Continuing from Lost – Part 5
One day many years later I was incredibly bored and sitting on IRC looking for someone interesting to talk to. But IRC was becoming incredibly seedy. A lot of the conversation feeling scripted like I could already anticipate what would be asked when. So really I was just kind of staring at the screen.
As an aside, people can be incredibly weird and nasty when not talking to someone face to face. The number of weird reactions I got when I mentioned I was in a chair still surprises me. Anything from “Oh so you need oxygen tanks to get around??” ( Where the heck did that come from? ) to “You must be lying! Me: Why? Because either you are in a wheelchair, or you are working. It can’t be both.
One thing that was incredibly strong on IRC was that Guys did not talk to other Guys. Guys talked to Girls. So you could be guaranteed that one of the First set of questions you will be asked is your age, gender and where you are. If your answer to any of those questions was not what the other person expected/wanted generally they would just not respond to you further. A smaller nastier subset would provide a set of answer they thought you wanted and then engineer the entire conversation to embarrass and humiliate you.
On this particular day I had encountered a particularly nasty group looking to humiliate, so I had kind of decided I was going to leave / ignore IRC for a long while. But I was feeling lonely. So like I said earlier I was just staring at the screen. Then someone started talking to me, and it wasn’t following the usual patterns. I deliberately avoided asking any of the age / gender / location questions. And it was a fun conversation.
I was talking to Janelle, she lived in the Philippines but was soon moving to Spain to start a new job. She was very nervous, and didn’t speak a word of Spanish. But I could tell she was also excited. The conversation must have lasted a while but it felt like a blink. At the end I expected we would just wrap it up and say well I hope to see you on IRC again soon. But Janelle thought it would most likely be a very long time until she was online again. She asked for my number. The voice in my head said maybe I was being stupid again? But really what did I have to lose? I gave her my number. I also stuck to my decision to give IRC a break for a while.
A week or two went by. I heard nothing. I decided it was unlikely I would hear anything.
But then one night at some hideous hour of the morning my phone went. I decided that anyone calling at this hour it must be important, so I scrambled to answer the phone.
It was Janelle, and she started telling me about her new life. Time seemed to fly. After that first call I slipped back into a night and day life. The night life long international phone calls learning about someone who was about as far away as a person could get. In a way as I heard about Janelle’s new life unfolding it was like it was mine too. But the nature of Janelles job meant that to me it seemed like she could be working twenty four seven. There was no guaranteed time I could contact her. So sometimes it felt like a lifetime between contact. I also struggled when something bad happened to Janelle as there was very little real that I could do to help, other than listen.
Without even realizing it, I started thinking in term of “us”. When I became aware of this I was terrified. I didn’t want to open my black box. But I also realized that I couldn’t imagine not talking to Janelle anymore.
Long distance friendships let alone relationships are hard work filled with frequent highs and lows. They teach you that wanting something / someone you can’t have can be a sweet torture, but torture all the same.
One day in the middle of this, I went to get out of bed and instead hit the ground, my legs in extreme pain. I was stuck on that floor for a long time. Long enough to end up covered in my own filth.
The strange thing is that a cousin decided that evening that he was going to come and visit me. He had never visited before. He found me and called an Ambulance. I went into hospital.
I had a serious case of cellulites. But I was told two or three days of IV antibiotics and I would be alright. Two weeks later and I was still in hospital. This was now almost Christmas time and the last thing I wanted to do was spend Christmas in hospital. But it looked like I was going too.
It felt like I had almost no visitors and I was going more than a little mad. So I convinced the hospital to transfer me to Waikato so that I might at least see some of my family over Christmas. That honestly was the shittiest Christmas on record for me. But one thing was clear something had to change. Work really was all that I had, and was it really worth it ?
Once out of hospital I decide that moving back to Hamilton was a good start. So I started looking for a new job. I also made more of a conscious effort to take care of myself. I probably failed miserably but at least I was trying.
Finding an IT job in Hamilton was not a quick or easy thing. So for a time things actually returned to how they had been. But I knew what I wanted.
For the longest time it was not practical to think of Janelle and I being in the same place at the same time. We tried to just accept what we had. Patience is not my strength so it is amazing we lasted this way as we did. But eventually we realized that we had to meet, to see what was really between us.
I could take the easy route and just say Janelle decided to meet me here. But the truth is I pushed for it to be her coming here. I didn’t want her to meet me in some place that was not my environment, where I would most likely come across as a struggling cripple. I wanted to present myself and my life in the best possible way. I wanted her to see all the things I could do, not everything I couldn’t.
We started making plans, and I started telling my friends and family about this Girl. And that she was coming to see me. Most would get a look of pity in their eyes and tell me “Well I hope it works out for you”. Really saying without words “Can’t you see there must be a catch?” Others just chose not to acknowledge what was happening at all.
We pushed on and eventually Janelle was coming for a three month visit, with a job to return to in Spain.
In the middle of all this, I found a new job and house in Hamilton. As I was moving I was a little terrified, but really what did I have to lose?
I am settled in my new house and we have all of Janelle’s paperwork submitted for a visa. We just have to wait for an answer. Then I hear that a friend is going through a nasty divorce and needs a place to stay. Thinking it would just be short term I invite Glenn to stay.
After some concern NZ immigration grant Janelle a three month visit visa. She is on her way. As soon as she is on the first plane I imagine all that could happen to stop her getting here. But I shove that aside and time seems to slow to a crawl. When I am finally waiting at the Airport I don’t think I was really processing what I was feeling.
Seeing Janelle’s face, and feeling a real hug changes that to just feeling Happy.
The three months passes in a blink. I take as much time off as I can but remember I have a relatively new job. This means Janelle is spending a lot of time at home either alone, or with Glenn ( who was an adult student at the time ), and his two year old son. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to phase her. And by the time her visit is done we know we want her to come back this time for good.
Putting Janelle on the plane back to Spain, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
We also knew that we had to wait for at least a year before she could return as that was a commitment made to her spanish employer. Most everyone who meets Janelle likes her, and now Friends and Family couldn’t deny we were together and happy. But most thought the immigration challenge before us was huge.
If the highs and lows before were hard, now they were insane because we wanted to be together so much. Time seemed to drag…
Eventually we applied for a 9 month visit visa. With the plan being that after this Janelle would apply for a work visa as my partner. This was the big time, if we screwed this up Janelle may pay the big price not having a job to return to in Spain.
One thing that really sucks is having a Government agency like NZ immigration poking into all the details of one of your most important relationships. In my head I understood why this was happening, but the heart can be another story. Don’t get me wrong I think we were actually lucky with the people in NZ immigration that we ended up dealing with. But it is tough having a person who doesn’t even meet you both deciding if your relationship is real.
Thankfully eventually Janelle was on her way back. This time for good. I gave the poor girl a real fright on her first day back. After picking her up at the airport we went to get some dinner. And on the way there I managed to get tipped out of my chair. At the time I picked myself up and carried on. But the next day I tried to get out of bed and hit the ground. I was stuck!
In Janelle’s place I probably would have run for the hills. But she stayed with me and we worked through it until we found a way.
There is a lot more to our story. But we are together, anything/everything is possible. It took us six years to be in the same place with a future. We have been married for almost two years, and aside from being my wife Janelle is my best friend. We have faced many challenges, either mention here or not. And I am sure we will face many more.
But Janelle has opened up opportunities in my life that I thought were truly dead. She also makes me a better man every day..
If you have found that one who truly makes you a better person, you understand all that I have not put into words here. If you think that there is no one for you then I challenge you to HOPE.