My cold hand lands on Laura’s leg while the woman behind us holds her husband’s hands tight, whispering cariñitos to him. We’re here to prove we love each other. To prove this is a true white-picket-fence-two-point-five-children-Christmas-card kind of love, even if it’s homo love. Promises of a better future after this horrid appointment fly in the air in Spanish, Arabic, Russian. Inside the Soviet-looking immigration building Laura and I are literally moscas en leche. Perro en misa. Gallina en corral ajeno, etc. All the couples here are straight. Some even brought their kids, dressed in their Sunday’s best. The children are instructed to shut the fuck up and smile. Arturito, saluda al oficial mi rey. They’re here as evidence. The mamis with their hairs done, nails done, high heels and glossy lipstick. Men with gelled black hair, black button-down shirts with a few open buttons revealing gold crosses, chest hair. Legs crossed impossibly tight, smiling at every and any immigration officer walking through. Good afternoon, Mr. Officer. Nobody speaks loudly, we all hush and whisper and hold tight to our brown folders, our photo albums.
Porque mamita, you never know.
What if they have cámaras, mi reina? What if they have microphones in the chairs? What if they are watching from inside the bathroom soap? What if that nice white lady next to you is a spy and tells the officer she’s seen the weird way you were looking at that U.S. flag? You disloyal Colombian. What if they recorded that one time you attended a communist meeting in Berkeley even though you couldn’t care less about communism but the organizer was oh-my-god-so-cute? (Yes baby, you get denied all sorts of rights for attending communists meetings and the like. All U.S. citizens went WHAT? What’s this bitch talking about? This is a free country. But all my immigrant brothers and sisters are nodding. You know what I’m talking about mami, that box you gotta check in every immigration application that says you don’t even know what communism is).
Ajá, so then what?
The gringos have done an excellent job instilling immigration fear.
In a scale from 1-5 where 1 is like flying from Bogotá to Bucaramanga and all you gotta do is wave at the mister behind a make-believe machine, and 5 is like flying from Bogotá to San Francisco but connecting in Houston and having German shepherds and bald white men waiting for you plus that quote from Sarah Palin waterboarding is how the U.S baptizes terrorists on repeat, I give it… drumroll: 4.5 stars, baby. Top-of-the-line fear. Gringo fear. So when you’re sitting in that grey building, with the grey chairs, grey floor and one water fountain you’re shitting your pants, your girlfriend’s pants, por Dios, you’re shitting everyone’s pants. You’re scared. Inside those buildings you’re smiling at the damn grey walls, sipping water like you read British women sip their tea, because qué carajo, it can’t hurt right? You’re peeing like a freaking lady, sitting on chairs like there was a wooden plank on your back because, pela’a, you don’t want to give them any reason to send you back, you’ve waited three, ten, twenty berracos years for this one appointment and motherfucker you’re here to kill it. Where’s my green card, carajo.
Pero querido immigrant, don’t forget: when it comes to immigration every single stereotype about you and your people is working against you plus 1,000.
The stereotypes Laura and I worked against:
1. Narcos/cocaine dealers/mules.
2. Submissive big-breasted women with highlights and a body made up of 80% silicone. Beauty queens.
3. Coffee. Something about coffee. I forgot. Any gringo wanna remind me?
4. Humble=meaning stupid, dumb immigrant. Lazy.
5. Lower I.Q.
6. People who fuck donkeys.
7. Violent communist guerrillas OR violent right-wing aristocrats. Either way, people who will break your mama and celebrate with three lines of dope.
8. Living naked in the Amazon. Swinging breasts.
9. Something something Pablo Escobar something something Shakira something something Sofía Vergara. Tralala.
10. Such nice people!
But wait—to that add the lesbian stereotypes that I’m not even going to outline because, helloooo, all the readership at WEIRD SISTER knows that shit by memory (angry feminist, man-hating witches, everything-hating bitches, don’t have sex but rub each others’ clits, etc.).
And why, you, U.S. Citizen, may ask, are we seen through these stereotypes? Many reasons (cough. Colonialism, capitalism, the cisheteropatriarchy) but pretty much because we’ve written COLOMBIAN all over those 50,000 applications. The only reason why we were there sitting in that grey room, sharing space with all those straight couples and their children, clutching our photo albums so tight we left marks on the cover, peeing every fifteen minutes and praying (because it can’t hurt) to every God, goddess, Christian or otherwise (because it can’t hurt), the only reason any of this praying happened was precisely because we are Colombian.
