So, there I was in the Secondary Questioning area of the U.K. Border (again). It was getting a bit boring now and I sat in the hard plastic chair, trying to keep my expression neutral and my body relaxed.
My exercises in emotional detachment were interrupted by the sound of crying – no, weeping and yes, praying. There, just 4 feet away from me sat Becky on a mountain of luggage. I remember her blonde hair, tucked up in a messy bun, her face swollen, contorted, and cherry red from sheer panic. Becky didn’t stand a chance and I knew it. Still, I knew the comfort of a familiar accent and I decided to give her the company of one girl in trouble to another.
She stopped hollering at God and told me the story. It was love alright. They couldn’t have been older than their early 20’s. Cross-border romance and they’d spent all their money on plane tickets; the spare change had all gone now and she’d decided she’d give it all up for love. She’d given up her apartment, temporarily sheltered her dog and cat until -ugh. I wasn’t going to tell her that she had no hope in Hell of emigrating her pets. I mean, what did I know? Maybe her boyfriend might win the lottery and be able to pay for the papers and the quarantine, oh, never mind.
The point was, she was sat on top of an enormous pile of luggage. Upon her detention she was asked, was she moving here to the UK? Um, yes? Um, no? I mean, who the hell makes lifetime plans to declare at the border of a country when you’re like, 20? It was fairly obvious from the ramshackle assortment of luggage that she’d packed her bags for love and planned to figure it all out later – eventually.
But now they had her passport. They were talking removal (better than deportation, honey). She’d be put straight back on a plane back to Iowa – or Delaware, then she’d pick up all that baggage off the baggage carousel and figure out where she was going to go next after spending that refunded apartment deposit on a one-way ticket to London.
That’s why she was shaking. No, she wasn’t being sent back to a war zone but the reality of being left jilted, unemployed, homeless, and penniless at the moment she’d given it all up for love was the stuff of First World nightmares.
Just then a UK Border agent came out with my passport – a blue one, like Becky’s.
‘You’re free to go,’ he said.
I stood up and looked back at her.
‘Bye,’ she sniffed.
**If we’d had social media back then, I would have totally friended her on Facebook and shared her ‘GoFundMe’ page to get her apartment back. I wouldn’t have contributed of course because there still isn’t a border crossing insurance policy I can buy. It’s a bloody expensive racket, I can tell you.