Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dedicated Stupidity

The week of our appointment I took personal days so that I could go to Montreal to be at the meeting. It was also the day after Valentine's Day, which was exciting for me because I had spent every Valentine's Day since we had begun dating with M. The plan was that I would fly on the evening of the 14th, a Wednesday, take Thursday and Friday off and fly back Sunday for work on Monday.

I knew with the expedited removal that we would not be approved same day but somehow I fooled myself into hoping that some kind of miracle would happen and they would realize just how pathetically stupid the whole thing was and just give him the visa. I wished for this, but prepared a waiver package to deal with reality.

With an expedited removal, a visa applicant has to file for a waiver called "Permission to Reapply after Deportation or Removal." It is filed on form I-212, and required a package of reasons that the waiver should be approved. I had consulted with attorneys and researched things and was also fairly certain that they were going to try to force us to file a hardship waiver too, this is usually for people with other inadmissibilities like Misrepresentation--lying to officials or on visa applications, or most often overstays with or without a visa. M did not legally need one of these, but based on my conversations with attorneys it was likely they would try to force us to file one. I had an envelope two inches thick to take with me to the appointment. I had also packaged up ticket stubs, copies of my passport stamps and pictures going back three years to show to the consular officer.

The night before I was to fly, a very rare noreaster hit my city and the entire east coast. It followed its way northward towards Canada and all the way up Interstate 95, my route to M. All flights were canceled ahead of time up to an hour before my flight was to take off. I was frantic. School was canceled for the day, so I had plenty of time to panic. I was certain my flight would not take off, and that I would wait there all day and it would be too late to drive the 12 hours to M's appointment. It had become obvious over the days just before the appointment that M was not going to the appointment by himself. Days before the appointment he started having flashbacks to our detention at the border and I knew that if I did not go, he would stay as far away from the U.S. Consulate as possible.

I started driving in the morning in a manual transmission, 2001 Mercury Cougar. My father felt that this was the least intelligent part of my plan. Not only was there snow, a lot of snow, but once you get into northern New York it is entirely mountainous. There was no way I wasn't going, I couldn't rent a car (internationally) on such short notice and so he and my mother stalled me as much as possible and eventually just reconciled themselves to the fact that their daughter was a dedicated moron and let me begin my trip.

The first miles were not the problem, but about 7:00pm when I was deep into New York state, the snow started coming down so heavily that I could not see ahead of me. The roads were entirely white and it was obvious that they were no longer even attempting to clear the roads. Around me were tractor trailer trucks and four-wheel drives. Apparently, no one else thought it a good idea to take a manual transmission, low driving car into a blizzard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Waiting Game

As I have told you before, I am quite obsessive. I had everything planned out and had gone through every last bit of information I could find online about the National Visa Center process. What the NVC does is process the visa application (and $355 fee) the Affidavit of Support (and $70 fee) and asks for all supporting documents (the same ones just sent to the USCIS) and adds requirements for a police certificate from every country a person has ever lived. It also gives you the instructions for getting a United States approved Medical Exam ($250.)

Now, it would not be good government if this did not slow down the process considerably, so at the time we were applying, they would send you the fee for one form, wait til they received it, cashed it and "processed it" and then send you the form to fill out and send back. They would wait for that form to arrive and be processed before they would send you the next fee and the process would start again. Luckily, newer visa applicants get to use an online system where one can pay the fees at one time and recieve the forms to fill out. You can actually get the forms online too, but you have to have a special barcode form to mail back with each application under the laughable guise of "faster processing." I'm sorry, but there is nothing "fast" about the immigration process.

Having said that, I have to defend whatever lovely soul got their hands on my husband's USCIS application paperwork because they transferred it from Vermont, our assigned office, to California. Our I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) was processed in less than three months! That is completely unheard of! I have no idea how it happened, but I assume some kind soul took pity on us after reading the application and realizing the horrible long process that we were going to have. So, after three months, we were on our way to the NVC and the rest of the processing.

I had every fee sheet sent back to NVC same day, and every application pre-filled from their website just waiting for the barcode sheet to be mailed to me. Once the barcode arrived, I was on my way to the post office to mail that out same day too. Somehow, I was crazy enough to think this was going to help. In the end, it served its purpose. . .it made me feel better thinking I was helping.

Our case "went complete" at NVC on November 14, 2006, seven months after we were married. This meant that all of our paperwork was in and that all we had to do was wait for the consulate to schedule our appointment. Another two months passed before M received notice in Canada that he would be interviewed at the US Consulate Montreal on February 15, 2007.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Charter of the French Language

Three weeks after getting back home I had figured out how to get copies of the marriage certificate. They had originally told me to mail a request back to Montreal, but in my hurry I had found a way online to do it instead. The certificate arrived, in FRENCH. Call me sentimental, but I always kind of imagined having my marriage certificate, seeing it, and it was never in French in my visions. Immigration also prefers to see things in English, though you can have anything translated, it just sometimes causes hang-ups and delays.

If you think the beaurocracy in your government is bad, this is going to amaze you. I called Quebec to get a new copy of the certificate. The nice gentleman on the phone advised me that since I had signed my marriage document in French (something I did not actually realize I had done at the time) that I would never, I repeat, NEVER, be issued a certificate in English. He further went on to tell me that it was actually law under the "Charter of the French Language" instituted in Quebec. (Oddly, the CFL also mandates how languages are displayed on restaurant menus, i.e. French has to be first and a larger font than any other language. . . .there is even more inane, crazy stuff in there, but I won't bore you. . . ) It was not that they did not issue English certificates, they did, they just wouldn't issue one to me.

At any rate, I had to get the certificate translated. Now, the words on a marriage certificate are cognates, so even I could translate it, but someone who is actually qualified has to translate it for immigration purposes. Amazingly, the teacher I was working under doing my student teaching, a middle-school Spanish teacher in her 43rd year of teaching had for the first 24 years of her career, taught French! The dear woman agreed to help me by translating it and signing the certification of translation for me and gave me several copies because we both knew I would need extras for the steps down the line in immigration. It was beautiful, fast, and FREE!

In no time I compiled the package and mailed it out. The applications had been waiting for more than a year to be signed and mailed out, finally we were on our way, May, 2006.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How it works

Okay, so I had been reading and studying for immigration since I started dating M in February, 2004. It was now April 2006 and the entire game was changed by his expedited removal in 2005. Everything about the immigration system is convoluted. Most Americans still believe, from their extensive study in sitcoms from "Wings" to "Ugly Betty" that once a person marries a U.S. Citizen, they themselves are a U.S. Citizen. . .I mean, it worked for Balky on "Perfect Strangers," right? Nope. It is actually nothing like that. Nothing at all.

There are actually a lot of steps. People who don't believe in the automatic citizenship theory usually--in my limited experience--believe that you just file a simple application, it gets processed and the immigrant comes to the U.S. Much like the idea that immigrants here illegally should have just applied for citizenship (as if a classification like that exists) this is also not true. There are actually a lot of steps and even in the best of circumstances it can take more than a year for someone to make it to the United States, even when married to a citizen.

The first step is filing a petition with the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Service.) They charge you a little over $300, keep your petition gathering dust on someone's desk for a few months, check to see if you do, if fact, have a marriage certificate attached to your petition and then they either approve or deny it and ship it on to the National Visa Center (NVC) where they ask for more documents--and *cough* more money--and then they can either schedule your interview at the consulate or they will forward the case and the consulate will schedule the interview. None of your documents are really reviewed until that interview at the consulate. USCIS takes them and only verifies if they are there. NVC does exactly the same thing, makes sure that they are *still* there. Only the consulate gets the right to evaluate if they are in fact good enough, and that does not happen until you are months and months into the process.

In our case we would have to submit our marriage certificate and M's divorce certificate from Pakistan. Remember, the one that M had gotten from his parents, the one printed on Rupee paper, yeah, that one.

The marriage certificate from Quebec would not be ready for at least three weeks and so, we were left to relax for the rest of my little vacation. Four days after our wedding I was on my way back home, back to work and back to separation. I had almost forgotten the reality of my life, full time Master's program, a middle school student teaching experience and working 36 hours a week to pay for my Pakistani-Canadian habit.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Next Frontier

Every little girl dreams of their wedding day. Mine was not quite what I had hoped for, but we were happy nonetheless. My husband looked like weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He walked easier and smiled in a way I had not seen in more than a year.

I think the happiest person though, might have been Z. He emerged from the mosque and proudly lifted his hands to the sky above his head with a sigh and an "Alhamdulillah!" and my mom got a picture of it. The look on his face says a thousand words. He was happy for M and I, of course, but I think it counted to him as a personal success that he was able to be a part of his best friend's happiness and a really nice day.

Here now a tribute to my extreme dorkiness. My mom, at my request, had brought a white wedding dress I had purchased with her when she came. It had been fitted and was just waiting for me to wear. There was no way for this to happen. It just didn't fit into the surroundings. That part of my dream, that kind of wedding, was gone. My lengha, on the other hand, made an appearance at a little dinner party at M's house two days after our Nikkah. Z's wife was wonderful, as always and loaned me gold bangles and a lovely pair of hoop earrings. Z purchased food from a local restaurant and his two brothers came to celebrate with us.

Z bought us our only wedding gifts, a watch set for me and flowers to hold. Z took pictures and his wife made a video to be sent to M's mother in Karachi. She was going to be taking a trip there soon and would make sure they saw it.

