May 1st Place In the Moment

This is it. 

The moment that will decide my future is here. In the next fifteen minutes or so I’ll receive my sentence. 

I shuffle in the seat and tug on the sleeves of my jumper until my hands are fully covered. Compared to the crisp autumn air outside, the temperature in the room is comfortable. The overhead lights hum a gentle tune. Apart from a few posters listing items prohibited to be brought to Australia and advertising subclass 500 student visas, the walls are spotless, almost clinical. I can feel Leo’s body beside me, but we are not touching, somehow it doesn’t seem right.    

I’m on holidays in a country some 16,100 kms away from my home town. I’m in love. And I’m due to leave this country in two weeks’ time. 

Leo is no holiday fling. I met him a few months ago at a family barbeque at my auntie’s place, but it wasn’t until we’d spent some time alone recently – just talking – that I realised there was more to the polite young man with the slightly crooked front teeth. And, only a week into our relationship, I knew I’d found the love of my life. 

So here I am. On a quest to secure a tourist visa extension. Leo and I need more time to get to know each other, to have a go at living together, to convince our rational brains that our relationship is not some passing adventure or an exotic dish our hearts have cooked up.  

Opposite us is a long counter with two windows in it. One is empty of life. The other is occupied by a teenager with a ponytail and low-slung patchy jeans. He communicates mainly through gestures and grunts, uttering the occasional word but it’s too muddled for me to make sense of it. Then it’s over and he hauls his oversized backpack up and saunters out of the room.

The dreaded moment has arrived. It’s my turn. 

‘Next please!’  

The words skip around. To me, they sound like summons to hanging. 

I am greeted by an officious looking woman. She could be my mother, only she has none of my mum’s warmth. I attempt a smile. ‘Hello,’ I say and hand over my passport. 

I surrender to a series of questions. I rattle all the things that I’d still like to do in Australia. Leo’s name isn’t mentioned. Except, he has everything to do with it. I’d like to do all these things with him.

Then I hesitate. Surely the officer has heard it countless times before. The valid reasons. Explanations. Excuses. Stories. 

Despite the jitters that have been my constant companion the last few days, I’ve been secretly convinced that my quest would be successful. Now I’m not so sure. What made me think I’d get a special treatment? Even though I’ve been lucky most of my life, I haven’t always got what I wanted. Like the cutest ever lamb toy called Mary, or the boy I had a huge crush on in high school. 

A second passes. Another. I try to focus on the cornflower blue eyes behind the counter. The tightly held lips. The firm line of the woman’s jaw. The sound of her fingers working the stiff pages of my passport. 

I look away. This is it. I’m packing my bags and going home. Now what? What about Leo? Will I ever see him again? No, no, no. I want to stay. I need to stay! I swallow hard to push the lump in my throat back down, blink the tears away. Don’t cry. Don’t. Cry. Just don’t. 

Leo leans into me, as if he can read what’s rushing through my head. Maybe he’s fearful as much as I am, even though he has never said as much. 

‘There you go.’ The voice is back, now soft and friendly. ‘Your request has been approved and your visa extended for further three months. Enjoy.’ The officer places the passport on the counter and winks at Leo.  

‘Thank you.’ I whisper. How did she guess? 

I collect my passport and get to my feet. Nice and steady, don’t let them see your knees are shaking. Leo finds my hand and drags me through the swinging door bearing the sign Department of Immigration, Australia, and towards the lifts. 

As soon as we board the lift, I fall into his arms. The world around me ceases to exist, the time all but stops. My body dissolves and disappears; only the soul remains. I’m floating, surrounded by soothing light, warmth and a complete contentment. Then the world rights itself again and I’m back in the silver cubicle. Leo wears the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on him. Blood rushes to my cheeks. 

This is it.

The rest is a history.

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