Even the extra week didn’t help, and I couldn’t have gotten the paperwork together in time anyway. My checklist said I needed a copy of my birth certificate issued within the last six months. To do that I had to send away to the States, to a company that refused to actually send me the birth certificate, no that would be too simple, but who instead insisted on sending it to my American credit card billing address, in America.
Then Ms. Handbasket came to visit and we burned bibles and made music and tore up the town, and I went and forgot that I had an appointment at all. She left, and I sighed contentedly before going back to work on my wagon, not an unrepressed care in the world.
When the 17th came–the day of my appointment at the Ausländerbehörde–I slept in, I drank coffee, I made another pot of coffee, and I even washed the dishes. Then, satisfied, I sat down at my computer to check my email. In my inbox was an email from myself, an email to remind myself that I had an appointment today RIGHT NOW OH FUCK FUCK FUCK.
I turned into a Tasmanian devil and made it into town exactly eleven minutes late. This did not calm me. Once upon a time at the Ausländerbehörde in Frankfurt I watched a woman working there send a Japanese family back down to the first ring of waiting rooms, which is something like the equivalent of the “go to jail” card in Monopoly, or being covered in oil and lit on fire.
“But we’re only five minutes late,” they protested, pointing at their watches. “We missed the first train we had to bring the baby with us…” Their words trailed off into the dark abyss of the woman’s eyes. “Not my problem,” she replied, and turned back to her computer. They left defeated, and I learned to hate and fear the people running that office. People who never smiled, people who were encouraged, for all I knew, to be as unfriendly as possible, and on top of it, they were tenured–German government employees can’t be fired, which leaves only one question in my mind: Can they be killed?
I took the steps up to room 173 two at a time. If I had remembered the fucking appointment I would have been here early. If I had remembered the fucking appointment I wouldn’t be sweaty and wearing clothes covered in paint. I knocked on the door, opened it, and saw that the man inside was talking on the telephone. “Sorry!” I yelped, shutting the door again, even more flustered than before.
Now what? I thought. Was my appointment time slot over, would I have to make another appointment, or would they just deport me directly? Several minutes passed. Maybe he doesn’t know I’m the one with the appointment, I thought, maybe he’s just sitting there tapping his fingers and waiting. Maybe I should knock again. Yeah and really piss him off by being both late and annoying, said the cynic in my head.
It was 11:17, so I decided to knock. Just in case. No answer. I opened the door, and this time he didn’t even turn around, the phone still pressed to his ear. I paced the hallway, hoping someone would walk by who could explain to me what exactly it was that I should be doing. The Mainz Ausländerbehörde is smaller than the one in Frankfurt, and there are fewer waiting rooms and no little machines to take a number from. Expecting the worst I could barely comprehend it when the door opened to a friendly man who gave me a bright blue form to fill out. He even smiled.
I gave him the blue form, and he gave me a three month visa extension, just like that. “Come back in three months, and we’ll do the rest of the paperwork,” he said. He was still smiling. I was still shocked.
It’s like a joke. Actually, it is a joke. Why did the aliens officer give Nikki a visa extension? And the punchline–and punchline really is the appropriate word for it–is that I’m getting hitched.