I had now moved on to my next obsession, one I had been holding onto for many months, one I had been planning for and studying for: my impending battle with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Wink and a *Nod*

As the conversation with his mother ended, M got up and we were ready to go. The Imam had scheduled us for 3:00 pm and Z was trying to round up another witness. They weren't sure if my father was going to count since he was Christian, not Muslim. No one else was available because it was midday and everyone was at work.

It took about 35 minutes to drive to the mosque. None of us had ever been to the area where this mosque was and M kept telling me I was never going to find it. When we arrived we saw a tall brick building with a bank attached to it. It was large, but was obviously not originally built as a mosque.

The inside had offices and a banquet room. We were directed into the Imam's office and M went for wuzu. My parents sat on my right and when M got back he sat on the left. Z sat on the other side beside M. We discussed the mehr and filled out an application form. The Imam sat behind a large executive style desk. He only had a copy of the marriage documents in French. At this point, that was the least of my worries.

The paperwork was all in French and the Imam let me know that M would recite some Arabic. After M repeated a few phrases in Arabic the Imam asked me if I consented to the marriage. I looked up and nodded my head. I started to say something, but the Imam had already moved on to more Arabic. He had us both sign the marriage documents and I was married.

In short, I married a Pakistani-Canadian in a dual French/Arabic wedding by nodding my head.

Oh, and M wore blue jeans.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Blessing

As soon as the words were out of M's mouth, Z jumped into high gear. He needed the number to the mosque that we had contacted (the only one that agreed to perform the nikkah (wedding)) and he took it upon himself to start trying to round up witnesses. I tried to slow things down because I was convinced that M didn't mean it and that if we went too quickly I'd end up with a runner at the proverbial altar. . . Well, there was no altar, but you get what I mean.

Z made the calls and on two hours notice, we had a three o'clock appointment at the mosque. The Imam himself answered the phone and set up the appointment. We went back to M's apartment, he said he had things to do before we went, and I needed to change clothes. I decided to wear a pretty salwar kameez that M had brought me back from Pakistan and I decided the shirt M would wear. But as I turned around I saw that M had gotten Z to give him a phone card and he disappeared into the bedroom. It was after midnight Karachi time and M looked very serious. He took the phone and the phone card and I heard very stern Hindko coming from the bedroom. I walked in, worried. M had started to cry.

He had called his mother to tell her what was happening and to his surprise, and mine too, she started to cry. She was not crying as if he was betraying her by marrying 'gori,' which she still called me, but because, she told him, she wished she could be there with him to see it happen. After everything they had done to fight the marriage, he got his mother's blessing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

His Everything

As I've said before, one of M's biggest complaints living in Canada was his lack of familial support. This is not to pretend that if his family was with him in Canada that they would have been much support, but in his head, that was the meaning and importance of family--to support you in big life changes. To want the best for you. The week I came for spring break, the week my parents came to Montreal, Z became all of those things for M. Z took the place of M's father, uncle, cousin and best friend.

My parents arrived while M was still at work. When he got home we led them to their hotel room and ordered a pizza for dinner. We saved all heavy talk for the next day. My dad and M spoke in Urdu and my dad told stories. M really just listened a lot and then we left them to rest. The next morning Z went with M and I to talk to my parents. Z and my dad got along very well. They all started with talking to my dad in Urdu and telling stories before jumping right into marriage talk. M seemed petrified. He was scared and it was something that I really had never seen before. I mean, I had talked to him while he was sick in Pakistan and he was upset, but never just petrified like this. He explained his whole story again to my dad and they compared stories of their own fathers.

It seemed that Z was trying to talk M into going ahead with the wedding and my father was just telling him that he had to do what made him happy. I listened over and over as M explained to both of them that he knew he was going to marry me. He explained that he had been ready to marry me even before his trip to Pakistan, but that now was not the right time. He explained that things were not right yet. I could see him getting frustrated and more and more nervous. I had to leave the room.

I walked into the bathroom and before I knew it I was sobbing. I was as silent as possible because I did not want anyone outside to hear me, but my mom had seen the look on my face as I walked into the bathroom. She walked in a few minutes after me and hugged me. For my mom, it was M's fault that I was crying. She knew the whole story and thought that he should be stronger, that he should be more firm and more ready. I defended him because it was all I could do. I had felt the fear oozing from his words and tones in the front room. I had held his hand the entire time he spoke to my dad and it was obvious to me that he just could not do it. After all this time, he still was not ready and in the bathroom staring at my tear-streaked red face in the mirror I knew it was over.

I took a deep breath and sent my mom back out into the front room. I washed my face with cold water and stared at myself in the mirror. I gave myself a pep talk to go back out and do what I knew I had to. I again was sure that this would be my last trip to see M and I was not even sure how I could do it. I pictured myself without him, ignoring his calls or not even getting any calls at all. I imagined myself having to explain why I was coming home alone and why I was no longer engaged. I imagined myself alone.

I walked back into the front room and took my seat again beside M. He was looking at me and the talk died down a bit before Z and my dad started discussing something I could not understand. M looked at me his eyes pleading for understanding, "You understand, right? We can do it next time. We can plan something bigger, we will do it later." I took a deep breath in.

"Everything is going to be all right," I said. He looked at me puzzled.

"We can do it next time?"

"Everything is going to be fine, you will be fine. Whether I am here or not, you are going to be fine. It is obvious that we are just not going to do this. We've talked about it too many times." I trailed off.

"I don't understand, we are going to do it, we just have to wait until the right time." he was continuing, but I wasn't really listening anymore. I had in my head what I had to say and I knew that unless I kept reminding myself, I wouldn't go through with it. I had, in fact, tried to get myself to do this before but was totally unable. M and I had even broken up once. We made it thirty minutes before we called each other back and apologized.

M saw something in my face and while I was turned around talking to my mother, he announced to my father, "We are getting married today."

Z and my dad were taken aback, my mom stopped talking. She looked at me and told me what he had said, and I did not at all believe it. I didn't want it. I had decided I was going home alone, and had as much as told M so, and I didn't want to get married as a last resort! I took M aside and told him that I didn't want him doing this because of pressure. I repeated over and over again, "You will be fine and so will I, we do not have to do this."

M was now oppositely certain of what we had to do. The day had begun with his inability to get married and ended with his inability not to.

I was still not convinced it was going to happen.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ongoing Negotiations . . . .

Z and his wife welcomed me in so happily. I have always loved his wife. She absolutely amazes me! She married Z very young, but knows just how to handle him. She is always patient and calm, attributes I do not have at all! He always knows when she's angry, and she doesn't have to say anything at all!

Anyway, I had my bag holding the lengha in my lap as we made small talk. Once we had exhausted the topics of weather and how my trip went, I turned to N (Z's wife) and told her that I had brought a lengha to show her. I told her I wanted to know if it was good or not and that I had found it on the internet. I pulled it gently out of the bag and she looked politely over the beading and embroidery with me. She smiled and looked at Z and we discussed how heavy the lengha was. Z was smiling from ear to ear and I knew that now he would ask the question that I needed him to ask.

"So then it's good news," he said.

I took a deep breath, and though this was how I expected the conversation to go, there were still tears trying to ruin my voice. "Well, we had planned for good news," I said. "But it appears that I have brought this dress for nothing. He has changed his mind again."

Z became serious and asked me what I meant. Z was one of the few people who knew the whole story of what happened with M in Pakistan.

I told Z that M had changed his mind again and that he was just too scared. I told him that we had already gone through this several times and that I just did not think that it was ever really going to happen and that I couldn't continue to live this way. "I will talk to him," he said, and that was that. N looked very sad for me and reassured me that Z was going to take care of things.

When M got home, I told him about my visit with Z, and M knew what to expect. Immediately after M got home, Z was calling him to come and talk. They went out together and were gone for two hours.

When M came back he was happier. He told me all about their conversation and laughed about it with me. The long and short was that Z basically asked him if he was crazy and what was wrong with him. M thought it was funny that someone besides me felt so strongly about his getting married. I could not help but think, here M was, sharing his "secret" conversation with me, as he did everything that happened in his life.

We were living in two different countries and yet we spoke to each other multiple times daily. We shared everything, but he couldn't seem to get over the fear of what had happened to him in Pakistan enough to make it "permanent." We were best friends, but so far, that was not enough.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I stepped off the plane and got my luggage. I was going back and forth in my head about how the visit was going to go. M picked me up at the airport, late as always, and helped me put my bags in the trunk. On the ride home he held my hand and I watched the now familiar shopping malls and bus stops go past my window. I stared out the window, worried and making sure not to turn towards M.

You know what? There is just no way to maintain your dignity and at the same time ask a man if he still plans to marry you this week. I couldn't believe that after all this time I was still in a situation where I just had no idea of where I stood. I knew that M loved me, but it just didn't seem like enough any more. What point is there to being 'in love' if it is impossible to even live in the same country with the person? In our situation, the only way to live in the same country was to get married.

We got home and had dinner. It was the next day before we discussed our plans. M was still unsure. It was maddening to me! It was his comment this day that got me started. He said, "You have your parents and K [my best friend.] I have no one to get advice from. I have no one to advise me."

You may remember Z from my earlier post. Z was a friend of M's from way back. They immigrated to Canada around the same time and were even from the same town in Pakistan. He and his two brothers were roommates to M in his earlier years in Canada, and the four had never moved away from living on the same street in their town in Canada. The two often gave each other advice and I had visited his home often to see his two small children and wife. Z had long been asking M why it was that we were not getting married and had in fact been one of the first people M discussed our April plans with. Z encouraged him. Z told him that he knew "better than anyone else" how M was when I was not there. He had told M, "you are depressed all of the time, until she gets here."

