"What's the story, Vincent? You sound pretty upset." The message notification tumbled down from the top of my screen, but my eyes nearly glazed over it. They were too full of wet, stinging anxiety that ran down my cheeks in hot rivulets.
The plan was to arrive in Germany, having fled from the United States and its political unrest, its overwhelming threat of a deadly virus, and its crushing debt-creating machine that funneled any and all money into the pockets of the already-billionaires. On arrival, we'd get set up in the apartment we'd scouted out beforehand, and then take care of student visas. I'd been accepted into a master's degree program, and she'd gotten into her language school of choice, and the path was laid out to go toward the goals of new and better degrees and a life that would be stable and less oppressive than the country of our origin.
But then, of course, the best laid plans of mice and men.
Germany's government is notoriously strict on its bureaucratic policy. The requirements for getting a visa for students were clear: you must have proof of enrollment in a school, registration of residence at your physical address in Germany, and most importantly, proof that you can pay for being alive, to the tune of nearly eleven thousand Euro in an account for the year. The plan was to show that between my scholarship and my partner's income, we would be more than able to cover the requirement.
Unfortunately, because we aren't married, the foreign residence office denied that plan outright. And more unfortunately, I didn't have a backup plan.
Germany WAS my backup plan.
The fact of the matter was, if I were forced to leave Germany and go back to America, I'd have been completely broke, completely destitute, and very likely to end up on the street with no resources during a global pandemic. My immune system is not the best. More likely than not, I'd be a footnote on the obituaries of the local news in a few months.
So, when one of my old friends sent me that message, I was on the verge of losing hope. My mother, the only living parent I had left, was unwilling to help, and I couldn't just take out a loan in Germany because I didn't have the right to yet. In what was a very long, very emotional conversation, she got me to share what was happening. My fears, my anxieties, all of it.
And she listened.
It was resolved before I could say anything about it that she would help me stay in Germany however it was she could, and so the brainstorming began. The most direct line of solution-finding would be for her to certify with the local German embassy in Tokyo that she was both willing and able to support my studies financially. However, having set up an appointment to do so, she was informed that the Japanese government was no longer issuing this type of certification.
The hope that I had started to build back up was in severe danger of being once again dashed. That was the last functional idea I had.
"There's nothing else. This is the end of it. Unless I could find a way to just HAVE eleven thousand Euro in my bank account to show the government--" I started, the panic rising slowly and inexorably.
"Oh, well if that's what you need, I can let you borrow the money." Casually, off-handedly, she let this sentence tumble from her lips with the same decorum she'd use to say that the weather was nice, or that her tea was ready.
"...wait, did you just say--"
"Well of course, I said I'd do whatever you needed me to do. You're important to me, and I'd hate to see you somewhere you didn't want to be, even for a second."
I was stunned. In a world where the worth of a human being is measured by how much irrelevant paper they have in an imaginary box in a virtual bank somewhere, my self-respect was teetering at the zero point (as it had been since the Calamity began and I was laid off both of my very good theatrical wardrobe jobs). We as a society have let ourselves be duped into thinking that this is the best system, and it reflects in all the worst ways-- the System hates the poor.
When someone who CAN help others DOES, it's a kick to that old system. It's a stand that says, "we must stop valuing a human's life, limiting their right to be alive, simply based on how much money they have." Truly, she kept me from being thrown back into a world that would have very well killed me in no time at all. She had the means and the willingness to do it-- a simple kindness to her.
But to me?
To me, it was a life saver, in a literal sense. An act of small empathy and kindness magnifies, multiplies. I don't know what I'd do without her help, but I know what I will not do.
Let it go to waste.