I am doing this last one for my mom, I tell myself. I could have easily gotten out of it but felt bad for my mom and her never-ending efforts to set me up on dates. So I finally agree to see some random suitor who is the brother of my second cousin’s friend. After all, this is Iran and everyone has a cousin who has a friend who has a brother who is single.
Right off the bat, I don’t like his voice when he calls me. Nonetheless, I still go along with the process. He picks me up in a car that hasn’t seen a car wash in a decade. He is nice enough to get out of the car though when I come by. And he takes off his sunglasses so I can see his face. I don’t take off mine. I prefer to remain obscure for longer. (God only knows how awkward it is to get into a stranger’s car for the purpose of marrying him one day but I am in Tehran, without my own car and my options are limited.) At least when I went on blind dates in the States I used to drive my own car and not have to endure being with a complete stranger in their car. This time, even before I left the house I swore this one date would be the last date in Iran.
We find a coffee shop nearby. I had already investigated the closest place possible and had made up a story that I was invited for dinner to my aunt’s house, that way a 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. date would suffice. As we sit down and the waitress brings the menu, my suitor so very politely asks me what I want. I order a café latte. Then he asks me if I want cake, which is rather a normal thing to get on coffee dates here. They only have apple pie, regular cake and cheesecake on the menu. I tell the waitress I want the regular cake, which she informs me they are out of today. Then I say I want the cheesecake. After the waitress is gone to bring our stuff, he tells me he has never had a cheesecake but is excited to try it. I just smile politely at him. When they do bring the cheesecake and I put my fork through it, I realize it’s not even cheesecake as I know it to be. It’s a really weird combination of mouse cake and plastic.
I open a pack of sugar and pour it into my café latte which fortunately tastes good. The smell and taste of coffee makes me relax a bit. The waitress and two other girls are now sitting across the way from us and all three of them are smoking inside the coffee shop—chain smoking I mean. The Godfather soundtrack is playing in the background—ironically so— as my date tries to catch glimpses of my eyes and asks me important life questions such as where do I intend to live, and why have I not been married before and what am I looking for in a partner. I pretend to be interested in his questions and I feel bad for his enthusiasm and worse for the lack of my own. I answer them politely as best as I can. But when he asks me why I would not want to live in Iran, I say fiercely and rightfully ‘I don’t like it here’ as if I have earned my right not to like it here by hard work and doing time away in exile— as if no one can ever take away that right from me.
By this time, I think he may be slightly offended, if not hurt at my answers. I feel even worse now.
Then of course we get to the inevitable question of Green Card. And this is when he confesses that ten years ago he and his brother both entered into the Green Card lottery. His brother won and he didn’t. His brother moved to the States where he lives now, in Oregon, and is happy. He stayed in Tehran and forgot about his dream of moving to America. At least he tells me he forgot. Now I really feel bad for my lack of interest. Had I been interested in him, it would have made his day—if not the remainder of his waking hours—for his next question which he shyly gets to is: what happens if we do end up getting married as far as his Green Card situation goes? Again, I politely explain that hypothetically speaking if we ever get married— which we won’t— I would then have to apply for a Green Card for him. It would take about a year from the time I file until he arrives on American soil, I tell him.
He smiles internally, I can feel it. On the outside, he tried to remain neutral and cool.
I look at my watch and point out that I may be running late for my dinner party. He waves his hand at the waitress asking for our bill. He tells the waitress that he really liked the cheesecake and will order it again next time. I don’t mention the fact that it was fake cheesecake. From this day on, he probably will remember me every time he encounters cheesecakes. I don’t mind that at all. We walk back to his car. The drive from the coffee shop to the house is only seven minutes to be exact but feels like an hour.
When I am getting out of the car I thank him and say, “Reapply for the lottery again. Don’t give up hope yet.”
He smiles in a sad way this time as if knowing the hypothetical situation is out the door. “It was good to meet you.” He responds.
I walk back to the house very quickly and don’t turn back. As I walk, I wonder is it ever possible to separate love and Green Card in this country?
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