Officer Dougherty turns to me and smiles. He seems completely satisfied with all of this so far. “Is this your first marriage?”
“And do you have the marriage certificate with you?”
I fumble through the papers again and Calvin leans forward, gently pointing out the right document. “Right there, mo croi.”
I manage to mutter some breathy version of thanks, and hand it over.
“Were your parents at the ceremony, Holland?”
“My parents . . . no,” I say. “They don’t like to fly, and it was all sort of a whirlwind.” I swallow down my nerves. “It was just us, and our best friends.”
“No family there?”
A tiny stab to my heart. “No.”
He writes something down on a sheet of paper, nodding. I suspect he already knew this.
“And what about your parents, Mr. McLoughlin?”
Calvin shifts in his seat. “No, sir.”
Dougherty pauses, taking this in, before writing something down.
Defensiveness rises in me. “Calvin’s youngest sister has cerebral palsy. Her medical expenses are enormous, and the family couldn’t afford to come out. Our hope is to travel to see them this summer to celebrate.”
Dougherty looks at me, and then turns sympathetic eyes to Calvin. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. McLoughlin. But I hear Ireland is beautiful in the summer.”
Calvin reaches over, taking my hand and giving it a squeeze.
Dougherty goes through another round of questioning, where this time the goal is to verify that Calvin is of “good moral character,” and he answers with flying colors. I’m just beginning to relax, to think, Holy shit, what was I so worried about?—when Officer Dougherty clears his throat, puts his notebook down, and looks us in the eye in turn.
“So, Calvin and Holland. Now we move on to the final part of the interview, and the part I’m sure you’ve heard the most about, where we hope to determine the authenticity of this marriage.”
That sound? That was my heart falling like a brick from the sky and crumbling on impact.
“Believe it or not, some people aren’t actually in love.” He leans back in his chair—squeak, squeeeeeak. “They come in here trying to obtain a fraudulent green card.” He says this like it’s the most absurd thing he’s ever heard. Calvin and I make a show of looking at each other, attempting to mirror his disbelief.
“And it’s my job to figure that out, and identify red flags. I am required to remind you that you are under oath, and the penalty for perjury is up to five years in a federal prison, and/or a fine of up to $250,000.”
I swallow, and then swallow again. A vision of me in an orange jumpsuit flashes in my thoughts and I have to resist the urge to laugh hysterically.
“I’m going to ask you some questions to assess whether or not you can satisfy your burden of proof as to whether your marriage is real. First of all, do you have documents to substantiate the marriage?”
“You have our certificate.” I pull a stack of papers from my folder. “And here’s the lease agreement.” I slide it in front of him, followed by several more papers. “A copy of our utility bills and our joint account.”
“So you have checks in both your names?”
“Yes, we have sex—CHECKS!” My face explodes in a fireball.
Beside me, Calvin lifts a hand to casually cover his smile.
“One would hope so.” With a smile, Dougherty searches through a list of information. “Calvin, where did Holland study?”
“She went to Yale and then Columbia,” he says. “She has a degree in English and her MFA in creative writing.”
Dougherty looks up, surprised. “MFA. Wow.”
“And Holland, where did you and Calvin meet?”
“We met . . .” My brain is a slow-motion train wreck, coming around a curve too fast before completely careening off the rails. “At the subway.” Our plan is to say we met on the subway, riding together. Our plan is to avoid mentioning that he was busking for money, and instead focus on his various musical gigs with local bands.
Our plan is to be smooth, for Christ’s sake.
So I have no idea what’s happening when the next words fly out of my mouth: “I used to watch him play.”
I mentally scream as our carefully crafted, simple story somehow flies out of my brain.
“At one of the clubs?” Dougherty asks, brows raised.
Fix this, Holland. Say yes. “No.” Shiiiiiit. “At the Fiftieth Street station.”
“I would play there a couple times a week,” Calvin covers easily. “It was more for fun than anything.”
Dougherty nods and makes note of this.
“I could hear music when I’d pass, and one day I decided to see who it was.” I swallow, wondering if that’s the end of what has to be my complete mental breakdown. No such luck. “I couldn’t take my eyes off him and so . . . I’d sometimes take the train when I didn’t need to just to hear him play.”
I’m afraid to look at Calvin, and instead keep my eyes straight ahead, to where the fluorescent bulbs are reflecting off Officer Dougherty’s bald head.
“I have heard a lot of stories, but that is a new one,” he says. “Very romantic. And how long before you talked to him?”