Ugh, the stupid computer restarted, erasing my entire post. You will have to believe that the wit in the original draft was as sharp as it was elegant, and that you would have loved it. This edition will never measure up.
A while ago, A. applied to have his residence permit renewed. This has to be done yearly, and each time the amount of required papers, fees, and trips to the migration department grows exponentially, so the entire journey is really a quest for Permission to Stay With Your Actual Wife. However, this time the department was especially resourceful.
‘Hello, we would like you and your wife to come by our office this week,’ a clerk chirped to A. on the phone. And because the department apparently always gets what it wants, we schlepped through simultaneous rain and snow (no kidding, although hello? it is October? global cooling!) until we were at the door. As we squelched in, ‘Hello,’ she chirped again, ‘This is not the first time you’ve applied for a residence permit, so we have decided it is time to make sure your marriage is not fictitious!’ Her exact words. Nu, translated into English, don’t go ruining my dramatic presentation.
We were sat at two tables with our backs to each other and given a five-page questionnaire each to fill out in as much detail and precision as possible. The questionnaire featured such questions as:
– What language do you speak at home? How and where did you learn it? (Arabic. He learned it while training with the Al Qaeda, whereas I miraculously found myself speaking it fluently after narrowly surviving a plane crash organized by the same Al Qaeda. That’s how we met, actually.)
– What cultural differences do you expect to arise when you and your spouse start living together? (Gee, I don’t know, the same ones we’ve been having for the past five years? That he prays to God Almighty, while I — to the God of American Television?)
– Do you have any shared friends or acquaintances? If yes, please list them. If not, why is that? (Well, if you’re going to ask me to list seven hundred people, at least provide adequate space.)
– How many times had you met before you registered your marriage? (Three. The first time we could barely communicate through the thick layer of cultural misconceptions, the second time we really connected over our shared love of fifteenth-century Chinese stationery, the third time he proposed.)
Questions that for some reason were not on the questionnaire, even though they might have offered considerable insight into the fictitiousness of our union:
– Where and when did you consummate your marriage? And in what way exactly?
– Which of you gets to decide on the restaurant for lunch?
– How would you feel were your spouse to grow a huge beard? (On both of our copies.)
– If and when you are divorced, will you try and snatch the kids and the apartment and drive your spouse out to live with your in-laws? Will you then celebrate by getting drunk and yelling ‘We are not related anymore, you creeps!’ to said in-laws over the phone? Do you dream of the day that happens?
Because those questions were not there, we had to contend with ‘describing the apartment our spouse and us were living in’ and trying hard to ‘remember and list all the guests at our wedding’. This should bring about some conclusions on the part of the migration department, who is not intending to let us know whether or not we’re really married until the day A.’s permit expires and they either make him a new one or kick him out of the country. The upside is, it won’t be a boring wait, what with all those entertaining quirks A.’s exotic native culture has left him with.