I still have New Zealand Google as my…Google, I guess…and yesterday the icon had little flowers for the double OO, and when I rolled over it said “Happy first day of spring!” That’s what they’re having in Wellington now, spring—they’re occasionally taking off their coats outside and still getting grit blown into their eyes from the wind and the days are getting longer and the tuis are going insane. It’s going to be barbecue season soon. It’s going to be time for outdoor music festivals soon. It’s going to be Guy Fawkes soon.
I have been thinking about immigration and visas and jobs and qualifications and residency applications for so long that I don’t think about them anymore, if that makes sense—it’s just part of what I do every week: call the school of social work in Seattle to make them send me the documents I need for New Zealand social work registration; ask my old boss to be a referee for me; work out what I need to make salary-wise to be able to pay my student loans in American dollars. That hasn’t changed—the wheels are still in motion, albeit verrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy sllllllooooooooowwwwwwwwwlllyyyy in motion, and my goals remain the same: go, stay, live there. Stop telling people that I’m only in town for a couple of months, stop saying “When I go back,” stop thinking in terms of the temporary.
It’s just that now I’ve been away for five months, if you count the last time I was physically in Wellington, and seven months if you count the last time I actually had an address there. It’s hard to understand that I’ve been back in the States the whole North American summer because it’s getting harder to remember what living there was like. It’s getting harder to imagine how I’ll fit in, because now Wellington is no longer a blank slate, now it’s a place like Seattle or Miami or anywhere else I have a history, and even that is sort of strange. The difference between staying and coming back is deep and wide, I can tell you, and I wonder sometimes if I have made that city into this impossible dream city, if the years I spent there were so fragile that they can’t be revisited in any sense. I wonder if Wellington will let me back in. I never thought, when I was leaving, that two years later I would not recognize Seattle and yet there I was for two months, walking around with a slightly puzzled look on my face, wondering why it was all of a sudden over, why it was so clear it wasn’t my city, my time and place. What if I actually get everything in order: residency, job, plane ticket and everything, and the same thing happens? Where will I go then? What will happen to my big plans then?
In Seattle they’re pulling on their warm socks and in Wellington they’re taking off their scarves, but it’s still sweaty sticky summer for me here—here in the middle, here in this moment, here in the wrong season at the wrong time of year, here in my unfamiliar hometown, here in yet another place I remember but don’t really belong to.