It was my opinion that it was time to enlist help. I called my dad. My dad and M had always gotten along ever since I tricked M into meeting him, more on that at another time. My dad had studied Hindi (Urdu's, for lack of a better term, 'sister' language??) for years long before I ever met M and for this reason, M found him intriguing. M also had a lot of respect for him because of all the help and advice he had given me while M was in Pakistan. I asked my dad to come all the way to Canada, not to watch me get married, but in case, I was getting married. I called him so that M could talk with him. (M actually had requested it too.)

My second action was to make a visit to Z and his wife. I had the week off but M had to go to work. I picked up my lengha, walked up the four flights of stairs to Z's house and knocked on the door. I had never visited them on my own, but this was important and I was nervous. I went up the stairs under the pretense of showing M's wife my bargain ebay purchase.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The End of the Road

I started my student teaching in January, 2006. I was assigned to teach Spanish in a middle school. This particular school district only taught Spanish I in Middle school and had two different versions. They allowed seventh graders the option of starting Spanish 1 in seventh grade and taking the second half in eighth grade or just taking Spanish 1 as a full year subject in the eighth grade. My supervising teacher had been teaching for more than 40 years and so she had a cake walk schedule: six classes of 7th grade Spanish I (part 1.) This easy workload (as compared to a friend of mine who taught German I, II, III, IV and V in a high school, even though her desired post graduation job was teaching ESL) really helped me out in my already stressful life, since I was, in essence, working two full time jobs and finishing up graduate work too boot.

I took trips to see M for Christmas, and each three day weekend I was allowed. . . I saw him again in February and then had to wait for Spring Break in April. M and I had been calling mosques all around his town trying to find one that would allow us to get married. I could tell M was still scared of getting married, and the fact that his mosque still would not perform the marriage did not help. Finally, I found a mosque on the other side of the city that would perform the marriage. It made me very excited to hear the imam sound so accepting of the idea. I had begun to believe I would never find a mosque that would accept us.

The plan was that we would get married during my Spring Break. I started looking for something to wear as a surprise for M. We had been talking marriage so long that I actually had bought a white wedding dress (big mistake!) but this was not an appropriate occasion for this and my life was not conducive to planning a big reception in Canada. My family is also not able to travel frequently or on short notice. I looked over and over for a lengha to wear for M after the marriage.

*For those who may not be familiar, lengha is a traditional outfit in Pakistan for basic receptions after marriage. The traditional colors are red and gold, but people wear all different styles and colors.*

It was surprising to me that lenghas are VERY expensive. The majority that I found were more expensive than any of the American wedding dresses I looked at, and much more expensive than the one that I had bought. . . And so, I did something typically 2006 American, and looked on Ebay. Much to my surprise, I found several gorgeous ones, but as is typical of Ebay, they were usually used and altered and had only one available. It took months to find one that was my size and I liked (and could win at auction. . . )

I ended up with a gorgeous (to me) pink one with two layers and heavy red/gold embroidery. The shirt left much to be desired, it was not well kept and not as had been described, and there was no dupatta or covering for the head. I also did not have the typical jewelry, but since I was doing this as a surprise, it would have to do. Typically the jewelry and lengha purchase is up to the groom anyway, so I felt I was going above and beyond!

Just before my trip M started backing out. He started talking about postponing our plans until the next visit. We had already done this since November, and I had already been feeling abandoned since then. This was the last straw. I could not take it anymore. I was patient with M on the phone as we discussed his idea. I told him that it was not an option. I explained that it was completely up to him, but that I could not live like this anymore, travelling to visit every chance I got and being otherwise alone. I told him that I knew he wasn't happy this way, and that I already knew he was feeling guilty about meeting me anyway. I knew what 'boyfriend/girlfriend' was considered in Islam, and I had been doing it for too long.

My parents had taken time off of work to come and see us get married, I told them to scrap their original plans and I would let them know if they needed to come at all. I packed the lengha in my luggage carefully, convinced this would be my last trip to see M. I knew we weren't getting married, and I knew I would never see him again.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Separation Grind

We did not immediately get married, and I settled into a routine. I went to school, volunteered at my rescue squad and worked every available shift to make extra money to take trips to see M. I kept my eyes peeled for cheap airfares, signed up for a frequent flier program, and got used to driving each time I could not find a good fare.

*As a side note, any students who might be reading, check out for really good airfares. You have to book a minimum of two weeks ahead of time and have to keep your eyes peeled because the fares change daily, but I got some monster good deals during that period of my life since I was working on my Master's and full time in school.*

The fact that M and I were not yet married and therefore could not start his immigration process really began to get me angry. Every spare moment I had was dedicated to either finding ways to travel to be with him, actually travelling or working so that I would be able to travel. I was beginning to get exhausted and started to blame M. After all, we could start if he could just get over being petrified of marriage after his Pakistan ordeal. On reflection, I may have been being selfish, but I knew he wasn't going to get better until things were settled. He was still horribly depressed, and this on top of everything else really stressed me out.

On the up side, school was really interesting, but didn't consume much of my time. The most difficult scheduling for that semester (Fall, 2005) was doing 30 hours of high school observation. The next semester, however, I knew was going to be absolutely crazy. The culminating project for my Master's in Teaching was a full-time (unpaid) student teaching assignment at a middle school. I would be required to work the same hours as a teacher, including all after-school assignments and parent meetings, and somehow manage to keep up with my "M travel" and work enough to keep a roof over my head. The way I did this was by working 14 hour night shifts on Friday and Saturday nights and a 10 hour day shift on Sunday. My saving grace was the November/December horse racing assignments.

That sounds funny, right? . . . an ambulance at a horse race. . .well, we were to take care of any jockeys that fell off. For this, we were payed overtime pay, 1.5 times our normal rate, no matter if it was midway through shift or if we came in specially for it. These were basically snooze assignments. We would sit on the field, watch the race, or read, whatever, and wait for something to happen. Thankfully, usually, nothing did.

Anyway, exhausted as I was, I continued all of these assignments and waited, impatiently, for M to wake up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Slow Changes

The divorce certificate arrived in November 2005, seven months after M sent the divorce. I went for my Thanksgiving break and we got it notarized. I thought that this would be the end of all our problems and that we would just immediately get married. M was not thinking the same thing. M was still reeling from his last "marriage" and felt like nothing should be rushed. He was getting a little more to himself but was still much more gun-shy than the man I once knew. Before his trip M was almost cocky, now he was hesitant about each new move. He had the urge to study everything and wanted to just 'let things happen' without any forward motion from his direction. For this reason marriage, among other things were difficult.

M again sought counsel about marriage from the Imam of his mosque, who did not even listen to his question and basically sent him away. He tried instead the gentleman who handled marriage ceremonies at his mosque. This man actually yelled at M. The man demanded to know why M would want to marry a non-Muslim. M could not even try to reason with him, he was too embarrassed by the man's reaction. M never tried to speak with either man again. M had attended this mosque for more than eight years, but when he needed assistance and counsel, no one would listen, except for Uncle.


M had arrived in January and since then had not been able to find consistent work. In April, as soon as the divorce was declared and sent, he managed to find agency work. It was not always the same place, but it was daily work and gave him some money to work with. After a month of showing he was dependable, the agency sent him to work in a factory as a temp for a long term assignment. This gave him a bit of consistency and a higher wage, but ended after only three months and though his supervisor wanted to hire him permanently, the contract they had with the temporary agency prohibited it. And so by November, it was just temp work again moving from place to place to place and working for meager pay after trudging through Canadian winter snow and riding the bus.

M hated riding the bus more than anything. Riding the bus meant walking a fair distance through the snow, and added about 45 minutes to what would normally be a 15 minute drive. When you have to be at work at 7:00 am, this is a significant hardship, at least for my friend M. I was trying to find solutions to this problem and it came in the form of my own car-lust. I wanted a different car. I had long been wanting a change and fell in love with a little sporty Cougar. They were not very new, and thus were pretty cheap. I wanted one and that meant that I would no longer need my older 1999 Contour. I thought it would be a cool idea for M to have a car and for me to have my Cougar. That November M got his divorce and his Contour.

Getting up 45 minutes later than before somehow made living in a motel, working temp jobs for crappy pay and 700 miles of separation a little more tolerable.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I am not a patient person, I am actually quite obsessive. I can obsess about anything. I usually turn it into a good thing, again by learning everything I can about whatever is going on. In my obsession about getting M to live with me in the United States, I began researching everything about immigration that I could. Google was again my best friend. I found legal websites and forums where there was a ton of information.

I found out that in order to overcome the Expedited Removal from that day at the border, we would have to file a special waiver and wait for it to be approved before being given a visa. I reasearched waivers in depth during this period. I spent every extra moment trying to find instructions on how to compile evidence for the waiver, how it would be filed, statistics on wait time and approval rates. I was completely obsessed. I couldn't have M, so I had to have something to fill my time.

My secondary obsession, only secondary because I had absolutely no control over it, was getting M motivated an getting a copy of that divorce certificate. After much nagging, M began calling his father (over and over again) to get him working on a divorce certificate. This was another aspect of my research, I knew that M needed a copy of the union council certificate.

*Cultural note* In Pakistan, smaller towns are divided up with Union Councils. . .think equivalent of a Town Council or a Board of Supervisors only with a lot more leverage. The Union Council maintains divorce records and tries to set up arbitration to prevent a divorce. This is in addition to many other duties . . .

