I once entered America.
I was on foot. I walked across water by means of a bridge. The Rainbow Bridge they called it. It was not rainbow coloured.
The bridge stretched betwixt Canada and America. Niagara Falls Ontario, and Niagara Falls New York State. Underneath and beside it was some water everyone was pointing at. At one end was a door marked “To the USA”. At the other, a small secure office in charge of all remaining doors ahead of us. A miniature version of airport security.
“Now listen here,” I whispered to the other half as we stood in the queue. “NO monkey business, no jokes, no messing about – you screw with US immigration, and they will fuck you up.”
“Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve travelled a lot more than you. Don’t try to be funny at any point. Just tell them the truth – we’ve been to Canada and we’re taking the train to NYC tomorrow. Nothing else.”
“There IS nothing else.”
I was confident; I knew how to handle immigration. A quick flash of an Irish passport and, like every European country I’d visited, they’d be putty in my hands.
I approached the counter and was faced a man who was probably the God of Police – clean cut, cool, piercing eyes. He had a look that seemed to say: “I ate live cobra for breakfast and then made sweet love to my wife, and I barely broke a sweat.”
The fear took hold of me. This man had seen things. Weapon things. He was too calm and yet too relaxed, and it was as if he were handsome on purpose. I wanted to take my passport back, for it would do not good here, but he already had it in his grasp. Soon, I was sure he would muse: “Ireland, eh? I heard there was some trouble there a few years back with some bombs…”
Police God checked our paperwork, and asked about our trip. I answered as planned – suddenly it all felt like a big plan. He gave nothing away. I chewed my lip and shoes.
Suddenly, it was time for a photo. He pointed a web cam at me, “Time for your glamour shot.” My hair, soaked from falls spray, was a scrunched mess under my hat. My makeup had melted away, and I had marks on my nose from my sunglasses. I removed my hat and tried not to look like a lunatic.
Photo done, Police God turned to my partner: “You are a lucky man, sir”
Foolishly, I relaxed.
“Ha,” I smiled to no one. “I see sarcasm is alive and well in the US.”
The office went quiet. The sky clouded over. The Falls stopped falling.
Police God was looking at me sternly. In fact, the whole of America seemed to be leaning over their desks, looking at me sternly.
I had to say something smart, and I had to say it fast.
The whole of American let the word sink in for a moment.
Police God handed back our passports. “Have a great time in the US.” He turned to me. “Don’t get arrested.”
Outside, the beau gave me one of his looks. I objected: “He had a GUN! But come on, at least we’re here now. America!”
Some of you may have never visit Niagara Falls NY, so you won’t know.
We trekked 1.5miles past several known crack dens to our hostel. (I know. A hostel – me!). The hostel owner greeted us, and began marking recommended places of interest on a street map for us. “This is the best route to get back to the falls DO NOT use it after dark, here is the restaurant district please please please stay away from the empty buildings here…and here…and here…”
By the time she was finished, most of the map had massive black crosses through it. And one skull and crossbones.
Later that night, beau and I stood on the US cliffs, looking back at Canada. Against the thunder of the falls, you could hear Canadian laughter, music and song. I squinted in the evening sun at dots of children skipping along the paths, lovers holding hands and giving each other diamonds, street vendors handing out cotton candy, giant beers and maple-flavoured lobsters. A man tripped on a kerb, and several Canadians instantly gave him their cars.
Behind us, in America, I could hear a gun being fired at a cat. I missed Canada.
|Between two worlds
If you are planning to cross the Canada/USA border by foot, all you really need to know is here at Niagara Falls Live.