Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Repatriation








Last night I dreamed we were moving back to Bermuda. My husband didn’t have a job there yet, but we were packing boxes and in a rush to make a plane. I looked around our house and realized that we couldn’t possibly pack everything in the time we had. The last thing I remember about the dream is asking, “Why? Why are we going back there?”

This morning I realized I never finished telling my story of Bermuda. There are many chapters I haven’t written for you and perhaps the dream was my brain’s way of saying, “Finish the story.”

We were repatriated -- if you flip through the pages of my passport, you will find a stamp dated August 1, 1998 declaring Involuntary Repatriation. It’s an awfully nice way of saying we were required to leave the country. We weren’t exactly deported, we were just no longer expats. Repatriation rings of some sort of chemical process, as though we were pasteurized, reconstituted, hydrated, and reanimated. We were powdered patriots, they added skim milk and we were full on flavorful patriots of the United States again. But at the same time it’s sounds as though we did something outrageous, as though we scoffed the law and the powers of Bermuda tracked us down on a remote reef and airlifted us back to the States - as though we were extradited and locked up in the Hague, oh, wait a minute, that’s what happened to Goldfinger only a few years after we were excommunicated from paradise, but that’s another chapter in this complicated little yarn.

A month before everything went to pieces, we were watching the BBC evening news - it was May, the beginning of the High Season in Bermuda, the time when all the tourists would begin streaming in. The waters were warm and sapphire, but we felt an unease, not for any particular reason, just that we had been on the island long enough to know a storm was coming, even if one could not be detected on the empty sea horizon. But on this particular night, the BBC was telling the story of an African country that had plunged into war practically overnight and a violent coup d'état had made the situation so unsafe for expats that they had been ordered to leave as soon as possible. There were harrowing scenes of American and European aid workers dashing across broken tarmac and climbing desperately into planes with nothing but the clothes on their backs furiously waving their passports. My husband commented to me, “I would like to be in that situation just once, you know? To have only a few hours to get out of a place incredibly dangerous and to experience the fear and then the thrill of the plane lifting off the ground whisking you home.” I laughed, and said, “Yeah, like Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver in The Year of Living Dangerously . . . ” The thought of being loosed from all your possessions, of dodging bullets, of being a refugee has it's allure I suppose, but only for a moment.

It would come by way of Houdini, the news that is. Every day Houdini brought my husband and his two coworkers lunch at the small converted farm house where they would be programming away, writing code to make Goldfinger richer. It was odd that they were cloistered away in the farm house near Goldfinger’s horse stable, while just a few miles away, down in Flatts Village, the traders who played with Goldfinger’s money worked all day on his private trading floor. The farm house was quiet and on the surface it seemed logical to have the engineers work in isolation from the daily hubub of the futures and bonds traders who made alot of racket on the phone all day. But there was a territorial element, the engineers were building an automated trading system that if completed would render the human traders redundant. We were always kept slightly on the outside of everything for fear that hostilities would replace the usual good manners everyone used with one another. And to keep the engineers fueled and coding away, elaborate lunches were delivered by Goldfinger’s driver Houdini. But it wasn’t just food that Houdini brought on that day in the end of June. Houdini came to the door somewhat stricken by what he had seen while delivering lunch to the trading floor. Goldfinger had fired everyone in a fit of rage over what he perceived as an inexcusable loss of his money over the past several months. He cleared the decks, even firing his longtime partner and friend, The Egyptian - a man who had worked for him since the days of selling cars in Holland and then orchestrated singlehandedly the cornering of the world oil market a decade before, shocking the international trading community. The Egyptian had been through the fire bombings in South Africa and Holland with Goldfinger, his firing sounded like pigs flying over hell.

Houdini warned my husband and the other boys in the farmhouse that Goldfinger was on his way to fire them too. Py didn’t wait around, he got on his motorbike and came straight back to Casa Verde where I was eating my own lunch after working at the Aquarium all morning. Jack the dog barked the bark that told me Py was headed up Lolly’s Well Road and I knew something wasn’t right. He wasn’t supposed to be home til cocktail hour. I went out on the veranda and saw him round the corner past the quarry and the sound of the bike was even wrong. Jack and I met Py out in the driveway, “It’s over, everyone’s been fired. Even the Egyptian. We’ve got 30 days to get home.”

Now 30 days might seem like alot to you. But when you’re living on a rock in the middle of the ocean and you have very little savings because living on the rock has drained your account, it’s a damn short time to plan re-entry. We had no jobs, no home, we had to sell a right-hand drive mini car, a motorbike, and a few pieces of furniture that we couldn’t take back to the States. And we had two cats and a dog. We were adrift.

2 comments:

T.S. Dogfish said...

I like the image of Py riding up the drive on that motorbike and even the sound of it is wrong. Strong writing! On islands, storms can be sensed when they're way out to sea: the air becomes dense and electric with ozone.

T.S. Dogfish said...

I like the image of Py riding up the drive on that motorbike and even the sound of it is wrong. Strong writing! On islands, storms can be sensed when they're way out to sea: the air becomes dense and electric with ozone.