This should be a piece of cake. Our lawyer said time and again and we believed him. Smiling straight couples appeared from behind the grey doors, shaking hands with their immigration officers, hugging each other, some even crying of happiness. Ay mami we got the green card. Ay mija after ten years. The officers seemed like nice people, really. My twelve-year interactions with immigration officers had all been down in Miami and anything from Florida is just—
Anyway. Nice folks those officers. Not even looking like officers. I kissed Laura, we’re gonna be fine baby. Everyone seems to come out of those offices smiling, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. We got our photo albums, our letters, our emails, our text messages, our Facebook posts, our post-its, our wedding rings, our passports, our photocopies, our dirty panties, our hearts sewn together just in case. We got every bit of intimacy in consumable bites for this officer. We’ve chopped up our love into a formula. Hell, I’ll even have sex in front of them with you if that’s proof enough that I love you. (How, again, do you prove in paper you love someone?).
So—easy peasy. Am I right? I’m a naturalized citizen and I love my boo, I married my boo, my boo gets green card . Cha-ching.
Of course not, cachaco.
Would I be writing a damn piece on it if it were fairytale? Would I be full of unhealthy sarcasm and bitten cuticles? Nobody wants to read a fairytale.
It. Was. A. Freaking. Nightmare.
Para empezar the woman who opened the door never smiled. You know shit is going down the drain when the officer interviewing you doesn’t even make eye contact, when you don’t sense a drop of empathy, when her mouth is one straight pale line, when she doesn’t give two shits about that photo album you spent three days putting together in chronological order, fighting the woman at Walgreens because you needed the pictures 4X6 and she printed them 6X8. IT’S FOR IMMIGRATION. Everyone at Walgreens hates you since and now you have to walk another mile every time you need cold medicine. Nah. Madame Officer sat flipping through Laura’s passport with so much distrust you could tell she wanted latex gloves, clorox or, because this is San Francisco, some home-made organic non-toxic cleaning spray. Madame officer eyeing you over her rimless glasses, demanding you tell her your address, your girlfriend’s address, again, what’s the address? Who lives with you? And why do you live with other people? So is she your roommate? Your housemate? Or your damn wife? Ah? ANSWER YOU PUSSY. Is she your wife or your roommate? Everything minus “pussy.” “Pussy” and other equally degrading subtitles appeared underneath her every time she stonily gazed up from her note-taking.
Immigration sets up these interviews so officers meet you, analyze your love story, your interaction and decide if #lovewins or #lovedoesntwinbecausewedecidewhatloveis or #lovedoesntwinbecausewewantgoodcitizens. We expected to be asked about our relationship. We memorized everything that could/should/would happen in a relationship according to immigration, everything from toothbrush color, to have you talked about buying a house? To she sleeps on the right side of bed, our room has three windows. But did Madame Officer care about the avalanche of intimacy we were willing to throw? Lo que diga el dedito, mi reina: of course not. Girlfriend could care less that we literally drew a timeline of our relationship highlighting any “relevant” events (surprise surprise! Try doing that at home and I bet you one of you remembers having sex earlier than the other). Try retelling your “love story.” I mean, alo? If anything I-the-writer was having a panic attack. This is Point of View 101, Character Development 101, Narrative Arc 101. Shit ain’t the same. Time is not linear. Memories mesh, change, disappear. They stick to us like gum and sometimes we forget the gum is there, stuck to your neck until you rip it off along with a good chunk of skin. You see? You don’t pick up memories from your relationship like you’re picking marigolds from a garden. Like that moment you drunkenly kissed in a shitty bar during your trip to Bogotá and you clearly remember wearing purple lipstick and smearing it all over her shirt, she doesn’t. You clearly remember it happening before drunkenly fighting that taxi driver, she doesn’t. How do you carefully separate each memory and polish it to be delivered to Madame Officer? You can’t. That’s all that fiction is, really, this messy clay of memory. And here I was creating an “objective” story of my love. Baby what do you mean I didn’t meet your aunts before that pizza dinner with your dad? WHAAA. What do you mean we weren’t fighting when we bought that cute blue chair? Try doing an outline of your three-year plus relationship, try cheating time. Just for fun.
