Love at the American Embassy in Ukraine

There are moments in life when you realize that you’ve made a mistake. A big mistake. A mistake that there is really no getting out of.

I say this because it’s common in today’s world for people to say that they have “no regrets”. This isn’t true of course. What they mean is that they can’t change the past so rather than ruminate on exactly how and when they fucked up, they’d rather deny that they ever fucked up to begin with.

***

It recently came to my attention that many countries will refuse you entry if your passport expires in less than six months. What’s the point in having an expiration date printed on your passport that most countries won’t even recognize? You’ve got me, but this moronic rule has led me to Kiev on this, the coldest of days.

“Take a seat for a couple of minutes and I’ll be right back with your delivery confirmation.” The brunette at the counter says after handing me back my first, now old, passport.

I love passports. I firmly believe that the best way to get to know a person is to take a good look inside their passport. Is it empty? Is it full of stamps from the same two or three places? From an assortment of different places? Just think for a moment what you can learn … all the stories that just one single passport holds.

As I wait for the confirmation ensuring my new passport will be sent to where I currently reside in Eastern Ukraine, a man and a woman walk in, heading straight for the counter I just left.

The man, early thirties I’d guess, has the beard of a truck stop serial killer and an oversized sweater and jeans. The woman, in her twenties, has stringy hair that’s been dyed black. The dye, apparently fresh, has left coal colored marks down her forehead into her eyebrows, which are themselves so thick and angry there must be at least one restraining order out against them.

There’s a baby in the man’s arms, though the way it’s lying, arms extended in a crucifix position and head bent backwards, it appears to be dead. I immediately suspect the eyebrows.

The man, an American it turns out, spits out short words coated with a Texas drawl. It soon becomes clear that the two are here to apply for an American passport for the baby, who apparently is still alive.

“You’re missing some documents.” The brunette at the counter says.

“What kinda documents?” The man asks, his thumb hooked into his belt loop.

“Your marriage certificate.”

“What ya need that for?”

“We need to know that you’re married in order to process your child’s passport.” The brunette says, in a very nice tone I think, considering the circumstances.

“Oh, we didn’t know ya’ll needed that.” The man says, scratching his beard. “On the internet it just said bring the birth certificate and ID.”

“We need a marriage certificate too.”

“What bout if we weren’t married? Ya telling me I can’t get a passport for my child?”

“You can,” the woman says, apparently quite experienced dealing with idiots. “But without a marriage certificate we’ll need a DNA test.”

This continues for several minutes, the man stressing to the nice brunette that they’ve “come a really long way” and “need to get this done today,” the brunette reiterating that she can’t make any exceptions to the rules.

The couple then take seats to discuss what to do next.

“Yulia, you and the baby can go back home and fax me a copy of the certificate. I’ll stay here and get it done.” The man says.

“I don’t want you stay in Kiev,” the wife says. “Why, you plan meet somebody?”

“Baby, why’d ya say that? I just don’t wanna go back to Nikolaev -” a city on the Black Sea, 500 kilometers from Kiev “- until this is done.”

“I don’t want her get passport until I get tourist visa.”

“Baby, that’s nonsense. Whatta we here for then?”

“I want tourist visa!” The eyebrows look ready to strike.

“Why? You afraid I’m gonna take the baby and run out on ya?”

“Yes,” she says. “I afraid this.”

“Why would ya even say that?”

“I don’t want talk people here. They lie. They your people, not mine.”

“Baby,” the man says, growing exasperated. “This is crazy talk. Ya think she’s lyin’ to ya? Ya actually think she’s lyin’ to ya?”

“You take her side? Then I don’t want see your face no more.”

“Ya what? What’s the matter with you? Why we even together then?”

“Why?” The woman repeats. “Because I love you. And nothing the matter with me. You do nothing for me, that’s all.”

“I do nothing for ya? Really? I do NOTHING for ya?”

“I know you,” the woman says, eyebrows raised defiantly. “You sleep many women. How many women you sleep?”

“What, after ya LEFT me? I dunno, two or three, but YOU LEFT ME.”

“You sleep bitches, I know. They all bitches. And you hit me one time. I don’t forget this.”

The brunette calls me back to the counter, jolting me out of the couple’s romantic sonnet. She hands me the delivery slip and bids me farewell.

Leave? I can’t bring myself to leave … not just yet. I take a seat on the other side of the waiting area and pretend to shuffle through papers.

“You should ask her your questions fore we leave,” the man says. “We came this far.”

“I don’t want talk to her.”

The man goes back to the counter.

“My wife wants to ask ya some questions.”

“Sure!” The brunette says cheerfully.

“I said, I don’t want talk to her! You deaf? I talk only to lawyer!”

If the man hasn’t realized it yet, he certainly should now – he’s made a huge mistake.

As I leave the lovers behind, I feel newly inspired. Thank you, Schengen passport requirements, for allowing me to experience this uniquely Ukrainian love story. Their love shall not be for naught.

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2 comments

  1. Oh. My. God.

  2. Magical. Real-life soap operas are what keeps me going, having spent quite a lot of time in embassies, city halls, and police headquarters myself (there’s a reason the word ‘bureaucracy’ comes from French).

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