With the new apartment and other expenses I needed more money. I also wanted to change my car. I was going to ask for a raise. I had a degree but was still getting paid like a high school student. I tried my best to move up the ladder and into management but I have not gotten anywhere. I worked a flexible schedule. I was available to work at anytime my manager asked me to. I volunteered to do the things no one else wanted to do. I kept hearing my time would come but it was frustrating. I deserve a raise and a promotion. I have been a BJ’s long enough and have seen too many people come in a get ahead of me. Rumors of the hourly rates some people were getting bothered me as I knew I worked really hard. There was a cashier who everyone thinks is sleeping with one of the supervisors who is rumored to make as much as a manager. I had gone to my boss a few times and asked for a raise. I kept getting excuses and nothing happened.
Even though I had enough documents to get employment somewhere else I did not want to take that chance because I was claiming to be a citizen. If anyone asked for my birth certificate or naturalization papers I would not be able to produce it. I felt safe at BJ’s from the standpoint of my immigration documents. The new climate for immigration seemed to point to employees checking with the government if your immigration status is correct.
Rosa was graduating in 6 months. We had discussed moving in. I was at her apartment a lot and even had my own keys. We were getting much closer and the trust we lost was now being rebuilt.
I liked the idea of us moving in together but was feeling inadequate about the income disparity. I also felt that eventually some doctor she worked with could “wow” her off her feet. He would question why she has a boyfriend that works at BJ’s. He would tell her she deserved better. I know I would probably do that if I was trying to “check” her. She was getting ready for a six figure salary. I could only dream of that. I was still punching a clock to make a few dollars over minimum wage.
Sue and Sidney was now an item. His ex-wife called the house and left a message for Sue saying “She won”. His ex-wife also had his children call the house looking for their “daddy”. She was trying to play on Sue’s emotions.
Sue lost Ritchie so this was her prize; and what a prize it was. He was condescending, cocky and aggravating. I tolerated him. He seemed to worship the ground Sue walks on. She had him whipped and she loved it. That did not change how I felt about him. In my mind if he left his wife and children for Sue, he could do it again for another girl he fancies.
Sidney did help me in one respect. It allowed Rosa and I to explore the conversations of marriage more. She did not like the idea of him leaving his wife. She worried about me doing that if we got married. She asked if all Jamaican men cheat. It was a stereotype that I heard all the time and saw first had with my father. I was able to assure her I would not.
Rosa tried to pacify my frustrations about the job. She did not really touch on the immigration status because it would start the “green card” marriage discussion that was now secondary to the relationship in her mind. I also tried to stay away from the “green card” marriage discussion as I did not want to force the issue.
She would tell me she understood not having the job you wanted etc. I would think to myself.
“I have a degree. I am illegal. You could help me change that if we got married”
I go through these bouts of “ I hate being an illegal alien” once in a while. I get over them but this time it was really bad. It also seems like during those times I hear about everyone getting “through” with a green card or on their way to getting one.
Sue had a friend who was in the Masters program with her that got “through”. She met this guy in her class from a small Mid-west town. She ask him to marry her. She would pay him. He was “green” behind the ears and did not know much about other cultures. He needed the money as his parents were farmers. Plus he was intrigued by other cultures. He was going off to complete most of his degree in a South American country. It would be the perfect marriage he would not be there for 2.5 years. Sue said he did mention sex to her once during a return to the US but she “koofed” him and “sent him back to his corners”. I remember them joking on the phone once about him getting “jungle” fever in South America. Apart from that one incident it was a smooth “ride” to getting her green card.
My mother called to tell me about one of my father’s friends migrating to the US. He got into the “Immigration Amnesty program” that was signed by President Reagan a few years back. He got documents saying we was a farm-worker in Florida. He was now safe and bringing his family to America
Even Uncle Teddy now had a new plan to get legal after the last one fell through. He stayed in New York even after his wife divorced him. He found a new lady to marry him. She tolerated all his bad habits at first but then started to straighten him out. She was a take charge type of person. She even wanted us to call her aunt. She was 2nd generation Italian that was recently divorced. She had a large divorce settlement and lived in upper Manhattan. They were planning to get married in 2-3 years once her last child was off to college. It was a glimmer of hope for Sue and me. A very small glimmer if Uncle Teddy does not mess this up. Even if he got “through” we would be looking at years before he could file for my father. It would then take years before our father could file for us. It was a longshot.
Even Sidney had a plan. There was some loop hole that if you invest 1 million dollars in the US and employee people you could get a green card. He was planning to start a shipping company in Florida to send “barrels” back to Jamaica. It was a natural for him being that he had all the contacts on the wharf in Jamaica for his other businesses. It could be a glimmer of hope for us but I have a funny feeling that this relationship between Sue and Sidney will not lead to marriage.
