Welcome to America
In the middle of the night, Alan shook me and woke me up:
“Hey, Noga, what is the date of our wedding?”
Poor thing. He was worried about the interview; it was the third time he asked me that.
“Don’t worry, Alan, no man knows his own wedding date. It’s a woman’s thing.
Being always so tense, I remained strangely calm, perhaps due to my certainty concerning the rules granting a Green Card based on marriage. Nevertheless, I must confess, I feared, with some degree of intimate anguish, some inexplicable pitfall, perhaps on account of my steady, but highly criticized decision to do everything by myself, without hiring a lawyer; and because of that I’ve been avoiding to even mention the subject.
Finally, the awaited day arrived. We woke up at six, well before the cell phone alarm; then shower, coffee, lipstick, silk garments, diamond on the finger of one hand and the wedding band on the other, pearls around the neck. I even decided to wear the shiny little diamond earrings that belonged to my mother, I slept with them to avoid being late — all that to “give evidence” that I was quite capable of supporting myself. After all, this seemed to be the main concern of both Alan and the U.S. Immigration Service. The originals of all the documents originally mailed with the aforementioned forms were already sorted in a briefcase, carefully arranged a week before, not to forget anything, as recommended in the letter that informed us of the interview’s date. Speaking of which, I’m very organized, I have an outstanding capacity to deal with paperwork. How else could I call myself an editor?
All for nothing. The “officer” in charge barely looked at the forms, asked us hardly anything and demanded even less. She went on briefly reading a list, checking our names and our home address. Then came the classic questionnaire that as tourists we are quite familiar with, did you ever steal, rape, kill, traffic drugs or guns, have you been in jail for any reason, or involved with the Communist Party (not necessarily in that order) — which, between you and me, no longer exists.
“Alan, is it prohibited to be a Communist in the United States?” I asked. “What about that alleged pluralistic society?”
The difference was, he said, that we had taken an oath — I almost forgot to mention that, before the officer invited us to sit, she told us to raise our right hand to take the oath, caramba, we do swear too often in the United States, only this week I did it twice. Therefore, any lie would be considered perjury, a crime punishable by law. I was not bothered by any of this, as you all know I’m completely and unforgivably honest, even according to the Brazilian Federal Police that issued the clearance certificate, attached to the immigration forms with the proper legal translation.
“Where did you two meet?” asked the officer.
“On the Internet,” I answered; and made a point of showing a printed version of my novel No Degrees of Separation, anything to prove the alleged stability of our love relationship.
Alan was pissed. He gets terrified every time I mention this novel because of its explicit erotic content, he must think there’s nothing in the text beyond that — or maybe that’s all he can actually remember, poor man, since until now he could not read it at all, it hasn’t been translated and he does not speak a word of Portuguese. He gets even more stressed because we are living in the highly traditional and over Catholic South Carolina.
“Put it back!” he said, as if the book were a dangerous explosive device.
The proof that indeed we were a couple came at last when he decided to tell the story of how we built our house in Brazil, and how the contractor gave us the guarantee of his “mustache,” Alan could never forgive nor forget this. At this point, I made sure to stick my big nose in the conversation:
“But, you know, this whole idea came from Western movies, where the good guy used to take a strand of his mustache as a guarantee of his character” — I had read the story in a book I was editing at the time.
“Is that right? I didn’t know,” said the obese, but very nice officer (my apologies, I couldn’t help blurting out my small amount of venom).
Alan went mad.
“Let your wife speak. That’s how I get to know the truth,” said the officer.
Alan got madder still.
“This is proof that we have a real marriage,” I concluded.
Also for matters regarding U.S. Immigration there is a hell of a tool called “Google” — like in cases of cancer and other terrible diseases, everyone has their little say, you know, and I had read that at the end of the interview, if everything had gone well, I would leave the place with a stamp in my passport.
None of that happened. The fluffy officer said that apparently everything was fine, but she needed to give it another look that probably would not reveal anything, since the first check revealed nothing — a bucket of cold water.
“If everything is okay, this afternoon I will process your request. By the end of the week, you should receive a couple of letters, and in another three weeks your official card, and then you can ask for a Social Security number. Your Green Card will be valid for 10 years, since you have been married for more than two.”
“And in three years I can apply for citizenship, right?
“That is correct,” she answered gently. “That is, if you can manage to stay married!”
Being a Brazilian in my heart, I left the office quite discouraged. In my country “everything that can go wrong will go wrong,” it never fails, if you know what I mean. I could not relax.
Once in the car, Alan tried to upset me some more; he said I talked too much, I had no business telling that stupid story about the cowboy’s mustache and much less mentioning that we had started KBR on Amazon almost seven years ago based on American citizenship — his, of course. According to him, I have enough talent to muck up a free lunch.
“But Priscilla wrote it,” I stated my point. “She must know!” — Priscilla being the author of the damn cowboy story.
“Do you want to go somewhere, have a drink, celebrate?”
Deep inside, he didn’t seem worried. He was relieved. He trusted his country. If the officer said it, there was no reason for doubt.
“Do you think they can still change their minds, Alan?”
“Of course not. U.S. Immigration does not make mistakes.”
“Okay, I’m too tired, I want to go home.”
We went to the liquor store, grabbed a bottle of whiskey and headed home, where I worked for the rest of the day on Priscilla’s book as if nothing had happened; but my life had already been transformed.
The next day I told her the whole story.
“You’ve made that up; I’ve never written anything like that, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she said.
I could prove it, though. After all, it was in the book, and I didn’t write it myself, I was nothing but the editor in that case.
To find some solace, I decided to go online to check the progress of my immigration process, and there it was, the beautiful confirmation message:
“On May 11, 2015, we registered your permanent resident status and mailed you a Welcome Notice. Please follow the instructions. Your new permanent resident card should arrive in the mail by July 10, 2015.”
Oh, wow. Have a nice Sunday!