At around 8 o’clock yesterday morning the other shoe completed its freefall.
The news first dropped via telephone–“Unfortunately, her permit has been denied,” said the functionary on the other end of the line. I could tell something hadn’t gone as planned when Niels’ face registered shock and disbelief, an indignant, “Wieso?” bursting unchecked from his mouth.
Later, the decision nudged its way in via post. An unassuming white envelope contained the ignominious message, its signoff, “Mit freundlichen Grüßen” and an obliquely threatening reminder that the German government remains aware of my September 3rd entry.
My work permit–my ticket to stability, to a future with Niels–has been denied.
Oddly enough, the basis is monetary. According to the German Office of Labor, the proposed rate of pay by my future employer is too meager. Refusing to clear such a job is the Arbeitsamt’s attempt to discourage businesses from offering posts that pay a pittance in order to attract foreign labor. This mission sounds noble on the surface, though I can’t help but wonder if slightly less altruistic undercurrents run beneath. I refuse at this point to pursue such a tangly web. Righteousness really isn’t at issue now, because regardless of the ground or unspoken motivations, the German government has chosen not to grant me a permit, and this means that my options are slim:
1) Find a new, full-time-paying job. This feat seems unlikely given I’ve only two weeks to swing it. Has this stopped me from scouring job boards and finding two to which I’ll begin applying after I write this post? Nein.
2) Pray that my theoretical future employer, denied for their too-tiny offer, will heave a lot of faith behind me and offer me the higher salary that would allow me to start immediately. I like fairy tales such as these, but I’ve found that reality doesn’t much care to adhere to their tenets.
3) Cobble together a plan for acquiring a language learning visa, though I fear it’s too late even for that. Hell. It’s too late even to get married (Yes, mom, I’m sorry, but I did check).
4) Or there’s number four: do what they ask, simply refrain from fussing and by December third…leave. Leave the new home Niels and I have found. Leave the life we’ve been trying to root in German soil. Leave the person I love the most. Leave. I don’t like the sound of number four, but it might be the way.
With leaving comes the question I hate to ask: where do I go? I still have a renewable Spanish identity card and, thanks to a frenzied email shot into cyberspace during last night’s fit of despair, a job I could return to in Madrid. I’d have a home. I’d have a salary. Ostensibly, I’d have health care, but I still wouldn’t have Niels. Alternatively, I could return to the US. My parents would be glad to have me for Christmas, my grandmother delighted to see me once more. I can’t say this option is altogether unappealing to me, but I can’t say it feels right, either.
I never stop feeling grateful that there are friends, colleagues, and family who love me and want me back with them to work or to live. The problem is this: over the past two years, all the moves, all the languages, the many communities filled with affection, have thoroughly addled my homing device. The dial crazily spins on its axis instead of pointing me back to a place I can clearly define as “home.” Where is it, then? Is it here in Berlin, amongst a people I’m still figuring out how to know, a language that confounds me every time I open my mouth? Is it back in Madrid with Amber and Fernando and good friends who’ve constituted family for the past three years? Or is it in Hartford, in an apartment that’s never been home base to me, tucked away in a back room off the kitchen only a few feet away from my slumbering parents? I don’t know. I’m not sure where to go now, or what makes the most sense given that in December the forbearance I requested on my Middlebury loans will expire and I am a person who needs consistent health coverage. Joblessness is no fun, even if I’ll never be lacking for locales when I try to choose a place to hang my hat.
It strikes me that the person with whom I’d pledged to make a home is here, but it’s possible that without some sort of swift intervention, I can’t be.
What’s the next step, dear reader? I can’t tell you that. For now I hang in suspended animation, waiting on my maybe-future-employer’s decision, waiting on the Ausländerbüro, waiting on my instincts to tell me in which direction the Ruby Slippers should whisk me. For now, I’m stuck watching the other shoe from above, wishing gravity’d never dragged it down to earth, or that it at least plans to fling a bone along after it sometime soon.