Lucy knew was about to be deported, but she didn’t know why. Try as she might, she couldn’t recall a public incident or offensive comment she might have made about the government on social media. True, she had spent a few nights in the company of some shady characters she met late one night after drinking heavily since that afternoon, but she couldn’t remember any real trouble they had gotten into.
Of course, like everyone, she had heard stories. People who criticized the Sheikh on Facebook and then were rounded up at work, taken directly the airport and forcibly deported without having a chance to go home and pack, access their bank account, or sell their vehicle. The money ex pats made was so good, as a group they turned a blind eye to such events. Summary deportations were not reported on in the news, so one only heard about these things in whispers.
Besides, this was a benevolent government, enlightened almost, at least compared to its history. African slaves had been auctioned nearby as recently as the 1960’s. These oil-rich Arabs were our allies, strong partners in an uncertain and unstable region. When they came to the United States, they rented all the rooms in a luxury hotel. They were big shots.
She, however, was not a big shot. She was a lonely woman in her forties, who had landed a teaching job at a comparatively high salary at a private school. Newly divorced and eager for a change of location, she had jumped at the chance for an overseas posting. The first few weeks were rocky, but now she felt reasonably comfortable here. And now this.
The phone call came early in the morning. The caller would not identify herself, but sounded like she knew what she was talking about when she said there was a good chance they were planning to deport Lucy, and she should take whatever precautions she could, especially visiting her bank and wiring as much money as she could overseas. She should also get whatever cash she could, and take the most precious of her mementos with her when she left for school that day. They would probably come for her over her lunch break or near the end of the school day. That was their habit.
She arrived at school in such a nervous state she was not sure she would be able to fake her way through teaching five classes. Lunchtime arrived and she sat with her usual group of teacher friends. She swallowed a valium she always kept in her purse in case of emergency. That helped a great deal, and enabled her to make it to the end of the day. Still no men had arrived to take her away. As she left the parking lot, she wondered what her next step would be.
Dare she go back to her apartment? What about Eric, the guy she had slept with a few times after late nights out with the gang. If she went to a hotel, they would ask to see her passport, so if someone was looking for her, that would make it no better than staying home. Would Eric put her up for the night? She could ask, but then she imagined telling him why she wanted to stay and she realized that she simply didn’t know him well enough to ask such a favor. She knew him well enough to exchange bodily fluids, but not well enough to ask him to shelter her.
The realization gave her pause. “What kind of life do I really have here?” she asked herself.
If the Middle East was the nice place to wind up, what were the real shit holes like? Were they next on her list? I suppose the International School phenomenon existed in all places where there were horrible public school systems and either rich locals or foreign families. Could she see herself moving down the food chain, towards African or South American posts?
With nowhere to go, she decided to drive to Eric’s building and sit in her car in the parking lot. That would give her someplace to organize her thoughts. Traffic was thick and she arrived as it was getting dark. She could see his light on in his apartment, but she still didn’t feel comfortable calling him and asking him if she could come over. She saw the light vary, which probably meant he was home and moving around.
She found a pack if cigarettes in the glove compartment she had forgotten about since she stopped smoking last month. Fortunately, there was a lighter there, as well, for cars no longer contained lighters or ashtrays. The light faded until the only illumination came from horrible sodium vapor lights that made the whole parking lot seem a crime scene.
As she smoked, she remembered times when things had seemed to be getting better. Twenty years ago, when he left graduate school, she had been strangely confident. Even though she had never been a great beauty, she always had a boyfriend if she wanted one. Now she could find men to sleep with, but it often wasn’t worth the entanglement. Even worse, sometimes it wasn’t even worth the experience. The future no longer seemed rosy.
If there had been opportunities she had passed by, she hadn’t noticed them. If she could pinpoint one moment when she took a wrong turn and then blame how things had turned out on that error in judgment, it might have been easier, but she could imagine no such moment. The divorce had been a foregone conclusion long before they took action to free themselves from their marriage. Whatever sparks had once flown had long ago cooled to ash.
And then there was her drinking. It had crept up on her. What seemed like a harmless affinity for good wine had turned into a dependence on any form of alcohol. Her drinking became secretive. She hid bottles and sedatives. Most of the time she didn’t need to access her secret stash, but it was reassuring knowing it existed. Of course, she often forgot where she had hidden them, and then surprised herself by finding a half-filled bottle of wine and a small baggy containing 5 mg valium pills tucked behind her shoes in the closet.
As soon as she was through with all this intrigue and chaos, she would deal with her drinking. Maybe it would take care of itself, if only she wasn’t hounded by so many problems. She’d get another job, a better job, in a nicer place. Europe. A place where Arabs weren’t in charge.
She saw movement in Eric’s window. It was a woman. Then Eric stood next to her. Great. She was glad she hadn’t called and embarrassed herself, although embarrassment was the least of her problems at the moment. She lit another cigarette. Usually by this time she would be hungry, but the cigarettes took away her natural appetite for food. She felt dizzy and nauseous. Her phone rang. It was Eric. Had he seen her out here in the parking lot?
No, he was calling to tell her that a woman he had been seeing and sleeping with for a while had become jealous when she heard that he had slept with Lucy. This woman had just told him that she had called Lucy that morning, pretending to be from the government. Had she gotten such a call? She had. Hopefully she hadn’t believed the woman’s story. Of course not. I’m not stupid. No, of course not. You’re anything but that. Well, I just wanted to let you know, and I’m sorry for what that woman tried to put you through.
After she hung up Lucy barked out a giant laugh and then quickly followed it with tears. It became powerfully evident to her that she had never felt so alone before in her life. Yes, she would have to make some changes.