I had been forgotten.
That was the explanation from the smiling officer I saw again this morning at the Department of Homeland Security.
It was, as I had imagined, because of my trip to South Africa for two months: she had said in December, after my interview, that she would file the paperwork in time for my return (not at once, in case I received The Letter while I was away), but then she had forgotten.
The price we pay for self-indulgence. I should have stayed put.
I went online two days ago to make an appointment to see a real human being. This after lodging a formal enquiry a month ago as to why I had not been summoned to my oath ceremony- without which one is not an American, and cannot import a husband - after my successful citizenship interview on December 4th, by telephone. The time for a reponse to said enquiry was approximately 90 days from the date of telephoning. The person on the phone said technically I could go in person to Federal Plaza, but she advised against it. Wait for bureaucracy to do its thing.
Instead of waiting it out, I cracked. If I had known how simple making an online appointment would be, I would have done it it months ago, instead of writing.
I did everything possible to subconsciously subvert today's appointment: I forgot to print out my appointment at work yesterday. I left my papers at home this morning. I had to return home to fetch essential things. I am not this scatterbrained. I was just terrified of the worst: being told it would never happen, forget it, go home. Move to Canada. Nice knowing you.
But both subways pulled into the two stations exactly when I needed them to. When does that ever happen? I was on time.
After waiting at the second of two way stations in the monolith of Federal Plaza, with a woman from Hong Kong who had been there for four hours, for exactly the same reason, I was met by the officer who interviewed me all those months ago:
I asked, meekly polite, rather like a nervous dog trying not to offend a human of uncertain temper: Did you get my letter in February?
No, she said, beaming, Mail tends to get lost here. I am so glad you came in today.
She sent me out to get passport pictures (they are horrible), and I came back to be handed the letter I have been waiting for.
You are hereby notified to appear for a Naturalization Oath Ceremony on Friday, June 12, 2009.
For the first time in a year and half I have some idea, we have some idea, of how to move forward. We have a date. We have a decision.
We have to find a new apartment!