greet the sun with a grin on my face. Despite the worrying, the waiting, my captivation in the fantasy world, (where, I must admit, a large majority of my time is spent even today.) the questionings, the blood test and finally the payments, I was rest-assured it had all been worth-while. My heart was bubbling over as I flagged down the taxi because I had in my possession a temporary visa which was my pass into the United States of America. It would be replaced by a permanent green card a few weeks after establishing my new address over there.
The taxi took me past Buckingham Palace and onto Victoria Station where I caught the train to Gatwick airport and drank in the idyllic English countryside to the sound of the train going over the tracks which is something I have and will always love.
As I was to have a layover in the airport terminal that night, upon arriving I ventured to grab a bite to eat. I immediately fell in love with the airport atmosphere. It was huge, spacious, plenty of things to look at, colourful and had restaurants! Needless to say, trying to escape from a foreign embassy with armed guards is no mean feat! I was ravenous and soon found myself seated comfortably at a table with plenty to attend to and plenty of time in which to do said, attending.
After eating I wondered around the airport for a while. Looked in shops, walked outside, came back in, used the toilets, freshened up and watched what people were doing. I finally bought a magazine which I read through while enjoying a drink and a snack. There were a lot of people settling down in the floor for the night waiting to check in first thing in the morning. That’s what I needed to do.
When I checked in I had nothing but my passport and my immigration papers. I was informed by Ellen, my wife that everything would be taken care of. She was right. I gave my name, showed them my passport, and they printed out a ticket for me. From there I went to the terminal, waited for my flight to show up on the board. once I knew where it was going to be I sat by the window watching the planes come and go.
The time finally arrived. I was staring at this huge plane and it was so close. It was one of those moments you never forget. All of my dreams were coming true. I had always known that someday I would leave England to live somewhere else. I thought it might be Africa, I never dreamed it would be The USA.
I boarded the plane to find I had a window seat. This was going to be great! I was so excited. I just stared out the window through pretty much most of the flight. I had never seen anything like it in all of my life.
It was a ten-hour flight to New York where I had a six-hour lay-over for my connecting flight to Cincinnati, Ohio. It wasn’t so bad. I got to explore the airport a bit and exchange my pounds for dollars…man I thought I was rich. I got nearly double the amount to what I started out with which was lucky because the value of the pound plummeted to around $1.30 the following month due to fears that the banks in England would have to be nationalised.
The feeling of wealth didn’t last long. When I went to get something to eat the prices compared to England were just astronomical. I didn’t end up with much left at all and hoped I didn’t get hungry again before getting the next plane.
I was finally able to go and get my ticket for the next flight. I still had a couple of hours to go when I finally sat down somewhere to wait for my flight information. The excitement started to wear off, I was feeling fatigued and began to wonder if this journey would ever end. However, when I sat down, this black gentleman in a striped jumper started talking to me. (Back then, in England we called black people, coloured. But in the states, I learned that they liked to be called black)
He was really nice and a godsend. We talked about all kinds of stuff. He was a Christian and shared some of his faith with me and was very interested in England. Before I knew it we had to part ways for our flights.
I’ll never forget him. It was like a light shone within him, he was truly blessed; the nicest man I ever met. I felt rejuvenated by our talk and before we parted I asked, If I could take a photo of him. He obliged. I don’t remember his name, I don’t even remember if we gave each other our names, but I still have that photo today. If it’s true that some people are angels, he is, without doubt, one of them. We parted, but I was ready for the rest of my journey.
I was lucky enough to get the window seat again. And I got to see a lot of New York as we passed over. The second plane was smaller and when it hit a bit of turbulence, the pilot had to drop quickly and then rise again. I thought it was brilliant, but there were some “oohs” and wild looks from some of the other passengers as it did.
It was another four hours or so before the plane landed at Cincinnati airport. After getting my baggage I was relieved to see Ellen and her family waiting for me.
I didn’t know there was another four hours to go in-car before reaching Bowling Green, Kentucky and I was already completely exhausted. To make things worse, her dad was driving a ford pinto, and the whole family had come to meet me. George, my father-in-law, Katie, my mother-in-law, Mike, my brother-in-law, and Ellen, my beloved wife… all eager to meet me.
The ford pinto is listed among the top worst cars ever manufactured. It was really a four seater car. Since Ellen wanted me to sit near her, I had to sit on this hard bump in the middle of the back seat, without a seatbelt for us all to fit. Never had I been so uncomfortable in a car in my whole life. Still, the conversations helped a little which mainly focused upon my journey so far, starting with my bus ride to Paragon Station in Hull. They wanted to know every little detail, and I obliged, omitting the little imaginary drama at the embassy. Although, I did mention about the guards with guns, and they laughed, stating that all the cops carry guns in America. (Uh ho!)
About halfway to Bowling Green, George, asked if I was hungry which resulted in my telling them how I thought I had lots of money after the exchange. They all laughed at that and shortly after we stopped to eat at a restaurant. Mike, offered me his seat in the car and he sat on the uncomfortable bump. I was able to take in the beautiful Kentucky countryside for the first time while trying my damnedest to stay awake.
We finally pulled into a parking lot at the Bowling Green Towers. “We’re going to stay here with my grandma for a while.” Said Ellen, as we got out of the pinto.
We took a lift up to the third floor, walked about halfway down a long hallway and entered an apartment.
That’s when I was introduced to my grandmother-in-law, Nammie. George, Katie, and Mike didn’t stay around long as it was getting late. I was soon ushered into the bedroom and encouraged to get some much-needed rest from Nammie. I didn’t need much convincing and soon fell into the longest, most contented sleep I ever had.