It’s easy to say, “Let all immigrants come to America.” It’s harder living with one. I have been living with my Armenian/Turkish husband “Jack” for 5 years and 3 months. We survived Turkey and then China and are now attempting America. Because of language, cultural, and belief differences, our marriage has been difficult. He can’t drive a car in the U.S., and a Green Card costs about $2000 plus proof of bank savings, home, job, etc. We haven’t been able to afford one yet, especially since we used up all our savings when my Mazda 5 minivan was totaled in Houston, and I ended up in Texas Medical Center ICU with a subdural hematoma (bleeding in my brain from slamming into metal, no airbag deployed, seat belt bruising my ribs and pushing the air out of me). Texas sheriffs blamed me for the accident, though I was the one hit by a speeding Houston driver.
We went back to California after that, in an American car with a high-interest loan, high payments, and increased driving insurance. We slept in that car in the desert, then headed back toward the mountains where I lived before jumping overseas. Jack got 3 manual labor jobs in a small town. He quit one and was fired from the other 2, though his English now is pretty good. After 5 years of teaching English and Journalism for universities, high schools, and private language schools in Russia, Turkey, and China, I have not been able to find a good job in America. Nobody really needs an older, experienced English teacher in a country where the first language is English.
I found a job driving delivery for Uber Eats in Los Angeles, but with the one-hour commute from the truck stop where we live in the Inland Valley, I make no profits after gas and bill-paying (and my husband’s share, of course). Uber pays drivers too little, though we wear out our cars, pay auto insurance, and risk our lives on steep, dark roads in the rain.
Turks love to talk, yell, fight. Centuries of this aggression genetically infuse my husband. My American friends don’t understand how much of a cultural difference this is and simply don’t like Jack for yelling too much. Or maybe they question the high rate of abuse to women that Turkey records each year.
Then we lived with a Liberal couple in our small mountain town about 2.5 hours’ drive from Los Angeles.
On December 1, I broke my middle finger in the powerful trunk door of my newish Chevy Impala. The door smashed it so quickly; I simply didn’t get it out of the way soon enough. I pulled it out in that split-second before the truck door locked down. It immediately swelled up, blood bright behind the nail, and hurt like nothing I ever felt, even in childbirth. I cried like a baby for 5 minutes, putting my finger in my mouth, not knowing what to do since we were down in the desert. Somehow I drove back up the mountain and went to the little hospital E.R. where they x-rayed and wrapped my finger on a metal brace. Then I went to an address someone on Facebook gave me, for a room to rent.
Jack and I had already been kicked out of another room in a woman’s house because she needed absolute silence due to a brain injury from a car accident. I thought we had learned our lesson to keep our constant verbal fights to a minimum.
I didn’t know that the Liberal woman had also suffered such an injury, which led her to write a book, get her Master’s degree, and become a pschological counselor. She and her husband seemed welcoming on that snowy day when we parked in front of their garage. Christmas lights guided us to the front door of their wooden mountain home, half cabin and half Cape Cod traditional. She showed me the Christmas ornaments and decorations she had already put up and chatted about her Liberal group that had so many people who would help me find a better publisher for my books and find Jack a job.
She offered us a glass of red wine before we signed the contract and received a key. We had picked the larger of 2 empty rooms upstairs, a lovely room that reminded me of my dead aunt’s home in Connecticut. Bright prints glowed pick and yellow on the memory-foam bed, Native American paintings graced the cheerful wall with wood and glass dormers that overlooked fir trees, the golf club, and a nearly frozen pond surrounded by snow. There was even an antique desk in the corner for writing, like my mother once had, and an old-style pitcher and bowl on another table, just like my Aunt’s, a link to the 1800s when people washed their faces and hands in their rooms.
The modern bathroom across the hall had a brass-graced tub and shower, a double sink, a modern toilet–everything one could crave as home in the stylish mountain neighborhood near the mountain ski resort where I had a seasonal job.
Her kitchen and dining room were huge, with copper pans and Christmas dishes hanging or shining from glassed-in cupboards. A pile of catalogues in the corner advertised the same tasteful companies I used to order from when I was a rich housewife on the other side of the mountain. Linda even wore some of the same clothing styles I used to own, classical layers in matching colors, real UGG boots soft with lamb’s fleece, leather jackets and matching gloves. Her colors were subtle, like mauve and burgundy laced with burnt sienna (pink, red, yellow). Greens also cropped up–little flowers on her tunic or real plants in corners of the living room.