Unfortunately, M's family felt that the council would not give a certificate because of the influence of the girl's family. For this reason, M's father and brother enlisted the help of an attorney, who drew up a paper for M to get signed and notarized in Canada. This letter was written on something called "Rupee Paper" and had Government of Pakistan watermarks on it. The attorney assured M's family that this was "exactly" what was necessary to prove divorce. He claimed to have had clients successfully use it for U.S. Immigration in the past. I, on the other hand, assured M that it was not what was needed and even showed him the information on the Department of State website.

M believed the attorney.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Divorce

In my mind it took quite a bit of time for M and Uncle to get the divorce letter written. M thought of it as a very complex document and had no idea whatsoever in how to write it. For this reason he allowed Uncle to write the letter and he would simply read it for accuracy. The letter had to be very specific, Uncle told him, for the sake of the girl. It was comforting to me that they took this into consideration, but I still wanted him to legalize it specifically in Canada.

The Canadian divorce would be viewed much more favorably here in the states as well as in Canada. I had already read how divorces from Pakistan were eyed suspiciously be U.S. Immigration because of the supposed ease of obtaining fake certificates and the prevalence of 'fake' so called 'green-card' marriages from that country. I must have been 'warned' by 'friends' a million times about being careful of my Pakistani fiancee since he might have another wife waiting for him in Pakistan. . .especially hurtful since, haha *insert horrified, hurt face* on me, technically he did, and I hadn't told any of them. (Some of my friends had even told me they were worried when I took my first trip to Canada to visit, that I would find him there with a whole other family. . .)

M's reaction to this suggestion was not good. The cheapest attorney we could find in Canada to handle this was about $2,000 and wait times ranged upwards of a year, even with an unconsummated, short marriage with no compicating financial entanglement or children, etc. . .Divorce in Pakistan, on the other hand, was simply the cost of the postage and the notary stamp. Since rukhsati had not taken place (the girl never left home and the marriage was not consummated) divorce would be almost immediate on the receipt of the letter. This uncomplicated version of divorce was probably another reason U.S. Immigration frowns on these certificates.

As if the situation couldn't just be this simple, it was further complicated by the fact that M would have to obtain an official copy of the divorce certificate from Pakistan. This would be completely impossible from the U.S. or Canada, so he would have to rely on his family *insert malicious laugh here* to obtain the official documentation. You can well imagine how keen they were on helping out with this matter.

And so, Uncle wrote the letter, M recopied it, so as the divorce would be from him, it was signed and notarized and copies were sent to all involved parties, Union Council, the family of the woman in Pakistan, and M's family. This was not the end of the story, since the union council and the woman's family wanted to try arbitration. I got more than one panicked call from M about some family member or another calling to threaten his family, with what social outcasting I was never told, if the divorce went through. As far as M was concerned, religiously and legally for Pakistan, the divorce was already done. The letter was final and since he had written it a specific way (3 talaqs) it would not be undone. Now, we just had to wait for the legal certificate.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We were devastated that M was not going to be able to return with me. We had not even considered any other options, but now we were working overtime trying to make a plan. I had brought a considerable amount of money with me for the trip and so a hotel was not a problem. M's cousin, with whom he usually stayed after long trips like this one, was not in Canada. He was at the time visiting the states.

It was very difficult to swallow the new situation, and we didn't yet know all of the implications. At the hotel room we tried to discuss options, but to him it was just hopeless. The next morning we got up and started looking for a longer term hotel to stay in until he could get contact with his cousin and apply for jobs. We used some of the money I had brought to pay for a month in a not so nice motel next to M's mosque. The condition of the motel did not matter as much as it's proximity to both the mosque and his cousin's apartment and the fact that it included his necessary furniture and electricity. Do remember that it was January in Canada. The motel was warm, and that pretty much says it all.

After a few days I had to return home and left M sitting in his room, alone.

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to be a little less detailed about the next few months. The incident at the border had M convinced for months that he had done something wrong and was being punished by God. He was depressed, his cousin was still away, and finding a job in the winter in his city is sometimes difficult. His only comfort was the mosque.

I visited every three to six weeks at that time. Every time I got a few days off, I would drive myself 12 hours to see him. It took months for me to book my first ticket by air, which was a new experience for me. I had never flown anywhere. I scarfed up student airfares and found last minute bargain prices as often as possible.

M was having trouble figuring out the best way to go about the divorce and was beginning to doubt that he could even go through with it. He had called his parents within days of his arrival in Canada and made it known that he intended to divorce the woman. It was made a somewhat more simple (a difference of degrees here) because within days of his return to Canada, the girl's siblings has started calling and writing to M and his family trying to get money (large sums of money) sent for business ventures, among other things.

M tried going to his imam and some of the elders at the mosque for advice on what he should do about the divorce. He ran into a wall when he asked for advice about divorce. The answer was always "try to work it out." The men would not even listen to the story, they just advised not to divorce. It took M until April to find a man he still refers to as "uncle" to listen to his story and advise him based on the actual background and not the pat answer.

In the meantime I was not patient or kind. I was growing more impatient every day. I had waited months for him to return and I had mistakingly thought it would be easy for him to 'leave' the woman he'd met only once. I had no concept of the emotional toll this would take on both M and his family. His parents would change their minds daily going from supporting the decision (on days when her family called for money) to yelling at M for trying to "abandon" this woman and his own family.

In April, "Uncle" managed to convince M that his marriage was not real. M describes it as if Uncle were trying to wake him up. He says Uncle yelled at him that it was not a marriage at all. Uncle criticized his family for ever allowing it to take place. Uncle's own marriage, though it was 45 years ago, was one of love and not necessarily family arrangement. Uncle told M he was "not really married" he told him he had done nothing wrong, and that the woman would be free to marry someone else, as soon a M would "free her" to do so, meaning the divorce. It took this man's opinion to make M feel comfortable enough to go through with everything. It took this man's knowledge to figure out how to best go about the divorce for the sake of both M and the woman.

I had always assumed that M would do a divorce in Canada, but this man asserted that a divorce would be better for the woman if handled in Pakistan. The requirement being a formal letter, witnessed, sent to the union council in her area. This would be quickest for her and would give her proof and the ability to move on quickly. And so, this was how it would be done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Memory

Certain things about that day at the border are burnt into my brain. The name of the officer who issued all of the orders, the reactions of his co-workers to his attitude and demeanor, the way that the other officers watched M and I each time we were again placed together over the course of the day. But I think the picture that I replay the most was M's face.

M was already 'broken' when he came back from Pakistan. He was emaciated, aged and more depressed than anyone I had ever known, but each time he saw me start to break he would come alive, and I did the same thing for him. It sounds dramatic as I type it, but when the officer first told us M was going to be denied entry I turned into stone. Every American stereotype about believing in "rights" and "justice" came out in me. I glazed over and stared at the officer. I made him give every inch that I could possibly take. I demanded explanations of each sheet of paper M had to sign. I stood my ground about getting my phone back and being allowed to call home. I demanded to know where M was going to be each time he left me. When M started to break, I told him not to worry, things would be fixed. This would be fixed. I drew my determination that day, and trust me, I needed it.

I had no idea of the determination it was going to take. I had no idea of the multiple laws that had been written in such a way as to undermine exactly what it was that I wanted, a life (in the United States) with M. I was ignorant to exactly how powerful this one man was in the grand scheme of things, and I had no idea that my government really has written away the rights, the same rights we as American citizens take for granted, for anyone who is not a citizen of our country. The same rights that dear Mr. Bush ironically propagandized spreading all over the world.

When it was written that "All men are created equal. . . ." it did not mean "all" men. At the time it left out both women and people of color. Now, it left out anyone not from the United States. When we tout "due process" and "justice" and "innocent until proven guilty," all of that has been intentionally written out of our immigration laws, and NO, it does not make it easier if you are married to or related to a U.S. citizen.

The memory that strikes me the most from that day, I was sitting in the waiting room in between the first and second round of questioning, still hoping to be allowed to take M home. M had disappeared from sight for what had to be an hour and I heard his voice. M is tall, over six feet tall. I caught sight of him as he was being led between a few cubicles. One of the other officers was taking him to be fingerprinted and he looked out and saw how worried I was. I was standing on my tiptoes to try to see him, to gauge the look on his face. He looked square at me, and winked.

Monday, April 20, 2009

'Dedicated' pt.2

I was nervous as we walked inside without our passports. We looked for a representative to have them. We waited a few minutes before addressed by an officer who started to ask M questions about his trip to Pakistan and then questions about his residence in Canada. M was too honest and though he technically had a place to stay with his cousin, admitted that he had no lease in Canada as he had just come back from a five month stay in Pakistan. They discussed his previous jobs in Canada, since he also had no work in Canada right now, again, he had just returned from Pakistan.

Every part of the conversation continually went back to Pakistan and it was then that I started to get antsy. I must have rolled my eyes too obviously because the officer told me that I was no longer allowed to stand beside M and must go sit in one of the lobby chairs a few feet away. I felt I had no choice but to obey. Within a few minutes M joined me and the officer set out to search our car. When the officer came back he had basically decided we were up to no good. In my briefcase he found, as I had told him he would, out of date immigration paperwork and as I had not warned him, articles on divorce. The articles were research I had done on what M would have to do to divorce the woman in Pakistan, but somehow the officer had conjured in his head that we had some elaborate scheme starting six months ago for M and I to apply for his immigration, get married, and then for me to divorce him.

