Jakki Kerubo | Longreads | May 2020 | 13 minutes (3,314 words)
I was afraid I’d be deported. Did the interviewer know about my parking tickets from those days when I hadn’t quite figured out New York City’s alternate side rules? Or that once, after a bottomless brunch, I’d sung loudly on the subway, not caring that someone shouted the suggestion I “stick to shower singing”? My appointment was for noon, and now it was 6 p.m. I hadn’t eaten all day, but my hunger had receded, replaced with anxiety and a thudding headache. All afternoon I’d rocked myself for comfort as people streamed in and out of the interview rooms.
It was 2012 and immigration didn’t feel as fraught as it presently does, but it was nerve-wracking nonetheless. Getting a new appointment would take four to six months.
Finally, I was moved to a small cubicle with overstuffed binders covering every square inch, including the extra seats. Each one held the dense, intricate details of human migrant history — bloody wars, financial catastrophes, the incurable optimism of new beginnings. Behind the desk sat an overburdened federal worker. She was petite like me, but her caramel skin color contrasted my darker one, a hue my mother once described as the green-black color of boiled cowpea leaves.
“I’m sorry for the wait,” the woman told me. “We misplaced your file.”
I was about to take my citizenship exam.