I took photos, amazed at how well things turned out before Christmas. I sampled the Trader Joe’s cranberry-iced cookies she placed in a ceramic bowl, and chocolate mints in glass jars next to a miniature red Santa sitting in a canoe, a green fish on the end of his pole. A miniature Norfolk Island Pine (my favorite tree) reached out its lacy fingertip branches near the polished black grand piano. A brass and green-glassed reading lamp beckoned on a coffee table, near the fleece-covered sofa and the big-screen T.V.
I soon learned that their several TVs blasted liberal news stations and talk shows day and night, loudly because Linda’s husband, a retired university professor, was hard of hearing. CNN and MSNBC, their favorites, broadcasted anti-Trump slogans and called our new President Elect bad names, to the point of inciting rebellion against the Constitutional law that upheld his election. Anti-Christian themes were also popular, and I did not tell her I am a Messianic Jewish Christian who attended Shiloh Congregation (which had been a target of hate).
I only nodded and said “thank you,” to Linda after signing the rental contract with the TV volume lowered a bit. Jack had been chatting away loudly as usual. Linda gave him a strange warning look, and I squeezed his hand, but he kept talking.
Things were good for awhile. Then the persistent flaw in my marriage attacked. Jack started yelling at me again. I tried to hush him or defend myself with words, but he only got louder. I knew it was just a matter of time before we were asked to leave. Linda’s bedroom was also on the second floor.
Jack tried to apologize the next day. Linda said, “I don’t want to hear it,” as she breezed by. Her husband remained silent in his reclining chair.
“It’s cultural,” I tried to explain.
“Bullshit,” she answered as Jack walked away. “He isn’t sorry. He’ll just yell again in 5 minutes.”
Linda and her husband left to visit family. When they returned, they kept away from us as much as possible. Tension hovered in the house with the smell of freshly cut evergreens and cinnamon. Tension turned to looks of pure hatred from Linda’s eyes.
One evening, when we were folding laundry in the garage, Linda mentioned that we had to leave. I figured that gave us to the first of January to find another place.
“We rented the room out, like we usually do, because we are good people,” she explained while airing out a fleece night robe. “I am not usually so angry, but my father used to yell at my mother . . .”
“Oh,” I replied, wanting to talk more about how life is in Turkey but figuring she didn’t want to hear about hot-tempered Mediterranean men who got into fist fights on the street because a customer didn’t pay the exact money for his rental car.
A week before Christmas, Linda told us to leave as soon as possible, at least by the Thursday before Christmas, 4 days away. Stupidly, I retorted, “We’ll be gone tonight.”
Technically, she had broken our rental agreement which guaranteed a 30-day notice. Technically, we could have stayed even longer, as Renter’s Rights in California offer protection even if the renters cannot pay. I didn’t think of the Law until later, when a Facebook friend pointed it out.
Jack and I packed all day: our food from the kitchen, the little statues and photos I had put on tables, the clothes I had taken out of a suitcase to hang in the closet. I colored my hair and took a long bath. Darkness fell before we got in the Chevy with all our bags and luggage.
We had nowhere to go. No money for a motel in the most expensive week of the year for a mountain resort–or even for the desert. For 3 nights, we slept in the parking lot of a restaurant my old friend Maria owned. The temperature fell well below freezing, but the recent snowfall muffled any sound we made inside the car that kept us warm with its running engine.
You can never have enough memory foam pillows or fleece blankets when sleeping in the back seat of a car before Christmas. At least Linda gave back the unused portion of the $500 I had paid her, so we could buy hot food. Why pay rent anyway when the car payment, insurance, and phone bill use up so much of what I get monthly from my writing? We were sleeping in a car, as we had done most of the year 2016. Returning to America was more difficult than Russia, Turkey, or China–and more heartbreaking, since it was supposed to be my homeland. Though I had little family left, even my adult children did not help me–and rarely contacted.
