One slip of paper, a million memories

Little piece of paper, big implications.
Little piece of paper, big implications.

On Tuesday night, I was finally getting my life in order after returning in the wee hours of the morning from two friends’ wedding in Nebraska, and subsequently being unable to do anything other than watch TV and yawn.

I was cleaning out the pockets of my suit, desperately hoping that the pair of Ray-Bans that I lost over the weekend would reappear, when I pulled out a little folded slip of paper.

I almost tossed it away without a second thought, assuming it was a receipt, a cocktail napkin or (wishfully) a scrap of paper with some lucky lady’s phone number scrawled on it.

All of my guesses were pretty far off, though. It was the piece of paper that ended up changing the course of my life.

I’m so dramatic, aren’t I? That piece of paper, pictured above, is the first version of the permanent resident visa for green card winners. I presume people who snag E3 and other classes of visa also get one, because the text is pretty generic, but we all know why I got mine.

The day I got that slip of paper, at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney, is one of those moments in my life that I can remember with absolute clarity, as if it’s in HD on a really good TV (at someone else’s house).

I can still picture the first time I saw it, as the stone-faced consular official who was interviewing me removed it from a pile of them. I watched her scrawl my name on it while she listened perfunctorily to whatever explanation I was giving in response to her last question.

I didn’t think anything of it, and I certainly didn’t realize what she was doing, but as soon as I finished talking she slid it through the document slot in the bulletproof glass, offered the most deadpan “Congratulations” ever, and told me I had been successful.

I remember not even really fathoming what had happened, given the serious nature of her remarks, and I remember it fluttering to the carpet while I struggled to keep hold of my ream of documents and paperwork as I returned to the waiting area to collect myself. Some kind soul picked it up for me – thanks, guy!

After gathering my belongings from the security room and exiting the building, I switched my phone on and took a shaky, crappy photo of the congratulatory scrap, and sent it to as many people as I could think of. I posted it to Instagram. I posted profanity to Facebook.

I then went straight to a bar, at 10:45 on a Tuesday morning, and ordered a shitty glass of sparkling wine, a pint of beer and a pile of wings. I sat there for a good two hours, marinating in Coopers Pale Ale and hot sauce, letting it sink in that I’d cleared the biggest hurdle to living a dream I’d had for years.

I had a flight later that afternoon, so I eventually retrieved my bags and headed for the airport. I don’t remember doing it, but I must have tucked that little slip of paper into the inside left pocket of the suit jacket I was wearing. I attended a black-tie event a few nights later, and I remember taking it out to show someone, and putting it straight back when it was done.

That was November 16, 2013, and that was the last time I wore that suit. After that it went back into the suit bag, which went into one of my suitcases for the big move. Once I arrived in Augusta, it got hung up in the closet and didn’t see the light of day again until last Friday afternoon, September 19, almost 10 months later to the day.

And what do you know? Despite having it dry cleaned before the wedding, and filled with sunglasses, hotel room key cards and other miscellaneous junk across the course of the big night, my congratulatory piece of paper from the U.S. Consulate survived intact.

After that sort of punishment, it probably deserves to be framed.

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