Coming to America

The queue for customs in Chicago takes two hours and my connecting flight has already left. I am crying. I leave my phone at the desk when checking my bags in for the next flight and dont realise until Im leaving the terminal. I cry more. A wonderful steward finds it for me and gives me a hug whilst shuffling me on to an airport shuttle that I go round twice before getting off – usually I am so good at travelling alone.

In Oklahoma, the air is so hot its like walking in a sauna for the first two weeks. On my second night there are 33,000 lightning strikes and a bridge collapses from the rain. The next day it is sunny again. Ask any local and their favourite weather saying is if you dont like the weather, wait five minutes. I go to Walmart and it is the size of an airport. The tap water tastes like chlorine and apparently comes from a lake you cant even swim in. Gross. My housemates and I eat dinner together and talk about dating culture in our different countries, Belgium, South Korea and Japan. I feel worldly.

On my first day I have a three hour class. The classroom looks like it came right off a movie screen and there are these weird desks that I dont realise how to sit behind. You have to slide the desk part out to get the chair and the first time I almost fall and the chair makes a loud scraping noise. Everyone looks at me and I smile-laugh like you do when you trip in public. We say our names but no one realises Im British until three weeks in. What an insult. At least I have figured out the desk.

My first house party reminds me of all the things I never did at sixteen and this childhood do-over feels strange since I live in a whole other country to my Mother. Its fun. I have to fill out a risk assessment that is so patronising I continue to question child or adult? I have a garbage disposal and air conditioning, I really live in America. An uber driver asks me if Im from Sweden, another asks me on a date. It rains for two days and I could be in Englandthen my phone buzzes with a tornado watch.

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May 2022
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