Cambridge Library, Grand Arcade

This morning I went to Indigo, my favorite student restaurant in the center of town, for decaf cappuchino.  Jack (whose name I just learned) asked me what happened to my thumb, so i had to explain about catching a falling knife.  I did a little work on my thriller, but not on this blog because they don’t have internet at Indigo.  Before then, I checked my HSBC account on Regent’s Street, which last time I checked had the grand sum of thirty pounds.  It has more, now, enough to live on for several months.  Thank God, after three weeks, Mum’s money has finally come through!

I’m now in the main Cambridge library, which is in the Grand Arcade, a modern building in the heart of the centre of town bustling with John Lewis, Apple, Topshop, Topman, Vodaphone, Build-a-Bear, lavish displays of candy and olives, and water tanks containing feet-eating fish (this is not a typo).

I’m sitting in a chair near the entrance by the large windows, using the library’s internet and occasionally scanning the scene below.  A foreign-sounding woman is on the phone ten feet away, sitting on a bench along the windows, a computer on her lap.  She’s on Skype, talking to a man.  She’s talking loudly, and my attention drifts from my writing to what she’s saying, and I start typing.

She’s saying, “I was booked for the abortion but I saw the baby and I couldn’t do it.  I do not know who’s the father.  What do you want me to do?  I’m studying at the best university in the world. I hope to get a great job.  I’m sure if I tell my mother she will help me.”

A break while he speaks, but I can’t hear him.  Then the woman says,

“How can you kill this baby?  Or maybe I can give it away to some sort of family, but I don’t want to do that.  What happened with your university, tell me.  Did you start?  When?  When?  Did you know about the baby?

The man speaks again. Then the woman.

“I need to know who is the father.  If it’s not yours I have to tell you.  I am shocked that this happened.  I was twice with you and twice with him.  It happened the 16th of July.  From what the doctor said, it’s yours.”

God, I thought, I really should not be hearing this.  Yes, this woman seems to be pretty emotionally wrung out and I feel sorry for her that she’s getting nothing back from a man who may be her child’s father, but I worry far more about the child.  This woman doesn’t even know which man she slept with is her child’s father, which could make life pretty difficult for the child if he or she ever wants to find his or her father.

“Maybe I look at the baby and I don’t know.  I can’t kill it, it’s too late, it’s 13 weeks.  You can only do it up to three months.  I was not insured in Slovakia, and in Holland I couldn’t go, and in this country they gave me an appointment for two weeks.  I booked for abortion, but only then I couldn’t do it.  I thought if I killed this baby I wouldn’t want you to know.  I only told you when I decided I am not killing it, I am keeping it.  I can’t do it.  I know, but then you want a shower how long does it take to have a shower, 30 seconds?”

It’s getting worse;  the man doesn’t even want to delay his taking a shower to continue talking with her.

A long break.  She speaks, her voice hardening.  “You are married?  Good for you.  So you don’t have to go back to Egypt.   So you don’t have to study now.  You don’t have to do the university thing.  When did you get married?  When?  And does she live with you?”

The man talks, then the woman, her voice much happier.  “You just paid her money.  Good, good.  Well I’m happy for you so now you can stay in the country.”

What’s just happened is clear:  this woman, who is studying at Cambridge University, has had sex with the man with whom she was talking on Skype.  She is Slovakian and is 13 weeks pregnant with a child who is either his or another man’s, but most likely his.  The man with whom she’s talking is Egyptian, and has just married a woman with UK citizenship in order to have the right to live here when his student visa runs out.  Clearly, it’s a marriage of convenience that will allow him to continue to reside in the UK.

The Egyptian man on the other end of Skype has just fast-tracked himself through all of the problems that I and my children are now facing with Immigration and now has a legal right to live here. When I think of my immigration problems, when I think of my close friend Steve in New York who is desperate for his foreign boyfriend–now husband, at least under New York State law, but not under US federal law–to be able to continue to live with him in the US, and then I think of this man whose illegal marriage I have just learned about, I feel angry.  Whether or not my children can receive the right to remain here indefinitely is up to the UK Immigration authorities, but one thing I know:  the man on the other end of the Skype conversation doesn’t deserve to live here.  And, sadly for the child, this particular man is not someone who will be in any way the father he needs to be.

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