“On a personal note, I’m glad to hear that,” he says, “but it’s pretty immaterial here.” He sweeps his hand over our files. “This doesn’t look great.”
Beside me, Calvin leans back heavily in his chair, covering his face with his hands.
“Before you panic,” Dougherty continues, “I have come up with a solution.” He pulls the pile of papers from the left side of his desk and pushes them toward Calvin. “When Jeff approached me initially, I advised him off the record that you’d be unlikely to qualify for an EB-1A green card, or O-1B visa, because of the length of your illegal tenure in the U.S.”
“Right,” I say. “Jeff said those are really competitive and Calvin wouldn’t qualify because he’d broken the law.”
Dougherty nods. “But given the current change in circumstance—specifically that Calvin is arguably one of the brightest stars on Broadway at the moment—I say we can easily make the case for national or even international acclaim and apply for a visa for Persons with Extraordinary Ability.”
Calvin sits forward, eyes red, and finally takes a look at the papers. “So we’d do this sort of visa instead of the green card?”
Dougherty nods. “Whether you stay married is up to you, but I worry about the red flags there. I know we can put an O-1B through now.”
The sun can’t decide what it wants to do; it fights behind clouds, and even when it’s free and exposed, it seems to beam weakly down on us. Outside the building, Calvin and I huddle in our coats. I want to look up to the cold spring sky and laugh my face off. All of this was moot—the wedding, the information sharing, the checking account, the utility bills. Even the emotional entanglement. We were all so naive.
“This is what happens when you put a bunch of artists in charge of a legal decision,” I mumble.
“I’ll fill these out later and send them in first thing tomorrow,” he says, and nods down to the forms clutched to his chest. “Holy Christ, I’m glad this doesn’t affect us.”
It’s like we’ve walked out of a movie theater thinking we were together only to realize we watched two different shows. “This,” I say, pointing between us, “is totally moot. You get that, right?”
He reacts like I’ve shoved him, shifting a step back. “Is that what you’re taking away from the meeting?”
“That we don’t need to be married?” I say, laughing harshly. “Yeah. That’s what I’m taking away.”
What a mess this is. I want to go back in time—two weeks, that would be perfect. And I want to find a way to get him to tell me about Amanda, and explain it in a way where his explanations don’t sound convenient and shady. I want it to happen before I meet his family, before I realize that I could be Holland, or Amanda, or Natalie, or anybody—that Calvin just needed a warm American citizen in his bed.
But does that time exist? I’m not sure there would have been a way for him to tell me about Amanda and our convenient similarity without it sounding like utter bullshit if he said in the next breath, But I do love you.
He stares off down the street, squinting. “My takeaway was a bit different.”
“That we’re free to just be together now.” He turns back to me. “That this marriage can exist without the odd pressures of obligation.”
Defeat is a weight, pulling my heart low. “I like the idea of that, but two hours ago I found out I’m just a convenient doppelg?nger. Even without the obligation of the green card, we still have that to address.”
He growls, tugging at his hair. “The Amanda thing isn’t relevant here. It’s not relevant between us—it was just a way to keep my family from worrying!”
His defensiveness stokes a fire in me. “Then why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it sounds terrible,” he says, laughing incredulously.
“It is terrible.”
Calvin tilts his face up to the sky, his jaw tight with frustration. “You know, I think you need to back off me a little here. Your parents still don’t even know I exist.”
“You’re right.” I nod. “But I never lied to you about it. I planned to tell them everything. The emotions that happened between us were unexpected, and I figured I had time to tell them before I took you home. I was just swept up in it.”
“As was I.”
“Yeah, but I only need to tell them that I fell in love with someone. Your family has been carrying around a photo of a woman they think is your wife—a photo you sent them, by the way—and have explained away the differences between us because they think I’ve lost a little weight and that I’ve done something to my hair. Is that why you always want me to wear it up?”
He looks furious. “No! I want you to wear it up because I like it up.”
“You’ve been lying to me about all of it this entire time, and would have been happy for me to go along with it.”
“Not everything here was a lie, Holland.” The wind whips his jacket collar against his neck. “I think we can both admit that what happened between us in bed wasn’t a fraud.”
He’s right, and inside, I am a simmering pot of feelings. Without question, I’m in love with him, and can so acutely remember the bliss of making love to him in the middle of last night that it makes my jaw clench with need. But I’m mad at myself for thinking this fucked-up situation was what I deserved. What happened between us in bed was the truth, but what about outside of that? I can’t even trust my internal compass of emotion anymore. Is this love?