The officer placed us in holding cells behind the secondary inspection desk. We were separated and I was seated on a wooden bench in an entirely green room. He decided to "interview" us separately. I began calmly and explained that I had already told him about the expired visa application and told him that it didn't matter anyway, that M had been forced into an arranged marriage while in Pakistan and that was why he found the research on divorce. I also pointed out that if he read the research I had come up with, he would know that M had to return to Canada to divorce the woman since in my state you have to be a resident to obtain a divorce.

Additionally, I rationalized, we could not apply for the visa at all since M was already married and a divorce would take months or even a year to accomplish. I did not stay calm during this interview and in fact was reduced to tears in telling the story along with the investigators questions and accusations. The man basically ranged from accusing me of immigration fraud to complete stupidity for believing anything this Pakistani man had told me.

M's interrogation was handled a bit differently. He was offered coffee, and the officer tried to "rationalize" with him. Somehow, this officer believed there was something sinister behind the two of us traveling together, besides the obvious fact that M was in fact, technically, married and I looked like a hussy. I was kind of beginning to feel like one too.

The officer placed each of us back into the cells alone and I got to listen as he and his coworkers searched through my purse and briefcase taking great care to look at each of my ID cards and EMS certifications. At that time I carried with me all of my Paramedic cards, student ID's, etc. He used the computer to research us and I listened as he joked about the contents of my purse and the fact that "She's obviously from *insert my state name here* look at all this stuff." Continuously my phone rang as the hours passed and I got to listen to them sit and ignore it as my mom frantically called to see what had become of us.

Posted all around the secondary inspection area were rules that they were supposed to follow. . .things like allowing a phone call. . .letting you speak with a supervisor. It did not matter which of these I requested, all were denied. In fact, I was there seven hours before being allowed to drink water from the water fountain or to even go to the bathroom. I was forced to not only request the bathroom trip, but wait for my specific officer to come back (after 30-45 minutes) to be allowed to go.

The officer decided that allowing M to enter the United States was too much of a risk. You know, being married and Pakistani and all. Instead of allowing him to withdraw his petition to enter, the officer decided to conduct what is called an Expedited Removal. This is a process that was signed into law in 1996, the Clinton era. It was a part of the Immigration and Nationality Act and basically gave Customs Agents the right to deport anyone applying or attempting to enter the United States. The entering 'alien' is not allowed to appeal the decision or to see a judge. They are not even in the United States, but they are declared 'deported' just as if they were, and are banned from entering for five years.

There is no appeal process and no seeing a judge. One requirement is that a supervisor approve the removal, there was not one on duty that night so the officer phoned him at home and he must have given verbal permission. Additionally, it is posted that I had the right to speak to the supervisor--the only manner of appeal--the officer denied this and did not allow me to speak with him.

M was photographed, fingerprinted and driven back to the Canadian side, after nine hours of holding, by the officer. I was allowed to follow, apply for reentry to Canada and pick M up in the Canadian immigration office. It was about 10:30 pm when we headed back to find a hotel where we could both stay.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A 'Dedicated' Protector of the Homeland

Okay, so I admitted that I was a fairly naive person. I had not traveled much by this point and definitely not with M. We had all of course lived through September 11, but somehow in my mind, nearly four years later it just did not occur to me that it could cause me an issue. Neither did I think that the fact that it was the week of Bush II's second inauguration should cause me any issues. Truthfully, I had forgotten it was the same week.

Bordering on completely worthless and stupid, It didn't occur to me that a Pakistani man traveling on a Canadian passport could be singled out because of a Pakistani visa in his passport even if that visa was used so recently.

I did have qualms, knowing very little about immigration law about the two of us traveling together one on a U.S. passport and one on a Canadian passport, but I figured being truthful about our plans and the fact that M only had one suitcase of luggage would be proof enough that he had to return to Canada. In case anyone is unfamiliar, when entering the U.S. no matter from what country you are required to basically prove that you do not have immigrant intent. This usually comes into play with countries that require a visa, you've probably heard about it in reference to Pakistan, Bangladesh, India. . .even Mexico a lot, but every border agent is "trained" to try to figure out if you are trying to immigrate without the proper visa.

M and I had discussed it, and I had to go back to school and work relatively quickly. M would travel with me to my town and stay there a few weeks. It was our assumption that he would need to return to his home in Canada to obtain a proper divorce from his "wife" in Pakistan. And so, on the morning of January 15, 2005 we set out on our trip. We decided to stop and see a few of his friends first and got lunch at a nice little Italian place before beginning the journey. In a nice pile of mistakes I made, I had printed out directions from online and they were different that normal. They sent us to a different POE than we usually used, one in a much smaller, rural town bordering New York and Ontario, instead of my normal New York/Quebec POE. This makes a difference, I think, because of the "type" who was staffing each POE and their level of racist paranoia. (oops, did I write the word racist. . . .hmmmm?)

Anyway, M was unhappy with this route because it wasn't his normal either, but we didn't have a map and I was too worried to try to do the other route by memory, so we took it anyway. We waited several minutes in line before being "inspected" by the border agent. He quickly flipped through my passport and then M's, asking as he went, "How long are you planning on staying in the United States." My answer was not certain enough when I told him "Three weeks or so" for M's answer, and the man wanted to know how he would return. I honestly told him that M usually took a flight or bus back, but that we hadn't made plans for that yet, we would buy the ticket when we got there.

It was at this point that I realized the guard had stopped at M's Pakistani visa and used my passport as a bookmark to keep it open to that page. "Ma'am, " he said, "I'm going to need you to pull your car over beside that building. Leave the keys and all of your personal belongings inside. Do not take your cell phone with you." And still, I did not see that things had gone terribly wrong.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I arrived at the airport at 12 noon. I couldn't sleep anyway and what if his plane landed early? (yeah right, an early international flight, right?) M still had not called, but what else was I going to do? I had driven 12 hours to pick this man up from the airport. . . . I walked around the airport shops looking for food. Drank some juice and watched others waiting for their families in the international section of the waiting area. There weren't very many stores because this section of the airport was undergoing renovations.

I found a phone card after walking around for a while and called M's home number to see if he picked up the phone. One of his brothers answered. I called the cell phone, no answer. It wasn't a definitive answer, but at least I knew he wasn't stupid enough to have ditched me and then answered the phone. The brother who answered the home phone seemed to be trying to tell me he wasn't there anymore, but with our broken language lines, I just couldn't be sure.

I checked the flight prompter, each time I checked it there was a different delay, it went from on-time to one hour delay, to thirty minute delay and then to landed. The plane marked landed around 1:45 pm and by 2:30 I was getting antsy again. I was pacing a little and each time the doors opened I watched intently to see any sign of which flight was coming in, an impossible task considering that there was such a crowd and I couldn't catch a glimpse of a ticket or luggage tag, and was too far back to question anyone as to which plane they had gotten off of.

I began to notice that other people who were waiting had began to watch me. One specific old man had been watching me for the last two hours or so, I guess wondering why I was still here and what I could possibly be doing. I was starting to lose hope that M was coming at all. His plane had registered "landed" for more than an hour and a half and still no sign of him. I was standing behind a crowd of people and I was too short to see over them, I had to peer between them to see the new arrivals. I began to get panicked thinking that maybe I had missed him completely and he was in another part of the airport looking for me.

Suddenly the doors opened again and a fresh batch of arrivals came walking through. I could see women, then a family and an elderly couple and then a thick batch where I couldn't make out each individual face. I was standing on my tip-toes when I saw him. He'd only been gone for five months, but he had aged years. There were bags under his eyes and his normally strong thin frame was emaciated. He was a little darker and rail thin, but as soon as he saw me his eyes changed to the person I remembered. He grinned the same surprised grin he gave me when I had come to Montreal the first time.

His mouth was open and his eyes turned red. I teared up, but I did not cry. I darted to the outside of the ropes and M came underneath it. He hugged me the way I remembered. He hugged me hard and close. I couldn't believe he was back. For the entire trip I had convinced myself that I might not see him even this time, but here he was, thinner and sadder, but here. He quickly stopped hugging me and grabbed my face and just stared at me. "I really thought I would never see you again," he said, "I didn't think you would come."

We walked out to the car holding onto each other all the way, tightly.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back to Canadastan

So the night before M's flight to Montreal I drove and drove and drove. It was January, so there was a lot of snow. I didn't reserve a room figuring I would just get one close to the airport.

Twelve hours is a long time to drive, especially when you've worked a day shift and only napped a few hours before starting the trip. I had a lot of time to think. . . I was very excited, but not completely convinced that M would actually be on the plane when it landed. I spoke to him again before he was scheduled to leave, he had stops in the UAE and Frankfurt before landing in Montreal and I asked him to call me from one or the other. He called me before he left and didn't call to cancel, as he had on all previous trips. During my whole trip I pegged where he should be and when. He was supposed to land in Montreal at 1:00 pm. . .he did not call once during the night.

I arrived in Montreal around 5 am. I barely recongnized the streets covered in snow. It was wet and dirty, beautiful Montreal in January. The first two hotels I stopped at had no rooms and I was getting a little tipsy. I desperately needed a nap. When I walked into the Ramada they had a room, but I had to rent it for the previous night because it was before check-in time. . .and pay for the next day. I did not care, I needed a shower and somewhere close to stay before I picked up M. I went back outside to get my luggage and slipped into a mud puddle under ice. I was so excited and nervous, it made me laugh.

I went upstairs to shower and laid down in the bed. I could not fall asleep. I had been so tired originally, but now I couldn't shut down the images in my head. For months I had imagined that M would just appear in places around my home. I kept thinking that he would just show up at my work, or at my house. I would see him places, in the store, on the street, even in the towns I had to go to for work on the ambulance. I would see him places he would never be.