Where was the heart of Christmas? In the wooden manger scene Linda had placed on her fireplace mantle? Baby Jesus, God’s gift to all, covered in a painted blue blanket on a cradle, surrounded by lambs, shepherds, angels, and an astonished Joseph with Mary . . . A gold star glowing above all the intricate pieces nestled in evergreen branches and framed by a chain of tiny colored lights.
For more than a year I had been back with Jack in America. I had asked help from churches in California and Texas. Some pitched in a little, paid for a cheap motel room for a few days while I kept looking for a job. My Houston waitress stint lasted 4 days because, in a 6-hour shift, I could not take a 5-minute break. My part-time ESL teaching job stretched to 4 months but left me with a small check every 4 to 6 weeks. My current mountain resort job paid weekly but kept me sick from standing outside in snow and wind for hours, the crystalline mountain reaching above me to clouds, perfect for taking photos but hard on my health.
The next time I got a local newspaper to apply for a front desk receptionist position at a nice hotel, I noticed a little add by Linda. It advertised meetings to help people accept immigrants and to rise above their prejudices. She was leading that Liberal Agenda.
When Hollywood protested about newly-elected President Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from certain terrorist-inclined Islamist countries, I got my job driving for Uber. I drove all the way from Studio City to Mulholland Drive, where mansions clung to the side of cliffs or rose on hilltops like castles. I drove through Beverly Hills, where more sensible palaces nestled in perfect hedgerows of cypress trees and ivy against high walls with security cameras. I drove to the very end of Belaire Blvd. to deliver Chinese food to a man who stood next to his brand-new compound. Rain fell like teardrops from heaven. The rich like to enclose their property by darkness so that you cannot find the street number or see the hidden gate. I gave him one of my homemade business cards that told about my 7 books on amazon.com. I hadn’t paid for professional ones since I left my great-paying job in polluted China. He casually took the card as Jack helped me turn the car around in a tiny space next to a row of Mazaratis and BMWs.
Why don’t celebrities buy American? I wondered, imagining the man (who did not tip me although his was my farthest-away delivery, late on a rainy night). I pictured him going inside the dimly lit facility and throwing my card into a beautiful, stainless-steel trash bin. I wondered if he had joined the anti-Trump protests at LAX airport. Would he take an immigrant into his home? I questioned, as one conservative celebrity asked recently. Easy to welcome possible enemies of America when they don’t come to live with you and press you–every day–with their loud, aggressive cultural differences that are so hard to understand. My Turkish mother-in-law, a Muslim, offered homemade soup to me, the American immigrant. She never wanted to blow up anything. Jack yelled at her, too. Once I saw her sitting by the portable round oven Jack had broken: cross-legged, her neat turban (headscarf) pink and black on her head. Tears wound down her cheeks like the rain in Los Angeles, much-needed but destructive.
How long will we accept cruelty as part of cultural or religious differences? Is that even fair? How much of yelling is not meant to be cruel, but merely an attempt to communicate?
Can the Liberal and the Immigrant live together? Could a trio be formed with a Conservative? Will Free Speech be imprisoned more and more as the year 2017 progresses? Will more immigrants shoot their American coworkers like in San Bernardino, my home county, where my friend Nick was shot dead with 13 others. His wife Jennifer was left a widow. Many were left without spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, friend. What kind of chance should we take with all this going on around us? Why aren’t generational Americans (part Cherokee like me) being helped by Social Services?
Questions lingered in my white, rain-drenched Chevy as I drove back down dark, winding Mulholland Drive to Studio City where sometimes people in sports cars say “F**k Off” after they see the “Jesus Loves You” license plate Jack bought for me in Alabama. Sometimes drivers in dark pick-ups flash Satanic hand signs toward me at stop lights after reading that message of love, their tatooed fingers flipping rapidly like a strange Helen Keller trying to cast spells.
No more Uber deliveries this late. We head toward the far-off truck stop where my car will park and become my home again. And the Conservative lives with the Immigrant who calls her “White” and “Mrs. Trump.” And the Liberal News Media and lawyers, well-paid by global special interest groups, slams Hate Speech on U.S. Christians while inviting all immigrants to come to America. Will they also offer immigrants a bed in their gated, private mansions?
Can you see the skull in this creepy Hollywood mansion at night?
If you like my writing, please check out my books.