Thursday, January 29, 2009

God and Luck

So I drove all night and somewhere in the middle of the night passed right by I-287 which connects I-95 with I-87 to go through northern New York to get to Montreal. I did not just pass it, I passed it and kept going. About the time I hit Connecticut I knew I had gone wrong and I was going to have to call for help. I was freaking out a bit and didn't have even a small inclination to turn back. I called my mom. That night she was dispatching for 911 and still working for the city system. This worked to my advantage for many reasons, she's very experienced at guiding people out of being lost and she had immediate access to Google and Yahoo maps. . .she let me to I-90 and back up to I-87, but this error added a good three hours to my 12 hour planned journey which I had begun tired.

I didn't care, I was high on thought. I had to see M. I knew that things would be better when I got there. I fantasized what his reaction would be. I imagined it would be the same or bigger than the other surprises I had given him. He seemed to love surprises. His childhood had been pretty crappy (crappier than I even knew at the time) and the notion that someone cared so much about him that they spent all this time surprising him and doing things just for him seemed to please him immensely. I remembered how caring he had been when I had to leave him at the airport and had "Odie" with me on my lap. As I got more sleepy I would hold onto him and pet his head. Yes, I petted the fake dog's head.

I stopped in northern New York and ate some breakfast, talked to my parents and headed into Canada. It was a pretty fast trip through customs. The officer seemed very surprised and confused as to why someone would drive the 725 miles to Canada, and hadn't seen a plate from my state in apparently quite a while. For some reason this made me proud.

Now remember, M hadn't given me his address, I had looked it up online. He also hadn't given me directions and the signs when you hit Montreal are all in French. I do not speak French and spent about an hour driving and re-driving this horrible loop because I couldn't decipher the arrows on the confusing as crap sign. The way I finally knew I was in the right place is that M lived right across the street from the mosque. I spotted the minarets from his side street. I parked the car at just before 2:00 pm. I had been driving since around 9:00 the previous night. I must have looked half crazy when I stepped out of my Ford Contour.

I saw three apartment buildings and walked to the one with M's address number on it. Now the problem: These were apartment buildings. For some reason this had never occurred to me. It did not occur to me that I would have to figure out an apartment number, I figured the hard part was behind me. There were families outside playing and there was a couple on the balcony of the apartment building next to M's. I used my cell phone to call M's number figuring I could just ask the apartment number and walk to it still talking to him. No answer. I called three or four times, but knew that someone had to be on the phone and that his "roomie" never answered the call waiting and would spend hours on the phone. I started to get upset. I was tired and had no idea how to get to a hotel, and just wanted to sleep. I was pacing now on the sidewalk in front of the apartments between a mosque and an all Pakistani neighborhood. It didn't occur to me at the time how out of place the white girl in jeans and a ponytail must have looked, pacing up and down the street on about 27 hours straight of no sleep.

The man on the balcony yelled out to me. There were two women standing with him who looked like they were both serving him. There was a little girl sitting at his feet and they were holding a little infant. When he addressed me I thought that each of the women would stare a dagger straight through me.

"Hey," he got my attention, "are you looking for M?"

I was astonished. He used M's first name, and I always called him by his technical surname, so it took me a minute to figure out we were talking about the same person. "Yes," I said.

"Go on in, you have the right place," he said.

"I don't know the apartment,"

"Oh, it's the first one, go on in." he replied.

It took me a few steps to realize that I had never met this man, and I had no idea how he would know I was looking for M. Do all the white girls look for M??? I turned back around, "How did you know I was looking for M?"

"Oh, he showed me your picture. I knew it was you."

I melted. I thanked him and turned smiling. M was in apartment 1.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's funny to remember. I had never been outside the country, never had a passport, never flown on a plane, so what is the first thing a girl does when she starts dating a Pakistani Canadian? Goes out and gets her passport. . .er. . .well, that was what I had done anyway. For some reason in my crazy head, I knew I just had to see Pakistan, and that we might go to Canada as well, so I had gotten my passport pretty quickly.

I had printed out my directions, and didn't want to tell my parents about the trip until I was well on my way. I decided this was not the most intelligent thing to do so I immediately called my father, who tried to subtly talk me out of it. Not out of going, but out of starting my trip at 9:00 pm after a 10 hour work-shift with no plans for hotels. I would also be travelling through New York and that made him very nervous. I was not hearing any of that. I had to go and I promised to keep my phone charged and to stay awake. I also promised to stop at a hotel if things got really bad. I KNEW I would not be stopping. I had to get there, I quite literally could think of nothing else. So after my father, I called one of my oldest friends and started describing my trip to her, all the while driving North on I-95. I was 25 minutes into my journey when she said, "Okay, so you've got everything you need, right?"