I would dream about the day that I would pick him up from the airport. I imagined hugging him. I imagined the way he would look at me. I could feel it sometimes, the way that he hugged me. M had this way of hugging me like he might never see me again, hard and tight. I could feel that in my dreams sometimes.

Now, I couldn't sleep because I wasn't sure if he would be there, and if he was, I wasn't sure of what was going to happen now. My good little Pakistani Muslim was technically married, we had technically already broken up and I technically hadn't heard from him for his entire flight.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Reeling" Me Back In. . . .

While M was gone I was not in the best of health. I've never experienced something so completely physical caused by something so emotional since. I was unable to eat normally. I would wake up in the morning with a nervous stomach ache. I would go to work at 9am and by 2:00 pm I was able to eat something. I would eat a small meal and most every day, I vomited it right back up.

Thinking back to it, it is quite inexplicable. It was a depression that I cannot rationally describe because looking back it seems quite ridiculous. It resulted in a 30 lb weight-loss that was actually quite obvious. I had been working while M was gone and had also gone back to attending graduate school. I was doing a Master's in Teaching, working my two Paramedic jobs and doing a short practicum for school. My luck was always that my Paramedic schedule was very flexible and that college schedules always give ample breaks.

It was the very next day that after my lashing out that M called me back. He said that he just wanted to let me know that he was flying into Montreal on January 13. He told me that he didn't care if I came or not, that he had a lot of "decisions to make" and that he would "find a way home" even if I didn't come, but that he thought I would want to know after such a long time.

It was obvious to me that this was his way of making a plea. We talked for a few minutes and I told him that I would be there. I was quite afraid that he was going to let me down again, but at the same time, I could not refuse. It was completely impossible. I had waited too long and dreamt too often of seeing him again. The things I said the day before were clouding us both, as was the obvious overhanging of the past five months. Nonetheless, I again rearranged my schedule and planned for a week of travel time. I knew that he would come back home with me. There was no doubt in my mind.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Broken Promises

It became obvious over the course of those few weeks in December that a quick return home and a quick annulment/divorce were not going to be realistic. The family pressure was actually scaring M in a way that I simply never have understood. The paperwork was finally delivered in the last week of December and M was free to book his ticket. The ticket was almost expired at this point and booking a flight with it carried a cash penalty.

M tried to convince me this was the main problem, until I discovered the U.S. Dollar value of 50 Rupees. . . .

The cash penalty wasn't the main problem though, the main problem was booking a flight that corresponded to his original booking from five months earlier. Consistently, he would think he had a flight and then would call me the morning of or the day before, to let me know that the plans had fallen through. Finally, on January 5, 2005 I had had enough. I had waited and waited and actually made plans for my trip to pick him up at the airport in Canada. (A 12-hour trip, mind you.) He called me from the cell phone, while riding in a cab. He sounded out of breath and apologetic as he once again cancelled telling me he had even gone so far as to ride to the airport and his ticket was not accepted. In the background I could hear all of the horns honking and traffic noises. He gave me the news and quickly had to get off the phone due to all of the distractions.

I had been called and cancelled three times in two weeks, and I gave up. I called M on the phone after he got home. I was crying and told him that I did not care if he came back or not. I told him that he obviously had no intention of being honest with me and did not care for me in the way that I had been led to believe. I told him that he had proven it multiple times, first by making the trip when we both knew it was a bad idea, then by extending his stay, marrying some strange woman, and cementing it with 'jerking me around' for such a long time.

Instead of apologizing he simply listened, made an excuse or two, and acted as if I were being unreasonable, which made me more angry. Finally he said, "Fine," and we hung up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

M's Inner Battle

I talked to M for a long time that day. Mostly I did the talking. I grieved as I talked, and said things that had he been strong enough, would have made him angry. Instead, he just took it. His voice was too quiet to hear at times and he thought out loud about his religion, about the 'wedding.'

M is Muslim, very Muslim. He tries to find out what he is 'supposed' to do according to his religion and tries to put aside what he wants no matter how much it hurts. As I said before, he has more than once referred to me as his "weakness." It was his family's opinion that marrying me would weaken his religion and change his "line." This was a worry he had begun to share. Now, being technically married, he worried that even talking to me on the phone was bad, but that turned out to be something he could not leave.

Don't doubt that he tried.

M's parents changed immediately after the marriage was conducted. The watch of his cousins was loosened. Suddenly, M's demeanor started changing back to a more normal replica of himself. He was not getting sick every night and was allowed out of the house alone. I would call and find that he had the cell phone in the market or on the streets. His family started making plans for him to leave but required that he wait for his "wife's" papers before going. The marriage happened November 24, 2004, and on December 13, the paperwork still had not been delivered.

The thing that got more complicated for me was M's guilt. He kept trying to determine if divorcing this woman was allowed by his religion, and at what cost to his family. His marriage had been a work of several both distant and close members of the family. One of the most instrumental in the planning was a certain favorite and trusted cousin of his who wanted to marry one of his other cousins. Theirs was a 'love' match, but unequal in education and wealth. The female was college educated while the male was by description of the prospective bride's mother, "illiterate." Oddly, this part of the match was not made known to M until long after the marriage had taken place and he was no longer even in Pakistan. The trade was the Canadian immigration, which apparently is as good as gold when it comes to marriage planning.

In addition to this matter, were subtle family threats that I cannot begin to understand. I know that families are very involved in marriages in Paksitan and how could this not be true when there are so many interrarranged cousin marriages? But it becomes very personal when someone hints at breaking an engagement or divorce. This is not even to mention the cultural stigma carried with divorce in the first place.

And so, there was M, stuck between a 'wife,' his family, religion, and a gori-amrikaan 'girlfriend,' a word, which, by the way, he despises.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Haze (pt.2)

It would be three more days before I could get in touch with M. I did not spend those days idle, instead I put my time to good use prank calling Pakistan. By this time I was very angry that I was not able to get in touch with M and did not care who I disturbed. I would call intermittantly from around 1:00pm my time to 3:00pm which translated to 12 midnight-2am their time. When someone else answered the phone, that did not stop me. I simply hung up and dialed again.

The person answering was a voice I had never heard before, but that did not stop me either. You could probably very accurately have labeled me both psychotic and obsessive at that point, with a good measure of bitter. I called too many times to count. Allowed the phone to ring until it was answered, no matter how many rings that meant. I shouted at the phone when the line refused to connect, I spoke to the person on the phone in my broken, rehearsed Urdu as much as possible, and then stopped.

On the day that M finally answered the phone he was sullen. He sounded angry and sad at the same time. It took several minutes for him to tell me that he had married and when he did I shook. For a minute I thought that I couldn't breathe and quite literally I could feel my heart. I could feel my heart breaking.

M was mine, at least, he was supposed to be mine. We had firsts together. We had history. I was mad. I was mad at him. I was mad at what I perceived as his weakness. I was mad at his failure. I was mad at his tone and his inability to answer my questions.

I started shouting, "I cannot believe that you have done this!" I berated him, "Do you know how much trouble this is going to cause us? How much time we are going to lose? This is not easy to fix! This was a stupid decision. Why didn't you run? I begged you to run!"

In the time that M had been gone, our preliminary visa paperwork had been approved with an expiration date in December. I used that against him.

I shouted about the "poor girl" he had married. I asked him if he'd even tried to explain the situation to her. His story at the time was jumbled and confused and told in a weak voice. He apologized and then I got to the point.

I asked him where she was and he got angry. He had made it clear to his parents that the one thing he would not budge on was bringing "that woman" home. He would marry as they demanded and then be allowed to leave. Their condition for this was that he wait for all of her "paperwork" so that he could immediately apply for her to immigrate with him to Canada. With her living in NWFP and he several hundred miles away, this would be a logistical problem and take time. He had finally reasoned with them that there was no reason to bring her to his home for her to live while waiting for immigration.

Culturally, an interesting point to this marriage, was the strange matching of the pair. M grew up in a huge city in Pakistan. While his family was definitely not rich, and in fact, was quite poor while he was growing up, M had gone to college, learned English both on his own and by taking classes at a private "institute." He had learned to read and speak English quite well before immigrating to Canada. The girl, on the other hand, was from a small village, spoke only M's "tribal" language, not Urdu and not English. She had finished only the secondary portion of her education and was teaching at a small school in her village. They had never really met, or socialized though technically they were cousins. None of this mattered, what mattered to his parents was that she was not, in fact, me. She was not white, not American, not a stranger, not a Christian. Chosen by them, she was not me.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Haze

I had my first panic attack on November 24, 2004. I did not know what was happening at the time, but it was the same day that M got married.

I had gone out to dinner with two really good friends. It had been three days since I had last spoken to M. We drove back from a really nice dinner and all of the sudden I could not breath. My chest hurt and my whole body was numb. I started to hyperventilate and could not speak. This had never happened to me before, nor has it since. I couldn't even cry appropriately, just watery eyes. I had cried too much and I guess in my heart I knew something was really wrong.

Since then I have tried to get M to tell me what happened that day. The part he tells me is after making a long trip from his home to the mountains his whole family piled into a van and they drove for a very long time. He always describes that day almost like a fog. He says they were driving and he had his cell phone in his hand. He would look out the window and think a lot of things, but he vividly remembers wishing that the van would drive off of the mountain. He remembers wondering where they were going, though he really knew.

He describes thinking that his cell phone wouldn't work there and that it was time for me to call him.