Anyway mami, we memorized that timeline. We quizzed each other. I was so fucking scared. So freaking nervous that we will get something wrong, that we remembered something differently. Laura kept messing up the trash pick-up day. Every time. I prayed so we wouldn’t get asked the trash pick-up day question.
But Madame Officer gave no fucks about our pathetic little third-world story, she wanted to know why we didn’t have more people other than ourselves in the pictures? She wanted to know why there was a freaking stamp in Laura’s passport (literally, I know I exaggerate but no kidding, that’s all she talked about, the damn stamp). Stamp Stamp Stamp. The stamp was a mistake from some other officer. A mistake? We’ll see about that. She wanted to know if we had wedding rings?
Madame Officer: And why do you wear them on your right hand?
Laura: It’s a Colombian thing. My parents also wear it on their right hand.
Madame Officer: Ah? So why do you wear them on your right?…Is it a bisexual thing?
A BISEXUAL THING PEOPLE.
Let’s stop here for sec: all my love to my bi peeps, really. Xoxo. But I. Could. Not. Speak. A BISEXUAL thing? I turned to look at Laura—does she think we’re bi? We’re here proving we’re the most homonormative couple ever to cross her path so we may get an “approved” stamp and continue our real queer lives. We’re here proving we’re part of the “good” gays that everyone now loves and cheers to—girl, it took me an hour to get this stunning up-do. Plus we had to fill out those forms and check “female” and “female.” Fill out the routinely government intrusion on our bodies that clearly states homo, but this officer was clueless. What she really meant was: is that a gay thing? A lesbian thing? But didn’t have the words. It became clear that this woman was so far removed from our community, had no training whatsoever with LGBT couples, did not even UNDERSTAND the basics of the acronym. It’s a rainbow mami, remember? I mean homophobic pastors willing to immolate themselves over gay marriage know better than her. I mean—or was she expecting that deep down there was some hope for either of us to end up with a cisdude? Was it a TRICK question?
I was speechless. I LOVE PUSSY you homophobe, LOVE PUSSY FOREVER.
Our lawyer couldn’t even. The poor man was so ashamed and silent. Slowly swallowed by the chair.
Oh por Dios, in San Francisco, you say? Don’t be so surprised! Yes, in San Francisco. We also have our good share of fuckers.
Laura was the only one who said anything: again, it’s a Colombian thing, we all wear it on our right hand.
Here’s my question to you: how much crap are you willing to take to stay with your boo(s)? How many liters of bureaucratic shit?
Madame Officer flipped uninterestedly through our lives. Everything that was sacred to us, now exposed and modified to fit normative standards, was quickly dismissed by her. (What do you mean you don’t care that we have matching tattoos? That’s like corny-love-proof realness baby.)
After the wedding rings interrogation it became clear she had no interest in us. I didn’t dare touch Laura, not even hold her hand because I knew it would trigger the officer. We both sat frozen, perfectly still, waiting for it to be over.
She flipped Laura’s passport again. Left to make copies, came back. Flipped through her passport again, I just don’t understand why that stamp. You’re not supposed to have that stamp.
Immigration officers can make a decision right after the interview. We could have left triumphant like all the other (hetero) couples, holding that piece of paper to end the three-year visas/paperwork/immigration nightmare. Pero no fairytale mami, I told you.
Instead, with great pleasure Madame Officer said she couldn’t make a decision and if we didn’t hear from immigration in four months we should be worried. I know, mi reina. I know. Four months in visa-world is a lifetime. Four months may mean going back where you came from and adiós mi vida linda. Adiós.
HOW DO YOU PROVE YOU LOVE SOMEONE ON PAPER?
HOW DO YOU PROVE YOU LOVE SOMEONE ON PAPER
HOW DO YOU PROVE YOU LOVE SOMEONE
HOW DO YOU PROVE YOU LOVE
HOW DO YOU PROVE
P.S.: Laura did get her green card after all. Surprise! The next day our lawyer called saying our application had been approved and yada-yada my baby was getting her residence soon. Which just proves there was no reason for Madame Officer to not approve our application right then. For it to be up in the USCIS website the next day girlfriend literally had to approve it the moment we left her office. But that power trip was too much for her, la jeva was monjando canoa mal watching us beg.