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I don’t want to leave Mariah and Caira. I Really don’t. I don’t have much choice in the matter as I have to go back home to finish the paperwork for my visa.
So I spent two months in the US and I have to say it has its upsides and its downsides and for lack of anything better to do (departures is boring), I may as well rant about America’s television channels:
Television: 300 channels, nothing to watch. Everything good is cut to shreds by their strange censorship criteria – horrible, graphic violence is perfectly acceptable. The word “hell” is bleeped out and no show of human flesh is allowed. Go watch This Film Is Not Yet Rated. for an idea on America’s weird notions of “good taste.”
But all is not lost! There’s Adult Swim, with Futurama and Family Guy episodes nightly! What’s not to like about that? And the Cartoon Network as a whole, which I sneak away to watch when Mariah isn’t looking, arr.
Everything before this paragraph was written in October 2006. I’ve made slight edits to this and other posts in order to correct spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s now February 2014, and I’m working to add old photographs from Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere to this blog. The ultimate goal is a better record of my life, and my childrens’ lives.
With this post, I can see that there are occasions where I need to add to the text record. I mean, I spent two quite literally life-changing months in a foreign country, with an abruptly-acquired baby and fiance, and all I had to relate of the the experience was a minor complaint about censorship on television networks? Old Mark, you disappoint me.
It was intense. In a single day I left my family, friends, work, hobbies, freedom, and financial security all behind for a daughter and a partner in a new country. If I sound melodramatic, well, it kinda was.
The first time I travelled to America in July, it was for a holiday. I had a lot of money to spend, zero commitments, and no huge plans beyond personal enjoyment.
The third time I travelled the following May, I already had a fair idea of what I was in for. I had already lived in the house and with the people, experienced their culture, and dealt with a newborn.
This really was a leap in at the deep end without floaties. Nothing went unchanged. Single to engaged, solo to parent, Ireland to America, etcetera etcetera. It was a shock. I was shocked. I shocked people.
I started a pretty passionate online affair with Linda in 2005. We met through a very long chain of events. I met her sister Janet when I roomed with her for an Asheron’s Call player meetup in London. Her husband Rich talked nonstop about this new MMOG from Blizzard that was going to blow the rest away, so I said “fuck it” and committed myself to a boxed copy from Jane. And duly, Wow came out, I subscribed, joined Rich and Jane’s guild, met Janet’s sister Linda from Idaho. It gets a little fuzzy for a while at this stage, but I believe I started to talk to Lin because she needed help, and I was free to help.
One thing led to another. We played more and more together, I bought her the then-expensive epic riding skill, and suddenly we were swapping a constant stream erotic messages in and out of the game, drawing up tentative plans to meet in person at some point, and making copious use of the L-word.
And just as quickly, it started to crash down. There was an age and experience gap between Linda and I. Even if Lin didn’t encourage this herself I started to feel out of my league. She was worldly and experienced. I was naive and basically had zero experience with women outside of some online flings. Her husband John began to ken what was going on. He finally found out in December 2005, everything blew up, and for the sake of Linda’s marriage we drastically cut back on contact, although the affair still simmered on at a low level.
Concurrent to this, I began to speak to Mariah, then Moley of the Solclaim VN Boards forums and The Asylum forum. She popped onto my radar when she had a very public fight with her ex-boyfriend Billy/X E N. She was pregnant, Billy had dumped her, she was poor, he had fucked off to the gods know where, and she was camped destitute at a friend’s house in San Diego.
We talked, we hit things off pretty well, and six weeks later moving Mark to America was on the table and in serious consideration by both parties. I was increasingly uncomfortable with Linda’s affections, and I didn’t know how to cleanly end the relationship, so I said yes to a visit to Mariah in Las Vegas, and arranged to meet Linda in London on my way there.
Linda and I hit it off and hooked up in London, while I kept both our eyes on my intent to wind things down. We had met, we had had our day, and we couldn’t sustain a relationship, so can we please just go our separate ways?