They took him into the mosque just long enough to sign the paperwork. Though she signed the nikka nama, it is unclear to me if she was even in the same room of the mosque that he was when it took place. There was no dinner, no party, and no rukhsati.

Her family was given jewelry, purchased by M's mother and aunt, and clothing and then there was the trip back.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Father's Advice

I found myself in this situation while in the middle of a shift. I was crying uncontrollably and could not stop. My luck was that I was working with my best friend who knew all that was going on. There was no way to hide it from her and she was able to listen and not betray her distrust of the whole situation. K was my best friend and roommate and had listened all of the times that M had stood me up in the beginning. She didn't quite trust him, but she knew how attached I was and knew every detail of what had been going on in his absence. I finished out the shift and made my way to my parents' house.

I was 23 years old, but I sat in my father's lap and cried that day. I told him what was happening and got the most unexpected advice. My father said that with all the things I knew about M's situation in Pakistan and the family control of marriages, that M might be telling me the absolute truth.

I had been convinced that no one in the world would be able to respect me if I listened to this story from M. I had assumed I was the only person who would believe it, and even I wasn't completely confident in my trust. In my narrow, naive viewpoint, something like this could never happen. I was more used to the story of the "suspicious Muslim man" having one family in his home country and one in his 'adopted' country. Those were the stories I had read and seen on television.

I had heard of women that this happened to, but not men. I listened to my father's advice, and I went home to research. I googled "forced marriages" and "forced arranged marriages." I googled any topic I thought might bring me closer to finding anyone else who had the same situation. I found fewer men than women, but there were men to whom this had happened.

I laid awake that night trying to think of what to do. I tried to think of ways to encourage M to run and I reminded myself that that had been a failing tactic for nearly three months already. I reminded myself that he didn't even have access to his own passport at this point. There had even been an incident where I got him the phone number to the Canadian Embassy, he'd even called it only to finally cancel their assistance. There was nothing inside him that was able to just run away from his family at this point. That method was futile.

I went the next day and saw one of M's friends. It was this friend who sealed my belief in what M had been telling me from Pakistan. The friend felt that M was not doing enough to get away, but said to me, "How could you not have known this would be a problem. Did you not realize his caste?"

To this day, I'm not really sure what exactly his "caste" had to do with it, though I've come closer to understanding in that M was Pathan. His family had moved one generation before his birth directly from NWFP. No one in his family ever had a "love marriage." No one in his family immigrated outside of Pakistan. No one in his family married anyone else but a cousin properly chosen by their parents. In fact, little did I know, that M had attempted, unsuccessfully, to have his marriage arranged to a cousin long before his immigration to Canada, and that failure was one of the driving motivations for his self-exhile.

M had immigrated to Canada and had since become the family's sole provider, breadwinner and bragging right. This, had not occurred to me.

I called M the next day. It took every ounce of strength I had to tell him, "Do what you have to do, just come home."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Difficult Decisions

I spent the entire months of September and October listening to various excuses about M's father's health and his brother's wedding. I was still working as a Paramedic at that time for two different jobs. I carried my cell phone 24/7, had phone cards stuffed into my bags and made time every day between 12 and 1 to call M on the off chance that he would get the phone instead of his family.

It got to the point that I would be sleeping at 3 am and get a strange international call from M who had gotten time with his brother's cell phone. These calls were always panicked and nearly always irrational. He sounded like a completely different person in these calls. When he was with me he had been happy, and funny, without a care in the world. He could have fun mopping a floor or posing for goofy pictures. But now he was just sick, depressed and paranoid.

I spent those two months carrying around ticket estimates and a visa application. I was always trying to get his address and permission to come bring him back home.

It was in November that M gave me the bottom line, "They are not going to let me leave until I've gotten married."

He explained that his entire day was loaded with family visits from people his parents considered prospects, calls on the telephone and his family shoving pictures of eligible cousins in front of his face. He spent his days arguing his case in futility and being fought by his parents and siblings, as well as the cousins who accompanied him everywhere he went. The cousins were more subtle, but their message was clear.

I was livid and angry and screaming at this point. All I could think of was broken promises and how 'disappointing' he was to me. It was my opinion that there was no way that he could be so sick that he could not run away, that he could not pull himself out of the illness or the reaching distance of his family. Even hearing his voice, listening to his stories, even with the decreasing contact I could not possibly believe that there was nothing else he could do.

I used every argument that I could think of, the paperwork we had processing, the difficulty of obtaining an international divorce once he'd left, the effect on the girl in question having been married and immediately divorced. I reminded him of his promises to me, and I cried, a lot. I spent the conversation trying not to imagine my own reaction if they made him bring this girl home, something that I did not know was optional in Pakistani culture.

His family had chosen the girl, a cousin living in NWFP whom he'd never met. My phone card died.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Things just kept getting worse. For the first several months I spoke to M every single night. We would talk for at least 25 minutes and most of the time longer. I was very inexperienced with international calls back then and all I knew about were those crazy STI phone cards, so I would spend $5 for a 25 minute call, and that was pretty much the best bargain I could get. I would run one card out and start another only to use it completely up too. The phone calls were the high point of my day.

Inconsistently, we could use MSN Messenger. M had taken his computer with him and when he could get online and stay there, we would talk. But it was just not the same since we couldn't hear each other that way.

And then suddenly, M wasn't around for calls each night. It became difficult to contact him and sometimes his mom would get the phone before he could and hang up on me. I finally had to resort to getting one of his male friends in my town to call for me, get M on the phone and then I could talk to him. M was not helping the situation. As depressed as he was he started mentioning how persistent his family was being about getting him married there in Pakistan. They had people calling the house all day long with proposals and daily had pictures of the "prospects." In the beginning M had found this funny and even minorly gratifying. He explained to me that he could have three arms and one eye and be a 'catch,' as long as he still had his Canadian passport.

It was around this time that M's passport disappeared from his bag along with the ticket stub for his return ticket. M's younger brother was getting married and this had been the family's first reason for an extension request, but as they got bolder, they pressed harder and harder about M himself.

The pressure and arguments started about his 'family responsibility.' They pressured about his getting 'citizenship' for one of his cousins. They chose specific members of the family and the extended family got involved.

One of M's closest male cousins was working behind the scenes as well, because his own arranged marriage had become tied to a demand for M to marry a cousin of the woman this cousin wanted to marry. This situation was complicated further by the lack of education of M's cousin as compared to the education level of the woman he wished to marry. For this particular cousin the situation was dire, because theirs was a 'love' match. It did not seem to matter that M had a 'love match' of his own, that was of no consequence.

The interesting thing is that this part of the dynamic was hidden from me, and part of it was hidden even from M. The only information we both had was that M was getting sicker and sicker. M knew about the demands, but he didn't know how many people had a hand in it, and seemed oblivious as to the connection between the demands of his family and his health.

I knew that M was having episodes of vomiting nightly and that he was weak. My real fear came in when he started describing his other symptoms, which I knew to be serious. He was having bleeding problems--which I decline to describe--in addition to hallucinations. This was when I got scared. This was when I started pressuring for M to give me his address in Pakistan. M refused.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Green and Gold

Just before M left for Pakistan we had a huge fight. M did not have a permanent apartment in Canada, so he had to leave his possessions somewhere. There were very few of them, so few that they fit into a small suitcase. It had been my assumption that I would keep them for him since we had already discussed my coming to pick him up when he got back from Pakistan.

One of my favorite M pastimes was going through his stuff. Silly, I know, but it felt good that he really didn't care that I did it. One of my favorites was his wallet, and my new favorite second was this suitcase. M had used his Canadian passport to get his visa to go to Pakistan, and his old, outdated Paksitani passport was inside this suitcase. I opened the book in awe of the picture I found there. In M's Canadian passport was the most beautiful picture of M ever. He was wearing a very fancy burgundy shirt with a tie that appeared silk and was a slightly different color than the shirt.

That outfit had been his pride on the day he went to get his Canadian citizenship and he had had the passport photo taken the same day. Getting his Canadian passport was very important to M. He loved the country and was very proud that he had made it there and made his way to citizenship. In the picture he looked very fancy, hair perfectly coiffed with gel, short and just a tiny up part in the front. He was freshly shaven and had this half smile that was typical for him when he was really proud or happy about something. In this picture, you could even see the tiny dimple to the left of his mouth, the one I fell in love with.

The M inside the Pakistani passport was an entirely different person. The M in that picture had longer, more tousseled hair. He was wearing a large jacket that looked like something a Canadian would wear to a hockey game. The M in the Pakistani passport looked a little mean and very bulky with a square jaw. He was very concerned with bodybuilding back then. My eyes were wide looking at it and M got embarrassed. We laughed over how much he had changed in such a short time.

We drove to M's friend's house and I sat in the car while he walked in to borrow a bigger suitcase. M and I had gone shopping for the relatives and he needed a much larger suitcase than what he had to hold all of the gifts. Shortly after going in, M returned to retrieve his small belongings bag and asked me to give him the Pakistani passport. His friend was going to hold it for him.

I'm not sure if it was the stress of M's trip, or my trip or simply the embarrassment I felt at being asked to hand the belongings over to a complete stranger (to me) or that we'd been discussing his own forebodence of the Pakistan trip, but I got angry. I became a strange kind of angry. I to this day cannot explain what made me so mad because it was nearly unexplainable. My only explanation is that as the girl he was going to marry, it would stand to reason that I would hold his things for him. Besides, I was still insecure about the whole no return ticket thing. His thought was that his friend always did this for him and why would this time be any different?

