Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I do really well on most days. I fool myself into thinking that I’m not different and that I belong here, somewhere. I come across as well-tuned and well-adjusted most of the time. And I lie.
The clock ticks loudly but time doesn’t change. I retch into the toilet bowl every other night. There is a lot that I internalize without knowing. It happens all in a day’s work and sometimes I don’t even know it until my body manifests it in the form of an illness or chronic pain. I know I’m getting older because more things hurt, because I don’t have soft baby feet anymore but also because I can’t remember things.
I’m hiding a secret. Something I’ve developed over the years but I have been too afraid to tell anyone, too afraid to get help because help requires health insurance and a form of identification. And then I forget that I am hiding it.
I used to be attentive and remember every spoken and written word. There was a time when I had a razor sharp memory and could talk in long, elaborate sentences. But over the past few years, the super-computer upstairs has developed issues. It spaces out. I lose time. I don’t even have to un-hear things anymore. Sometimes I have difficulty forming sentences and words because I can’t grasp them as quickly as my mouth moves or I can’t remember what was said to me because I never heard it in the first place. I read words but I don’t know what they mean. I try really hard to focus even during the most interesting lectures, but I find my mind wandering.
It’s happening more and more frequently. I reassure myself that everything is alright because I still remember what I need to do on a daily basis without needing a planner. I console myself by noting that we live in a blink-and-miss culture. I tell myself that I may be losing time but I still remember moments and maybe that is all that matters. Most days, I pass out while doing nothing and wake up to see the lights on in the middle of the night and then I cannot go back to sleep. And yet, I remember a time I absolutely could not sleep with the lights on and slept soundly all night. Or maybe I just made up that one little thing about me because I can’t really remember. What’s happening to me?
Sometimes I miss a home that I don’t even remember. My notion of where I am from is so romanticized, mainly because I don’t recall having to deal with horrible things in Fiji. I was a kid after all. My formative years have been spent here. I can’t tell you the temperature of the place where I was born and spent close to 15 years. I know that it is humid and it rains a lot in the capital city but I cannot tell you how that feels. Is it really criminal to send me back? I don’t know.
Sometimes, I get really angry and unleash my wrath at someone, often justifiably. A couple days later, I don’t actually remember what I was mad about. It never even makes it into the part of my brain that stores information as memory to be accessed later. I write it, tweet it, sometimes blog it, so that I can remember the things that get me angry and get over it. But I don’t remember the incident through actual recollection — I remember it only because it is documented in some form.
I know it is from enduring so much that I have developed the ability to shut things out. The past decade is one big blur. Too many people, too many places. But I wonder if I am losing more than I realize, especially when I look up to see someone gazing at me questioningly, awaiting a reply, and I have no idea what was said to me, where I am or how I got there. Maybe I’m losing the ability to form words and sentences, because I don’t really have any words to describe what has happened with me. I shrug, I smile and I laugh. That’s all I can do. And then I cry.
My mind is running away from me just like I ran away from home. I’m still running. In a lot of ways, uprooting my life and moving across the country was something I had to do for myself. No one brought me to the District of Columbia. No one dragged me here kicking and screaming. It is my one chance to start over in the only way I can. I seem happy. I am happy. And yet, I know it is because I am forgetting something or other.
I’m forgetting years of institutionalized discrimination. I’m forgetting incidents of sexual harassment, abuse and a long battle with homophobia. I’m forgetting racial epithets and insults directed at me. I’m forgetting that I can’t really live here, can’t really leave here and that I really exist in a huge archipelago of detention. Just because it is pretty and decorated does not mean it is not a jail. I’m forgetting where I am from, where I am and where I need to go.
I’m done living here by next summer. I just don’t know where to go next. Maybe I’m destined to always be a migrant, to never put down roots long enough for someone to uproot them. I just wish I could recall better, but maybe it’s simply better to do what my mind does: to never remember long enough to forget.
Maybe I will recall this. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it really doesn’t matter as long as my heart is beating and I’m still breathing.