Photo by Milan Popovic. Courtesy Unsplash.
I didn’t know this part of Catherine and Catherine didn’t share this part of Catherine. Well, that was what she said to me: “I don’t think I have ever told this to anybody before.”
What Catherine was admitting to was a crime.
A crime that she willingly, voluntarily engaged in. A ‘good trouble’ crime. A crime, the consequences of which Catherine and only Catherine suffered.
And yet, a humanitarian ‘crime.’ There are plenty around these days, and Catherine’s story in a way is not particularly revelatory. But the details are.
I don’t think of Catherine as an anarchist. She’s a “detail person.” I like to think of her as savoring the details of life, the moments, the glances.
The ‘grand ideas,’ not so much.
So when I asked her why she did it, she answered, “His passport was the wrong color. That shouldn’t be.”
“I met him on a ship. We were traveling to the same destination. We talked about how he was fleeing his country. He knew he could never go back. He left because he was scared and he was willing to risk his life not to go back, to leave his country of origin, all that he knew and had grown up with, he would sacrifice to leave, to be free.
“I believed him. I knew a way.
“I met him on a ship . We were going to the same destination. His passport was the wrong color. I wasn’t doing anything at the time. I wasn’t seeing anybody. So we talked about what we could do.
“I told him, 6 months. That’s all. I told him, if I didn’t find him a woman he would marry, I would marry him. 6 months. If he didn’t marry a woman by 6 months I would marry him.
“6 months came and he hadn’t found anybody. So we were married. I wasn’t doing anything at the time. I wasn’t seeing anybody.
“I knew I couldn’t date, I couldn’t start a relationship with someone else. We had to make like we were married. We went to weddings. We went to holiday parties. We took selfies. We went to meetings with the Immigration Board, the FBI. We showed them our pictures.
“I guess I just wanted to do something. His passport was the ‘wrong color.’ I wanted to just do something for him. It was ok. We lived together. There was no ‘love,’ just friendship between us. I agreed to do this.
“I know that I couldn’t date. I wasn’t doing anything at the time. I wasn’t seeing anybody.
Maybe Catherine in sharing her story was hearing something, too for the first time.
“It was ok. Just 5 years. I know that’s a long time and I was between 36 and 41, yes — between 36 and 41 years old. It was ok. I never had, you know, done anything, been there for someone and I knew I could do this just this time. I could do this.
“His passport was the wrong color.
Catherine’s voice trailed off and she seemed to contemplate what she had just said.
“He’s married now, lives on a farm in ….. He married an Illinois girl. Two kids. He’s done well for himself, very wealthy, I think. We keep in touch. Occasionally, you know. I am happy for him.
“Me? It’s ok. I did what I needed to do. I did this for him.
“His passport was the wrong color.”