#visadenial: Possible emigrant
There is a piece of paper on my nightstand. It rolls and turns up against the recently washed clothes and the bedspread, and the rumpled sheet from a bed that refuses to learn to make itself, to become independent of me, to grow. A paper in black and white with some scribbled signature, which isn’t even the original, but hardly a photocopy of a copy of maybe, three copies later, the signature of an American government official whose name I have not been inclined to memorize.
There is a sentence on this piece of paper. A compound sentence that exquisitely employs irony as the main rhetorical figure. A sentence that tries to explain Law 214, section b — unbeknownst to me until yesterday — where it states that all those who appear for a visa interview to go to the United States are considered possible emigrants until they prove otherwise before the official who conducts the questioning.
So, the official who asked me the questions, or shall I call you Rocco?, let’s do things right. I will use the computer through which he interviewed me — only me and not as part of a survey like he told me — and the Internet connection at my job, because I don’t have one at my house — as I mentioned to you in that strange survey that only surveys one person — to enter for free, without long lines, without leaving my flash drives and without paying the amount of 160 dollars to the United States Interest Section in Havana.
At my interview you did not need to know that I was going to the United States, the letter of invitation from LASA was clipped to the rest of my documents. Nor who financed my trip, the answer was the same. Perhaps it was of some collateral interest for you to know where I had traveled before, why, and for how long. Brazil and Kenya should have seemed like nothing to you. But Rocco, we should have gotten straight to the point at our first unfortunate encounter. My interview consisted of one, single question: why would a young, unmarried woman, without children, with a salary of 578 pesos, who technically lives with her mother, return to Cuba after spending 7 days in the capital of the United States?
My answer would have been short. “I don’t know.” Because it is difficult to explain to you, in those couple of seconds, how you define why you return to Cuba. Almost always it is a rainy instant, right before landing, when you recognize every street, the lights — or the absence of them — the old cars, the sea, and it no longer seems fucked up that it is “everywhere,” and the lines are not in such bad shape, and the streets not that dirty and the buildings of Old Havana are barely writhing because, Rocco, you have come home.
That is the only reason. My home, this place where you feel you will always be safe, lies hidden in kilometer three and a half of Campo Florido and I need to know that the possibility of coming back depends on a Cuban peso and my willingness to struggle with the transportation. The plane reservation or crossing the ocean would cloud my judgment and I could no longer be. Because Cuba, Rocco, is the place where I have become.
You sir, obviously, would not have understood anything. And the end would have been the same. But you would have denied me the visa for just reasons, not for being a possible emigrant, but rather for the insolent behavior of choosing a “communist hell” despite being a young, unmarried woman, without children, with a salary of 578 pesos who technically lives with her mother. We both would have slept in peace.
Translated by: Marianna Breytmann
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