All these stories of people either getting “through” or almost getting “through” is good for them but not for me. I was frustrated.
Then some good news started to trickle in.
Sue got accepted to do her doctorate at Florida Atlantic University. She would be able to stay a little longer. I thought to myself that a person could stay in the US and be a full time student for life so as not to go back to their home county. It got better. She had a job on campus as an assistant to a professor. She would get paid. They would get everything she needed for work authorization on campus. She could also work off the campus if she wanted to since she would have authorization. This would help to defer some of the cost for her Doctorate. My parents were especially happy being that they were under financial strain. My other sister was also getting ready to go to University. There was talk of her coming to join us or going to London.
I needed some hope.
I called a few of my bandoodle contacts to see what options were out there. Nothing they were offering seemed logical. They were too high risk. After been burnt a few times and hearing the other stories of people being burnt I did not want to go the “bandoodle” route. I made the calls just to “pacify” my frustrations.
There was only one thing left to do to pacify me frustrations.
Rosa had been extremely busy as she was getting ready for graduation then residency to become a doctor. We did manage to go out once in a while. We had a dinner and movie date planned. I was going to change things up.
I got off from work early that day. I bought 3 dozen red roses from a street vendor. I went home and borrowed some of Sue’s scented candles. I dressed up and was off to Rosa’ apartment. I stopped by Rosa’s favorite Chinese restaurant and got take out.
Before entering her apartment I dropped a few rose petals outside the door. I had about 15 minutes to set up.
I put some of the other petals on the carpet from the door as a trail to the dining table where the candles and dinner would be waiting.
I put on Anita Baker. She loved the Rapture album.
As soon as I lit the last candle I heard the door opening. I sat at the dining table.
Rosa opened the door with a big smile on her face. She loved red roses. I use to tease her some times and say “red roses for my Rosa”.
“I should have known it was you. Very romantic” she gave me a big hug and kiss.
“Sit down” I pulled out the chair at the table for her.
“Baby, I thought we were going out tonight?” she asked.
“I know we were, but I want do something different. Let’s see where the night leads”
As she sat I handed her a rose from a vase I had put on the table.
“But I am not dressed up. Look at you”
“You are beautiful in anything. Just sit down and relax”
I took her shoes off and massaged her for a little. I then went to the kitchen and served her food.
“Is this what I can look forward to when we move in?” she was smiling.
“Yes”, I replied.
We ate and talked. It was one of the best evenings we spent in a long time. We were as one.
The second to last song on the album was playing. Anita baker was singing my plea to Rosa.
From beginning to end 365 days of the year
I want your same ol’ love
All I want to do is share my life with you
I want your same ol’ love
I looked at her.
“Rosa, I want the same ole love”
She looked away playing coy and smiling. Then she asked.
“Where are the fortune cookies? “
It was time. My heart was beating fast. We loved to play games with the fortune cookies. We would read the fortune and then at the end add “in bed”.
“It’s in that box”, I had them pack it in one of the small Chinese food containers that they would normally put rice.
She opened the box and empty it o the table. Out came a smaller box along with the Chinese cookies.
“What is this?” she smiled.
I smiled back.
“Why don’t you open it” I asked.
Immediately she started to cry and looked away from me.
“What’s wrong, Mama?” I was trying to playfully deflate the situation. Everything was going so great up until this point. I was wondering if I should have done this today. My original intentions for tonight were wrong but I really loved Rosa and wanted to marry her.
She looked at me. She was steering deeply in my eyes.
“Are you sure you want this?” she knew what was in the box. She knew what I was doing.
With out hesitation I answered.
“Yes” With a smile on my face.
It was not going as planned. She was not going to open the box. I had to do something. I moved to embrace her but she beckoned me away. She was steering in my eyes. It felt like she was trying to read my soul.
“I am sure, Mama. I am sure”. I repeated with a whisper looking back at her.
Then there was silence. She looked away and started crying again. This time it was different. It was crying mixed with a smile. It was happiness.
“I have been waiting for this day for a long time since we started dating. A day I could say I fully trust you again.” she paused wiping her face with a napkin from on the table.
She continued, “The day I could look into your eyes and be sure you were not marrying me just because of what you can get from me. The day when you did not feel like it was an obligation for us to get married. These last few months have been great but I was never sure.”
I was not sure where she was going. I had nothing more to say. I came with the intention to pacify my frustration with my immigration status but my true feeling of love for Rosa was on display. I really meant everything I said. It was more me than frustration.
She looked me in the eyes with a big smile and grabbed my hands from across the table. She squeezed them tightly. She opened the box and took out the ring and looked at it. She smiled.
Should I ask her the question? I thought to myself. What the heck!!!
I leaned over and grabbed her hands.
“Will you marry me?”
“Yes, I will”
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