That all sounds good in retrospect, but I think I mostly flubbed the last part, and just stopped speaking to Linda after London. Lin went through a lot of hardship that I indirectly had a hand in. Linda taught me every decision can have unforeseen consequences. I ran from Lin, tripped up on my way out the door, and fell into a marriage. :p
It wouldn’t be appropriate to quote Linda directly on what the breakup was like for her, as the remarks were made privately, but I wouldn’t be too far from the spirit of the sentiment if I say:
- I said “I love you, but…” to Linda one day before we met in London.
- I had The Discussion with Linda in London. I assured her that she’d always have a place in my life, but we needed to go our separate way for all of these reasons.
- I punched her in the stomach as hard as I could, threw her skank ass out the door, and then refused to talk to her for three years afterward.
Words can hurt worse than any action, and silence worse than either.
Returning to America
So I had my holiday to London, and Las Vegas. I’ve recounted the first Vegas trip elsewhere, although I need to find the text. The text is carefully saved and stored in a safe place. I just need to remember where.
I came home to Ireland, Caira was born, and a date and duration for my return was set: I’d go back for eight weeks, from August 18 to October 18. Currys wouldn’t give me that much time off in one go, paid or unpaid, and it stupidly never occurred to me that I could just ask for a sabbatical, what with seven years of solid employment there under my belt, so I quit my warehouse job on the Thursday and took flight on the Friday.
I have awful self-esteem, and embarrassment about something is just way too easy in hindsight. I could sit here and beat myself up all day about. I wasn’t stupid; I was naive and oblivious and too focused on forever putting another furlong of distance between Linda and I. I missed warning signs. I’ll just say that I made bad mistakes with Mariah and Caira then, but it was honestly education, and I had a wonderful time. So TL;DR: I did fuck up while there, it wasn’t bad, I’m not going to whine about it here.
There wasn’t a single simple reason for my relationship. I do believe that I went into the relationship for a mixture of reasons, both right and wrong. I was trapped at home by a mother and sister who didn’t really respect me; I was bored by a dead-end retail job within five kilometres of where I was born, where I went to school, and where I recreationally spent every day and night; I was driven by guilt toward Linda that I couldn’t understand or really handle productively; I felt I had a golden opportunity with Mariah to make a break, change my life, take on some real burden, and make good by someone; and yeah, I had the chance to move halfway around the world and fulfill a dream of sorts-live somewhere else.
Mariah was adrift after Billy. She’d been uprooted, lost everything, was stuck in the desert with a baby and not much else. I was an anchor. I don’t care to speculate about her reasons above and beyond that, because events have shown me how little I really knew Mariah, time and again. For her part, Mariah claimed that she wasn’t her right state of mind, and that it was all a mistake. To quote:
the baby shower was a lot of fun. my family went all out, i got a ton of very useful gifts, some of which are here.
we (mark, myself and my friend amanda) went on a short trip down to san diego, where mark got a lot of lovely photos, and i got mostly just photos of mark.
it’s been a wonderful couple of weeks, though my poor feet may take some time to recover. by far the best gift i got was meeting mark. it was far too short a trip, there was way too much to try and see, but at least we got to stop and look at a rather amazing field of stars in the desert. all of the touristy places are great, but there is something so much more amazing about being able to just look up and see something that grand. i even got to see a falling star. :]
things are going very well, i finally got medical coverage taken care of and i get to go in for a routine checkup this coming week for a change, rather than go into the hospital. i am going to be incredibly tempted to find out the sex, i hope i don’t give in. i’ve just over a month left to go.
the cats keep coming in here, sniffing around the room and then giving me a dirty look before they leave. i think they miss their new pet human.
I loved Caira and Mariah to death. Not much has changed there; I still feel smitten by Caira to death, and Mariah could stand to be smitten by Mjolnir, hammer of Thor. I was starry-eyed, and even when I was exhausted after a night of Caira’s colic, the fact that I had a little girl to take care of buoyed me up.
