I couldn’t sleep. It was three am in Madrid, I had to be up at six, but i couldn’t sleep. Had i remembered everything? Was I missing anything? What questions would they ask, what would I answer? Every time I diverted my attention away to more peaceful thoughts, they would creep through and lead me write back to my pending visa application.
Finally, after checking the clock every hour, it was time. A couple of metro’s and a brisk walk later, I saw the American flag whispering in the wind. I was early. Very early. It was still dark. A breeze was blowing, goosebumps raising the hairs on my bare arms.
At a quarter past 8, they let me in. I took my ticket and then a seat. I was number 19. I watched 18 people get up, walk to the booth, speak for 5 minutes, then sit down again. At my call, I did the same, handing over my passport and proof of the 90 euro payment. Another excruciating hour, each number slowly passing by, until number 19 came around again. A different booth this time. They wanted fingerprints. Left, Right, both thumbs – take a seat please.
Still clasping the folder full of letters, statements, certificates… my palms sweating, time ticked on. The room was full by now. Booth number 1 was calling ticket number 50 something. Two windows opened up to the left, a woman in one, a man in the other, with signs that read ‘interviews’. The next turn would be it. Every time they buzzed someone else through, I’d jump three feet, heart in my throat, eyes scanning the electronic screen. 16, 17, 18… I was next. That meant the man. He looked nice, he was smiling often. A good sign I thought, trying to stay calm.
Buzz. Number 23.
Oh. “Numbers will be called out of sequence” read a poster above my head. Ok, so the woman then. Was that better or worse? I couldn’t judge from her demeanor. Finally, another buzz.
That’s me, remember?
On shaky legs I walked up to the desk. In a strong American accent she said “Lily, I’m going to ask you a few questions”. I was trying to swallow the lump in my throat. “You’re the same age as my daughter, and you’re travelling around the world”.
Could she hear my heart beating? It was so loud.
“Thank you for that”, she said with a smile. I’m suddenly in love with this woman. She takes on a motherly air to me, calm, nurturing. She’s making chit-chat, joking as she files through my papers. Then, taking the front form, scribbles notes in the ‘for office use only’ box.
“I’m issuing you the visa. Go and have fun!”
Walking out the Embassy, my feet didn’t touch the ground. I was floating on clouds. I felt like the blind man in the film “Amelie”, the whole world opening up, the sky clearing. Colours were brighter, people more beautiful. A true, honest, ecstatic smile spread form cheek to cheek. I’m sure I looked mad. I felt like doing unexpected acts of kindness to every stranger passing by. I skipped home, singing, dancing, meeting every eye and beaming. A sweet syrup trickled through my blood.
I could enter that ‘promised land’. And now, finally, I can sleep again.