05 February 2017


When we first came back to Birmingham in January 2014, this house that I rented, the house on Victoria Road, was the only house I thought I could I afford. Six hundred and fifty pounds a month — I didn’t have to convert Malaysian Ringgit to pounds or wonder about the hidden costs or feral dogs. I asked the realtor to show me houses in my price range and this is the one that I could afford. There were two, and I remember that he didn’t let me ride in his car, I had to walk up to them. There were only two, so like that, I chose it and we moved in. It was mouldy, yes, and dirty and cold, but choosing is really where pain comes in. Better to limit the choice and just make a decision. I sat in a coffee shop after I had done it and thought about the future.

You can make anything work. It’s three years later and whatever I imagine home to be, the house on Victoria Road is the closest thing. We have been thinking of buying it, but have assumed it to be out of our price range. With my new visa, however, and my promotion, and a sense of purpose, I decided it was time to sort it all out. On Friday, I went around banks to see about getting a mortgage, something I have been told I can't get because my leave to remain is limited. I had my passport and my residency card and at the first place, a young Asian man told me, after checking with someone upstairs, that I could borrow the money I needed, provided I put a quarter of the value down. I was surprised, and clarified with him several times that he understood my situation. I’m a dirty immigrant, you’re sure this doesn’t matter. It wasn't a mistake, he assured me, he had gone upstairs to check. And then? The rate? Same as everyone else. Can I do it now, I asked. He looked at me confused, Do you have a house in mind. I'll take any one, I thought. Check the catchment area, and sign me up.

I left feeling hopeful — no one had ever told me that I wasn't a credit risk. I could borrow money, lots of it, provided I was willing to put my life savings against it. I went home and transferred some money from the States to make sure it worked. I talked to my parents. What is there to lose, really, other than money. So I’ve made an offer to buy the house on Victoria Road. Just like that, I wrote a carefully crafted, appropriately apologetic offer in an e-mail to my landlady and sent it off.

I have a history of making quick decisions after years of uncertainty. I did this when I moved to Japan — it was only a month or so from when I heard about the opportunity to having the tickets. And then Yoko and I decided to marry in about two weeks, having only dated for four months. It doesn’t make sense now when I think about it, but it made sense. We just did it — I was 23 and I didn’t think about it longer than I needed. I bought the ring for 70,000 yen at Isetan in Niigata City and took it to show Neal and then went to Yoko’s apartment. Close your eyes, put out your hands, ‘Let’s get married’ or ‘Shouldn’t we get married’ or ‘Getting married would be good.’ I don’t remember the grammar precisely.

These things sort themselves out. My Protestant beliefs said that the outcome, how things sorted themselves out, was based on my character. Don't worry about what others say; worry about your character. It’s become clear that character is just a stick that narcissistic men shake at you to make you behave. Perhaps I can just believe in fate now, or something like fate. Or you’re lucky or not lucky. Or you can tell a story that fits whatever master narrative you want to make for yourself. I lost money, but I learned a lot. I got lucky and things worked out. Or more likely, so many things happened. Some were good and some were bad. I’m back in the same place, the same coffee shop. Some things have changed, but some things have not.