Immigration and Customs
I quit work on August 17, and travelled down to Shannon Airport that night, because my flight was at 8am on Friday morning. Mum and Jennifer were both upset and felt I was out of my league; Jenny was bothered by how headstrong I was about this. Everyone wished me luck and backed off when it was clear that I wouldn’t be put off. The hotel room was awful. I have a photograph of it somewhere. Like, really fucking awful, fuck this shit. I distinctly remember a wave of zealous fury about the hotel and hotel room.
I was grilled by a USCIS officer at Shannon Airport about:
- The planned duration of my stay.
- My ability to support myself.
- The circumstances of my stay, namely that I had a pending visa application.
- My intent to leave the United States at the end of my planned visit.
Then and there, I was surprised by the interrogation, but I capably dealt with her concerns with both testimony and documents. I showed her proof of employment at Currys, my bank balance and on-hand cash, my intent to fairly complete the visa application, proof of my relationship with Mariah, and then gave an impassioned list of reasons for my lengthy trip.
In hindsight I felt bumblefuck stupid that I missed veiled warning from friends that I’d face just such an interrogation, and dazed shock that I wasn’t turned away then and there. I was young and blindly headstrong. I don’t think I told anyone about being stopped until over a year later, because I felt so dumb about it; I literally could not conceive of that kind of hitch, or of being refused entry. I was young and zealous, heh.
It’s about sixteen hours from here to there; I left Ireland at 8am and landed in Las Vegas (the flight was delayed on the way into McCarran) just after midnight our time. I was shot, it was the middle of the day, it was the middle of the night, I just wanted to sleep, and suddenly, I couldn’t. That was the first big shock. I had obligations now, and two dependents.
Without a dip into my Glacier archives, this is near enough to my first photograph of Caira as exists online; it is certainly the first one that I posted on Flickr.
Caira (hi!), I met you for the first time in the middle of the afternoon. Either Mariah or your grandma had put you down in the crib for a nap before your mum came down to the airport to fetch me. You were tiny, pink, and perfect, and given that I had barely known your mum two months before, it felt surreal. It still feels surreal. You woke up, I was shown how to feed you, and then I fed you. I believe I passed out at that point, with you on top of me.
The first two weeks were a daze. I was jetlagged. Caira was awake at all hours of the night. Mariah and I slept all day. I annoyed the holy fuck out of the Clantons by being me, Irish, foreign, and naive. I clashed with Mariah’s mum, sisters, and pretty much everyone else in between. I look back at myself and I become this weird foreign dude from the Internet who decided he wanted to be a baby daddy for the sake of a visa. I was annoyed by the weather, being locked in a house, the noise, the dirt, and lack of sleep. There was immediate claustrophobia. If anything, I’m now surprised there wasn’t a bigger eruption sooner.
I learned how to hold, feed, and change a baby girl without dropping her on her head; I picked American culture and nomenclature, and my speech impediment disappeared pretty much overnight, because there was quite literally no way I could be understood if I didn’t stop, breath, and slow down. Mariah and I learned more about each other-I mean, it’s easy to be perfect online. You can control what you present, and how you present it. Don’t like that part of you? Don’t present it. When you’re in person, in the same room 24/7, facades wither.
I mean, I want to say more, but there are only so many ways I can describe being tired and pooped and vomited on by a newborn baby. Caira was colicy, slept poorly at night, had a mild allergy to all but the most expensive brand of baby formula, and showed signs of sensitivity to lactose. You were otherwise a slug, Caira. Food went in, poop came out. Oh god, how poop came out. Thanks.
I took at least hundreds, and at most thousands, of photographs of Caira and Mariah, and their family. All of my photographs are now in deep storage on Amazon’s Glacier service, and it isn’t worth the cost to me to access them in order extract them a handful of photographs that I probably already filtered and cherry-picked for Flickr.