I started making an outloud list for her to evaluate. . . .she says, "Okay, what about your passport? You'll need that, right?"

In my crazy haste, no, I did not have my passport and it made me laugh. I turned around to go retrieve it from my house, a quick running in and out and I was on my way again.

M called me while I was on the way. We usually talked in the evening. He could tell that I wasn't at home and it worried him. I told him I was just depressed and was going to drive around for a little while. He asked me to call him when I got home and I told him it would be too late and I would talk to him tomorrow. He was very upset by this, and tried more than once to get me to go home. He had no idea what I was doing.

Hey, did you know that you don't have to drive through Connecticut to get to Montreal from Virginia?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Greatest Journey

So literally less than a week after M left, I had a really bad day at work. I was on the ambulance and got a call to take this elderly woman home. Her home was outside our city and we got printed directions online, confirmed the directions with her family and then proceeded to drive her "home." I repeat the family CONFIRMED the directions. The daughter and granddaughter decided to follow us in a car right behind and we took the confirmation of route and the fact that they followed us the entire way (with a cell phone in the car) to mean that our directions were correct.

Well, the directions were not correct. Did the family try to wave us down? Flash their lights? Call us on the cell phone? Call our dispatch center on their cell phone? NO. They followed us, twenty miles, the wrong way to the same address in another town name, which was the town they agreed to and we were told to go.

We apologized profusely and they led us to the new address. Did they take any of the blame for confirming the wrong directions that I asked them if were correct? NO. Instead they got on the ill-used cell phone and called up every drunk relative they had to be at the house when we got there. When we got to the house, they verbally abused us, jumped into our ambulance, threated us and called us names and accused us of being "racist," which was of course why I had driven their grandmother/mother/aunt all over the county. There were weapons and there was alcohol and there were threats.

We, as calmly as possible, carried the woman into the house and deposited her into bed. We drove home and I was majorly depressed not only because of the fear for our well-being and accusations and stress of being on such a long (wrong) trip in the first place, but because of my personal situation more. I was thinking about how I was continuously unhappy with or without people being nasty to me.

I decided to do something drastic. It had only been a week since I had seen M, we hadn't even discussed his address yet, only a phone number. I knew that if I told him I was coming he would tell me no. I went directly home, used www.whitepages.com to "reverse look-up" his new address and then yahoo mapped out my route. It turns out I was 725 miles, door-to-door from M.

I was going to Canada.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Great Depression

When M went back to Canada I was lost. I was working as a Paramedic at the time. I would go to work fine and then in the middle of the day at random times I would just start crying. I couldn't really control it. I had never missed anyone like this before in my life and didn't quite know what to do with it.

I worked with my best friend on the ambulance and she was helping to cover my complete inability to adapt. She would send me off to the bathroom when I started to cry and could make me laugh when no one else could.

M and I were still talking every day but it was difficult to coordinate. He had gone back and immediately started staying with one of his old friends. Being with friends and not in his own place made it difficult for him to access private phone time to talk to his little 'gori' girlfriend.

He had taken with him a little picture book that I gave him from our six months. There were a ton of pictures of he and I at the park, at the river, him looking up at me, me taking pictures of us together holding the camera away from us, us at the river. I had bought the little book for his going away. I thought it was fitting for it to be decorated by maps.

Going Away

On July 3, 2004, M went back to Montreal. I begged him not to go. I told him that I didn't think things would be okay with us if he left. He was very cryptic about not wanting to leave, but he had to, that was where he belonged. He was a citizen there and his time here was up. He kept saying he wished he had "known me longer." He never mentioned marriage, but I could tell that was what he was talking about. He kept telling me that things would be different if we'd known each other longer.

We had met only eight months prior and had only been dating for six months. M wanted a ride to the airport, and I wanted to take him. He stayed at my house for the last three days and my mom went with me to drive him the two hours to the airport. My mom fell in love with M that day too. She watched me trying not to cry and M wiping away all my tears as they fell. He would watch me and keep talking and kept wiping away my tears. He pretended I wasn't crying.

When we got to the airport, my mom took care of the car and M and I went inside together so that I could say goodbye. M took me into the giftshop and bought me a Beanie Babie. It was the softest puppy, made after the character "Odie" from the Garfield movie. It looked nothing like Odie, but it made me feel so much better. It was tiny and soft, and I knew I was going to need something on the way back home. I knew I would be crying and I knew he was not coming back for a long time. I thought I knew this, but I really had no idea how long.

I had never been outside the country before, and had no idea what Canada was. I felt like I was losing my best friend.