Life, In Waiting

By Jennifer A.

It arrived in an unmarked, white envelope, next to overly zealous credit card offers and grocery store discounts. A moment two decades in the making. A bittersweet sigh of relief washed over me as I grasped the holographic, green-tinted card in my hands. Is this it? Every hour, I ran my fingers across the smooth, glossy exterior, doubting its existence and questioning its power. I tried to reconcile its flimsy, attenuated composition with its life-altering significance.

As long as I can remember, I have been in this country navigating the complex immigration system with a backlogged visa application. Seeking economic stability, my parents and I came to the US from a war-torn Colombia. The year was 1989 and I was 13 months old. We soon found ourselves in a perennial intermission with pending immigration applications. Like many others, I discovered my missing social security number while filling out college applications in high school. Since that realization, I longed for this holographic, green-tinted card, for my marker of belonging.

For years, uncertainty and anticipation lingered in every nascent plan. As time passed, life became suspended, an exercise in stoicism. Liminality grows into a way of life. It becomes entrenched in everyday thoughts like the spiraling roots of an aged tree. It stifles daydreams and stalls ambition. A lifetime of waiting renders you immobile, gasping for relief.

My parent’s response was to invoke something greater than themselves. Si Dios Quiere. If God wants. For a while, this sustained me. Until one day, it no longer could.

Can I travel? Si Dios Quiere.
Can I work? Si Dios Quiere.
Can I live? Si Dios Quiere.

Never mind what we want.

Birthday calls from family members abroad were a traumatic jolt of reality. Suddenly, I felt the edges of the glass jail room I occupied. A grandfather’s burial. A cousin’s graduation. The voices of little ones growing deeper over time. Days and months and years go by, and we remained amber-encased and frozen in a moment of eternity. How many more loved ones will laugh and love and die before I can finally escape?

My green card brought a certain reprieve from the ambiguity and paralysis that formerly colored my life. I indulged in a new sensation of permanence, security, belonging. And yet, the holographic, green-tinted card still taunts me with the promise of something greater and transformative. I grasp on to the memories of struggle and perseverance like a newborn’s reflexive clench. I enter the threshold of new beginnings. And I wait for the millions still yearning for the same moment to arrive.

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