La Costa Verde
To me, the biggest and best part was a week in San Diego. Okay, it sucked awfully, and was a bundle of stress, but I loved every single second of San Diego. It’s just so fucking alive compared to Las Vegas. The climate in Las Vegas discourages foot traffic and outdoor activities most of the year around, except mostly for tourists on the Strip, and the Strip is a tourist trap. The Strip is bright, loud, expensive, gaudy and trashy, and any “life” it breathes into the city is artificial and brassy.
San Diego breathes. There’s this vital life to the city, somewhere that grew organically, instead of being plotted and planned to accommodate the casinos. On one side you have the gorgeous Pacific Ocean-miles of beaches and cliffs and cool breezes on hot days, and on the other side there’s the Sonoran and Colorado Deserts. Wedged comfortably between these extreme biomes is a tangle of forests, cityscape, scrubland, farms, and people of every imaginable kind.
I spent like twelve days of my life, total, in San Diego, and I’d walk away from Ireland to go back there tomorrow if you gave me plane ticket and a job.
Mariah and I got around. We stayed with Mariah’s brother Jared for Athena and Jade’s third birthday. That sucked. The house was hot, three of us had to share a single bed, the house had fleas, the smell set off everyone’s allergies. Jade and ‘Thena’s older sister Chloe convinced the twins we had presents hidden in the house, and they kept coming into the bedroom at like six o’clock in the morning. I vividly recall that I kept the door shut with my body by sitting against it while I rocked Caira back to sleep in my arms. Jared works for the San Diego Zoo/Sea World, so he bought us passes to both. Mariah introduced me to some awfully white trash members of her family.
I think Mariah’s uncle wound up dead, and the police marksmen had to come and put down his giant dogs, while the aunt was caught running drugs across the border for one of the cartels. She squealed, wound up in jail on a reduced sentence, and gets to live out the rest of her life with a hit out on her head.
On the last part of the trip, we swung up into Orange County to introduce Billy’s family-his mum Audrey, uncle William, and sister Nina-to Caira. Outside of the group shots, Audrey was a total happy wreck, and overjoyed with her new granddaughter.
We returned to Las Vegas from San Diego on September 27, and hey, more poop, and more fractures in relations with the Clantons. They were sick of me, and my own patience with them wore thing, while I was still in High Flying Totally Fucking Naive Kid mode. I acted entitled, and I was edgy because I felt shut in and claustrophobic in the house-there’s nowhere to go, and nowhere I could go on my own, since I can’t drive.
Mariah and I had rose-tinted glasses for each other. Mariah’s fighting with her mum over Caira? Okay, let’s unilaterally support Mariah!
Mariah’s mum and family finally went apeshit at me the week before I went back to Ireland, because Mariah picked fights over stupid shit, and I backed her. Mariah’s mum accidentally spilled some of Caira’s medicine, and it was the end of the world. How could she waste that medicine? That cow! It was clearly deliberate! Mariah went on and on, and worked herself up to an attack. I had Mariah’s back every step of the way, and I was savagely (verbally) attacked right back, and called worthless and creepy. I hid in my room for like two days, heh.
I was stir crazy by the end of October. I had been locked in a room with a new mother and baby for two months, I didn’t gel too well with her family, and I didn’t have the means to travel much of anywhere. I mean, I was happy, but I still needed a breath of fresh air. I was out of touch with friends and family, and I really just wanted to do something again.
I’ve overgeneralizing some events here. I still saw a lot of the Las Vegas Valley, from all the way out at Lone Mountain and North Las Vegas, down to Henderson, Summerlin and Lake Meade. I loved being in the desert. It appeals to me, and not just because I am a Dune fan; the wide emptiness, silence, and stillness all sang (sing!) to me. You can go out there and feel the elbow room. Even Las Vegas itself has its moments; there are slivers of time at dawn and dusk when the valley and the city are soul-crushingly beautiful and alien through the dusty light.
I loved my experience. It changed me, although I didn’t see the change until later. I grew and became a (slightly) better man for it. I just wish that our marriage didn’t end so badly later on.