by Patrice Elston
In two hours we learn whether we go home or I turn back. My entire body feels as though it’s been stuffed into a can and shaken. Repeatedly. I’ll never understand how long-distance truck drivers do it. Four solid days of being a driver or passenger in my usually comfy car, sleeping on a different bed each night, combined with not knowing what’s to come has wound me up like a watch-spring twisted one turn too far.
Jamming yesterday’s sweats and my red canvas toiletry kit into its matching suitcase, and hoisting Porter’s food and water bowls, bag of kibble, and giant dog bed, I once again head for the car. Pierre’s right behind me with his sturdy black luggage and Porter tugging at the leash. Seven o’clock is early for a non-morning-person, but Pierre and Porter are both awake and ready for our final 10-hour push. Six months of preparation and anticipation, plus a longing for this passage to be over shows in the muscles around Pierre’s eyes.
Lansing, Michigan is covered in a light dusting of snow; a colossal improvement from yesterday morning’s blustery Minneapolis and Fargo’s minus nine degree Fahrenheit the morning before. We load the bags behind our seats, and follow Porter around the parking lot to the back of the hotel for a romp and to empty him out. Even at this hour, I can’t help but laugh as he prances back to the car. Cold toes, cold toes he seems to be saying, his tongue lolling and plumes of breath trailing behind. It feels great to laugh.
“So honey, today’s the day,” Pierre says, pulling out onto Interstate 69, breakfast sandwiches and steaming cups propped between our seats and knees. “How’re you doing?”
I sip the scalding tea and squint out over the frosty landscape. “I’m not awake enough yet to either start worrying or praying, and I kind of like that. Give me half an hour, ok?”
He smiles with understanding, my driver, my love. I smile back, grateful for his compassion, and turn the heat a little higher.
Just over two hours later we sit in a line of cars at the Port Huron border crossing, overlooking the arch of the Blue Water Bridge that spans the St. Claire River. Across that narrow strip of freezing water is Pierre’s country, a province I’ve only seen once, and the place I hope to call home. Now I’m seriously praying. The immigration lawyer I consulted before leaving Seattle made it clear that this was a crapshoot. My entrance into Canada was in one person’s hands: whichever border officer happened to be on shift the moment we arrived.
A silver SUV pulls away from the booth, and our signal light turns green. Pierre releases my hand, and we each take a deep breath. An unsmiling charcoal-uniformed officer with a bullet-proof vest tucks his head down to get a look at us both. “Good morning,” he says, reaching for our passports, “Where ya’ headed?”