As a result of the fight, M asked me to keep his things, and I, being stubborn, refused. The Pakistani passport ended up torn into two separate pieces and nearly chucked out the window in a shopping center parking lot. It was the first time I had seen M truly angry. In the end it was returned to the suitcase and dropped with M's friend.

The loss of that passport changed my ability to react in those long months that M was in Pakistan. I lost one very important key to the problem, his address in Karachi which had remained constant, the same over twenty years. The same address written inside that tiny green book with the golden design.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The first few calls went beautifully. The phrase worked like a charm, I'm a good parrot. M's mother was always the one answering the phone and she giggled uncontrollably each time I called. She always went yelling for M in the same sing-song voice and I started analyzing the way she said his first name.

One annoying thing about M and I was that when he introduced himself to me, instead of using his given name he used his surname. He did not think I would be able to pronounce his first name properly and he hates his first name anyway so he just told me to call him his last name. It was three months into 'dating' that I found out his real first name and by then I was so stuck on the name he'd given me I just couldn't change it! So when I listened to his mom sing out his real first name I would try my best to imitate it and that made me giggle as well.

M would tell me stories about his visit and how his friends were all coming by and how he was sleeping late every day. He would tell me that his father was taking his time in making appointments and that they had scheduled a date for surgery. He told me his mother wanted him to stay at least a month, but that it was really hot. . .we talked about a little bit of everything.

It took about a week for the fighting to start. His father from the very beginning was against M marrying an American, much less a Christian, white American. His father had never met one, but he knew, certainly, from all of the talk in his city, that we were not a good match. And so it happened one day, probably in the fifth week M was in Pakistan, that M's father happened to answer the phone when I called. To my amazement, my phrase did not work. M's father simply screamed into the telephone, "NO!" and promptly hung up the phone as violently as possible.

It was soon after this that M started to get sick. By sick I mean violently ill. It could be heard in his voice, this depression and weakness. He told me that he was vomiting every day and that there were times he felt like he couldn't even make it out of bed. He would call sounding hopeless and upset. He would tell me about fights he'd had with his parents about our marriage and they always ended with his parents demanding an arranged marriage with one of his cousins. He was told that this was his responsibility to his family. He was told horrible things about 'me' by people who had never met me.

His parents made wild claims about how I would only stay married to him for seven years, and how our children would have no religion and how after seven years I would take the children and he would not be allowed to see them. They even came up with an example of how this had happened to 'so and so' a member of their community as concrete proof that this was the only way it could happen.

Each day we talked and he would start out hopeless. I used memories and pep talks and he always sounded better when we got off the phone. He said he always slept better after those talks and I thought it was giving him resolve to convince his parents or to abandon ship. We had discussed this many times and it was always my conviction that he felt strongly enough that it was his right to marry whomever he wished. The problem was that time was slipping by very quickly. He had left on August 03 and by October he was ill, had lost a lot of weight and suddenly his parents had drastically changed.

My phone calls were limited to after midnight Karachi time, and sometimes we couldn't even talk then. M's brother had a cell phone and M would call me from that sounding more desolate than ever. Constant fighting has a way of taking a toll. M was also advised by one of his close friends that his mother had been out with an aunt to buy 'something' from a magician recommended by his sister. To me, this made the illness make perfect sense. While I don't really believe that 'black magic' can change one's mind or work in the classical way that his mother obviously did, it made perfect sense that having some crazy weed or pill put into his food would make him ill. I begged him to start eating away from home. He thought I was crazy. Three months into his two week trip to Pakistan, he was correct.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Honeymoon Period

It was my opinion that the ticket not having a return date proved a point. I was livid. M quickly left the travel agency to retrieve me. He argued that this was the way 'everyone' buys tickets to Pakistan. He argued that his father was sick and "what if something happened?" He argued that it was cheaper this way. I knew all of this explaining was complete bullshit and that he had only given a date in the first place to placate me. He had a habit of doing things like this in order to avoid conflict. . . .telling me what I wanted to hear.

I had never demanded a time limit, how could I? But I HAD asked when he was coming back. Apparently, he felt that two weeks was reasonable and just faked it. His main argument was that if his father needed him to stay longer, it would be expensive to change the ticket, whereas if he bought an open ticket, he could come back "any time."

M was certain his parents were going to approve of us after he talked to them in person. We were so serious, that I brought all of the paperwork with me to file a fiancee visa for him. We had decided it could start its processing while he was gone and be closer to done by the time he returned. We actually signed all of the papers in the parking garage of the airport. (So began my in-depth immigration education. . . oh how I have learned since then. . . .)

We arrived extra early to get him checked in and so that we could eat together before he got on his flight. As soon as he boarded the plane I was to start my 12 hour trek back home. We sat depressed, eating and he instructed me on how to make an international call and where to get phone cards and how to talk to his parents when I called. No one in his home speaks any English, so I had to ask in Urdu. He taught me the phrase and gave me the dialing instructions on a 'Burger King' napkin. I could tell that he was tense, but he was excited at the prospect of surprising his mom. She knew he was coming in the next few weeks, but he had not told her when. It was going to be a complete surprise.

We scheduled a time for our calls based on the time difference and made the first call within a few hours of his arrival time. I left the airport sobbing to make my way back home.

He called me from a pay phone in the airport waiting room before I even made it out of the airport parking lot. It was things like this that reminded me why I was going to miss him so much. He was worried about my crying and how I was going to make the trip.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ticket to Pakistan

M promised his trip would only last for two weeks and so on August the fourth I drove my crazy self back to Canada to help him get ready for the trip. M was NOT happy about this trip and the more I listened to his stories from Pakistan, I knew why. He was not exactly on good terms with his parents and it seemed obvious to me that the trip was not a good idea. M was set on it though. He had already reserved the tickets and so I went with him to the travel agency to pick them up. It was there that I got my first inkling that something was really wrong.

We went to the agent and he started explaining the terms of the tickets. Now mind you, I am not completely naive. The idea that I could be "fooled" by my Pakistani boyfriend into thinking that we have a chance for a happily married life, did not escape me. I read all the same stories and newspaper articles that you guys have. I read about men who married women in their home countries to make their parents happy. I read about women being married to these men YEARS before they found out. And so, I was on the lookout for anything, everything that might mean I was wrong for caring so much.

When the travel agent laid the tickets down I picked them up. I was curious. I had never flown or actually seen a plane ticket. I had never had a plane ticket, or any other piece of paper make me so angry in all my life. As I read the details of the ticket I seethed. I took in a deep breath, stood up silently, slammed the tickets into M's lap and walked directly out of the travel agent's office and down the street. I heard the travel agent trying to explain something, he had noticed I was angry even before M. And as I stomped down the street I heard M shouting behind me and then standing silently at the door of the travel agency as I walked away.

I had walked three blocks before I realized I had no idea where my car was parked.

There was no return date on the ticket.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Trouble. . .

M and I had to search out a hotel room because there was no way for me to stay with he and his friend. M had never had to use a hotel in his own town so we immediately went to the closest one. It drew a QUICK veto from me, it was the nastiest hotel I had ever seen. We ended up instead renting a room for me in the "cheesiest" place I'd ever seen. Maybe one day I'll share a story about that, but I don't think you know me well enough yet. . .I'd never get you back if I described the place right now.

At any rate, we were extremely happy to see each other again, and M was amazed that I had come all that way just to see him. We spent a few days of him showing me around and doing minorly touristy things. This was the first time I ate samosas or found myself surrounded entirely by desis. M's little neighborhood was like a little piece of Pakistan, mixed in with a few scattered Egyptians and the random Saudi Arabian. I had never actually seen so many white beards in one place at the same time and in M's neighborhood, the people frequently wore Salwar Kameez. In the U.S. all of his friends completely wore Western dress, so this was a bit new for me too. The other new thing was that I had never really been around M and his friends when they spoke only Urdu or Hindko. Here, there were a lot of his friends that didn't speak English at all.

M had spoken to his parents about me before, but it had never ended well. He decided he should call them and tell them that he had decided he was getting married. I set about doing other things to clean up the hotel room, repack, get ready for lunch, anything to pretend to not be listening to his conversation, but I TOTALLY WAS.

He broke it to them slowly and then all hell broke loose. Apparently it started with his mother crying and then with his father yelling at him. His mother basically was sad that she wasn't going to be arranging his marriage but his father was livid. The conversation ended after 35 minutes of mother crying and father and son yelling at each other. This wasn't exactly what he or I had hoped for, but frankly it was what I had expected, at least feared.

I had, early on, made a point of asking M what his parents would think if he were to marry an American. He had told me a very well concocted story about how they would accept it and how they had told him he could marry whomever he wished. It was a nice story, but it was not the truth.

M called back the next day with the same result and on the third day he called back and his father told him that he needed to come to Pakistan. The pretense for the visit was that his father was sick. They said that M needed to be there to shuttle his father back and forth from the hospital. The plan was for his father to go to one of the American hospitals in Karachi and for this reason they wanted M to be there to take him to appointments and take care of him. Based on the sketchy information and timing, we were both pretty sure this was not the reason for the trip, but M was confident that if he went there he could not only help his father but he could convince his parents of his plans.

It was decided that M would go to Karachi on August 4, 2004. I knew I wouldn't survive too many months of separation, so I planned to coordinate another visit so that I could take him to the airport and see him right before he left. M thought it was silly for me to come, but he wasn't going to tell me no.

I returned home elated that my trip had gone so well, but crying the whole way.