The professor called my classmate’s name and invited her to present her research study. She walked behind the lectern and placed her papers on the stand.
I looked at her and furrowed my brows. As her high-pitched voice filled the classroom, I muted her in my head. I watched her big hand gestures and rolled my eyes.I checked the time, and I had one hour until my big interview. I skimmed through my papers and highlighted a few ideas I wanted to mention.
After the girl finished her presentation, she stumbled on my desk and pushed my papers down, walking back to her seat. I turned back and looked at her as I gathered my pages from the floor. She looked down at me and sucked her teeth.
The professor commented on how satisfied she was with the previous presentation and invited me to talk about my research.
I placed my materials on the lectern and glanced at my watch. I had only 30 minutes to finish my presentation and rush to the U.S. embassy. I peered over at the class and started to speak about the first newspapers in Romania. I sped through my speech and finished my presentation in five minutes.
The professor commented that she did not appreciate my approach and I should’ve studied with the previous speaker. I excused myself, grabbed my bag and ran out of the door.
The embassy was only three blocks away, but my tight skirt and my high-heel shoes slowed me down. I felt blisters growing on the back of my feet, but I didn’t stop.
When I was one block away, the sky opened and a heavy rain poured over the congested street. I covered my head with my bag and kept walking. I saw Vlad waving at me and pointing at his watch. I ran to him.
“You got lucky,” he said. “There have been a few delays, but our group will go in soon, anyway.”
The sidewalk in front of the embassy was crowded. People gathered in small groups. I went under Vlad’s umbrella and rearranged my wet hair. I looked around and saw about 20 other students from different universities. To my right, a group of guys laughed constantly, making jokes about their previous summer trip to the U.S.
The door opened and five students came out. A girls was in tears, and a boy had his fists clenched. He punched a tree and walked away.
“Oh, no,” I said. “What do I do, Vlad? My English is horrible. I’m going to cry, too.”
“Relax,” he said. “You got this. We rehearsed plenty of times. I believe in you.”
“Aha,” I said.
He patted me on the back and pointed at the other three happy students that came out. I started laughing hysterically, and my body shook to the core. I didn’t feel the blister’s pain anymore, I just felt like my heart pounded in my head.
“Ana Maria Toaca,” a voice said.
I heard the voice repeat my name three times along with four other names. I swallowed my laughter and looked at Vlad. He gave me a nudge.
“Go, go, go,” he said. “Make me proud.”
I smiled, bit my bottom lip and walked toward the door. There, a heavy woman stopped me and checked my pockets and my bag. She kept my phone, metal necklace and belt. She directed me through a metal detector gate, and I proceeded inside.
To my right, there were three rows of six chairs each. To the left, there were two glass rooms; in the first one, a dark-skinned, middle-aged man interviewed a student, and in the second one, a tall, bald, freckled man interviewed another one. Between the consuls and the students was a tall wooden counter and a glass wall with a round hole in the middle.
I stopped to look and gulped. Someone pushed me from behind to move forward. I sat in the corner by the window. I looked outside through the metal bars, but a tree blocked the view and danced in the rain.
A voice called my name, and I stood. I looked around but didn’t see anyone approaching.
“Go to the counter to your left,” someone from behind me said.
As soon as I walked in, a woman directed me to place my right palm on a dark screen right below the counter. The screen brightened and scanned my palm, and then each finger print individually. I repeated the process with my left palm.
“Ana Maria Toaca,” a voice said. “Room number 2.”
I walked toward the room and saw a male student exit the room crying. I felt my knees getting weak. I walked inside and forced a smile.
“Good afternoon,” I said. “How are you?”
The consul looked at me but didn’t respond. He retrieved a file with my application and skimmed through the pages.
“So, why do you want to go to America with the ‘Work and Travel’ program?” he said as he looked at my school transcript.
“I, I,” I said. “I want to travel.”
He looked at me, stamped a few pages and dismissed me. I grabbed my bag, retrieved my phone, necklace and belt and walked outside.
The sun came out and a fresh breeze ran through my damp hair. Vlad looked at me and asked me a torrent of questions about what happened inside. I explained the entire situation to him. I insisted that I didn’t get accepted into the program.
“You got it!” he said. “You didn’t get your passport back, so you got it!”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Oh, it’s just a formality,” he said. “But, you got it! It’s time to celebrate!”