I meet a lot of people on this journey. One of the common questions they’ll ask is: When will you go home? Rather than saying I never want to return to the U.S. again, I simply tell them I go home once a year. But really I’ve got no home. I’m a migrant with a passport. This article is the second in a series of posts detailing my six months of failed attempts to reintegrate into American society circa September 2015-March 2016.
By the time I’d arrived in New York City in mid-October 2015, I’d only been back in the United States for one month but it felt like six. Los Angeles had taken such a toll on me that I no longer looked or felt like myself. You learn who your real friends are when you come back from halfway around the world with nothing but a suitcase and the hope that you’ll be able to establish yourself quickly.
Previously, I’d spent four years in Albany and several months in the city. I called everyone I could think of after landing. A few people had moved to cheaper areas, others were simply too busy living the NYC hustle. Only one person stood waiting for me at JFK: my best friend, Clarese. Surprisingly, our white Hyundai sedan still lived to cough engine fumes another day.
Clarese and I had a tradition of going to Taco Bell to celebrate special occasions or just random life events in general. I’ll admit that the west coast is more creative when it comes to fast food concoctions, but there ain’t nothing like Checker’s and Taco Bell in NYC. After stuffing our faces with MSG and sodium in a burrito wrap, we went to the infamous Blue Stockings Bookstore on the Lower East side to meet with our friend, Marina.
Marina gasped, put down her pen and notebook, and ran from behind the counter to give me a hug. We spent the day catching up before going back to her place in North Jersey. Every day, I needed to get up at 7AM due to Marina’s schedule and my lack of a key. Having worked in a night club for years, this proved to be a very difficult adjustment. I knew my friend had offered me a great kindness by allowing me to stay with her, so I decided to make the most of my days.
I went to Bank of America and opened a new account, begrudgingly, because credit unions don’t exist in NYC. Then, I asked my friend, Luna, about temping. She told me about an agency in Manhattan with plenty of work. I submitted my resume and within the day, they called me in for an interview. Fortunately for me, Luna proved herself a hard worker and dedicated employee. She’d quickly gained favor with the office staff. Having that kind of connection definitely increased my prospects of a prompt call back.
October 17th rolled around and I was determined to have a fabulous birthday in NYC. To my contentment, several of my friends from upstate and the city attended. We began the festivities with the breaking of a Kim Kardashian pinata (credit: Felicia Schaller) in Times Square. Her ass had been properly-stuffed with miniature vodka, candy, and assorted trinkets. Several pedestrians stopped for a moment to take pictures and sheepishly grab some of the fallen treats. After the Great Ass Breaking, we proceeded to Korea Town to sing Karaoke until the wee hours of the morn. My 25th birthday was the best birthday of my life.
After the party, life quickly returned to the mundane. I waited for several days without word. Finally, two weeks later, as my poor friend’s patience began wearing thin due to my lack of work, the temp agency called me back. Apparently, the fact that I could speak Mandarin proved useful to a certain health center located near Chinatown. The position of Care Coordinator required fluent English and Mandarin as well as the supervision of several staff members. The salary? 30K a year. It took my greatest effort not to laugh-cry over the phone.
Keep in mind that the average cost of rent in New York City is about $1000-1500 a month for a room in the outer boroughs. With a full-time job, the government would probably force me to pay around $500 a month for my student loans. I’d easily be spending around 2/3rds of my salary on rent and loan payments alone. True, like any big city, things like food and clothing are actually cheaper if you know where to go. However, I’d like to be able to save a little money in case some unforeseen disaster befalls me. Perhaps, I’d grown spoiled from living in China, where I could easily save almost 75% of my monthly salary even if I splurged on eating out all the time and buying random crap that I don’t need.
There’s an unfortunate stereotype that women aren’t aggressive enough in business and don’t negotiate their salaries. I wanted to break that, which to my dismay, resulted in the offer being rescinded and having no future callbacks from the agency. I didn’t only rely on them, however. That would be foolish. I also sent out resumes on my own to which of course, I received no call backs for interviews. This was around the time my depression really started to kick in hard. Not wanting to burden my friend any further, I made the decision to move back in with my college roommates in Albany.
Jessica, warm as sunshine, gave me a hug and welcomed Clarese and I back. Mase, Jess’ boyfriend, offered to fight me in a round of Soul Caliber IV. Brie, gracefully adjusted to life in Albz, asked me how China was.
“It was China.” I replied, not knowing how else to describe it.
There’s a feeling of isolation that washes upon those who return home from lengthy trips abroad. All this time, I thought I was the only one, that I alone was simply the world’s biggest f*ck-up: having acquired a wealth of skills and experience that led to nothing but a dead-end in my own country. Every day I felt like nothing more than a number. As I continued searching for work in vain for months, I fell deeper into a pit of depression. Days, weeks, and months blurred together. I spent a lot of time smoking pot and playing video games. It felt like my teenage years all over again: hopeless.
I gave up on the idea of finding a job in a small town like Albany, went on a sugar daddy website, and chatted up some Indian guy to meet with three times a week in New Paltz for $2000 a month. Indian Sugar was a professor as SUNY New Paltz. What I thought would be a simple assignment, proved to be a nightmare. New Paltz is a tiny town, even smaller and more remote than Albany, albeit closer to NYC. While he was away at work, I sat in his second apartment, bored, before I decided to go to a local pub for a quick fix. At the pub, I met a big, beefy guy with full sleeve tats on each arm. He was missing several teeth but he grinned without a care. After a bit of conversation, I found out that he had designer acid, which he gave me for free because I’m a cute girl in a bar in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon.
Upon returning to the apartment, I turned on some music. I could see the walls melting, quicksand in the floor, insects dropping from the ceiling. The thirst was overwhelming. I drank an entire gallon of water in a span of three hours and still couldn’t achieve satiation. Indian Sugar returned home, seeing me lying on the bed in a cold sweat. I told him I felt like I was dying and I wanted to go to the hospital. He laughed at my bad trip and tried fondling me which only made it worse. I tried to call my friend to come get me but he took my phone. I flipped shit. He suggested getting some food. We arrived at some farm to table restaurant in the middle of bumf*ck NY. I tried to eat a slice of vegan casserole but my stomach rode the waves. I went to the bathroom. My foot had turned into a snake which was being sucked into a portal.
I went back to the table, paranoid that other people would notice I was tripping balls. Wait staff took over an hour to bring us the check after we asked. Indian Sugar confirmed that my distorted perception of time wasn’t the culprit. The service sucked.
Waking up to this pot-bellied loser’s small d*ck rubbing up against my ass was the worst part of coming down from that acid trip. After three hours, he still couldn’t get off. I told him I had things to do and wanted to get back to Albany early. The dude was so pathetic, he didn’t even have the cash on hand. I sat in a car while he futzed with multiple cards at a gas station ATM. Worse, he tried to get away with only giving me $300 for the week. I forced him to get the other $200 on the spot.
The drive home aired an uncomfortable silence. After that, all bets were off. This guy wanted too much for too little money. One of the roommates was starting to become impatient and I felt I’d overstayed my welcome. Two of my friends had connections in the Washington DC area so I decided to go give it a shot. Clarese and I loaded everything I owned in Ol’ Faithful and putted our way south.
The other day at a bar, a British man told me that repatriation, especially from the Far East, is hard for a great number of people. Many folks ended up returning to their second country and several regretted going back home at all. I’m among the latter. In the final post in this series, I’ll explain why.