My green card marriage


I took this picture a few days ago. It looks like this young couple just got married. The father doesn't look too happy. Maybe that's his every day face. Anyway, it reminded me that I need to go backward in the timeline to when I was still living in Ryosuke's house. My dear friend Dorothy had come to Japan at least a year or two before the rest of us did. I don't remember which city she was living in, but it wasn't Tokyo. We'd often chat on the phone and do our best to stay in touch in the age before cell phones and email. Dorothy had come to Japan through some sort of program like JET. She was always the cleverest of us. It was no surprise she had everything together and well planned before she left. That was the complete opposite of me. I had decided on a whim and went for it with no plan at all. That's also probably why I was the most broke of the group.


One day Dorothy called me up to ask if I wanted to meet her Norwegian friend. She was looking for a way to get a visa to study in the United States. She was willing to pay 200,000 yen for an arranged marriage. It was the exact amount that Korean mobsters had offered me a few months later. That irony had been lost on me until just now. Although I was destitute, I wasn't so sure about the idea of being involved in a green card wedding. $2000 made me pause just long enough to consider the idea. It was four times the amount of money that I had come to the country with. Because I didn't have any other bills to pay, I could have lived for three months on that money. All I needed was food, transportation, booze, and cigarettes. I eventually quit smoking, but it would take almost 20 years for me to do it.


I refused Dorothy's request because I didn't know what the future would bring. It was highly possible that I would meet someone, fall in love, and decided to marry. If that happened, I would be stuck in a green card marriage. There was also the illegality of the whole affair. My life is boringly legal. Well, mostly legal. There were few incidents where I had to become creative to survive the moment. Like the time I told the train conductor that I had gotten on just a few stops before when, in fact, I had ridden the train in from the city for more than an hour. But none of my antics ever came close to being as felonious as a green card marriage. Dorothy insisted I meet her friend and hear her out. She said they would first send me all the information I needed by post. What a difference the Internet makes. If the same thing had happened to me now, I could just Google everything and find out what I needed to know. Back then, I had to wait for Dorothy's mail to arrive.


A week had passed, and the letter never came. Dorothy had no idea why. She was sure she used the correct address. Things get lost in the mail sometimes, so it wasn't that surprising. She asked if I would go to the embassy and get the information. Although I had not agreed to say yes to marriage, my continued poverty started to make the offer look appealing. I had never seen the Norwegian woman, but I thought if she was beautiful, then an arranged marriage might be something I could have dealt with. Who knows, we may have turned out like the couple in the movie green card starring Gerard Depardieu. That thought, along with $2,000, was enough to get me out of the door. I agreed to go to the embassy and get the paperwork, but I still hadn't agreed to marry the Norwegian girl. We decided to visit the embassy on the same day in our respective cities. I don't remember why we chose to do that. I think it had something to do with getting information and getting an application for marriage.


Just as I was about to leave the house, I received a phone call from Dorothy. "You haven't gone to the embassy yet, have you?" the sound of her voice was panicked. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me that the Norwegian woman had been detained. The letter that never reached me had gone to the embassy instead. One of those two geniuses had used an embassy envelope to send the letter. The because the Postal Service could not read the address, they sent the letter to the embassy. When the Norwegian woman arrived to ask questions about marriage, was taken to a backroom, and held there until she was deported. I think she was deported. At the very least, she was banned from entering the United States. I had dodged a bullet because that phone call had come just as I was walking out of the door. If I hadn't stopped to tie my shoe or look for my wallet, I would have missed it, and I would have been the one locked in a small room inside the US embassy on a very different path than the one I took to get here.

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