News from Shakes Manor [Redux]

This was originally posted April 26, 2007, but I'm reposting it in honor and by request of Shaker Abby and her Paraguayan husband, who is soon to get his green card. Also because I hear romance is in the air around here, and I endeavor to do whatever I can to encourage the thing called love.

Last night, Mr. Shakes opened the mail, and a part of our life ended.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

Six years, one month, and eleven days ago, Mr. Shakes and I met online, in a forum not so very different from this one, all because of an Oscar Wilde quote an affinity for which we happened to share. In a matter of days—three, to be exact—Mr. Shakes fatefully asked, "Fancy a game of Fahrenheit 451? Which book would you memorize for posterity, and which would you throw onto the pyre?" I was, of course, hooked, and—quite easily, perhaps inevitably, and eventually inexorably—we fell for each other in a series of 1s and 0s.

We read books at the same time, like a private little nerdy book club, starting with Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, so we'd always have something to discuss, though running out of things about which to speak was never a problem. Finding the time across days separated by a six-hour time difference was. Mr. Shakes would later tell me he'd walk the streets of Edinburgh in the six hours of day he had before I, music plugged firmly into each ear, composing his next email. I had gazed out the windows of my express bus down Lake Shore Drive, looking at Lake Michigan, and done the same in quiet rides home for the evening.

Naturally there were phone calls—long, expensive phone calls—and packages. The day I emailed to Mr. Shakes an Omar Khayyám quatrain, he told me to keep my eyes on my mailbox. The next day, a package arrived from Britain that Mr. Shakes had sent nearly a week before, containing The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, with one dog-earned page. On that page was the exact same quatrain I had emailed.

It was becoming fairly evident we were eager to spend some time together. And eventually, we met face to face at long last. Ten days we had, and then it was the gut-wrenching return home for me on a lonely airplane filled with people to a lonely airport bustling with travelers to a lonely city of millions. Back and forth we went for months, and then he flew across the pond for Christmas with a diamond ring he promptly lost somewhere in the Windy City, a token never to be recovered. I said yes all the same.

And so we filed paperwork.

It was still called the INS back then—Immigration and Naturalization Services, much friendlier than Department of Homeland Security, but equally as bureaucratic either way. Everything seemed to take ages; it was hard to know what was going on or when things might happen. We heard horror stories of applications being rejected for minor mistakes; we would alternatingly panic and pant with excitement when we spoke about how soon it might be that we'd be together, not for a week or 10 days, but forever…

In May 2002, we went to London, and Mr. Shakes got his fiancée visa. A month later, we were married in Illinois.

We're soon to celebrate our fifth anniversary; they've been pretty good years at Shakes Manor. Padding sock-footed across hardwood floors for cups of tea before settling in with books at opposite ends of the sofa is of what we dreamed, and it is what we have, every bit as good as we'd hoped. And it's easy not to take it for granted, when you're still filling out paperwork to ensure you aren't parted.

The last few months, we've been waiting to get word from the DHS on the latest round of paperwork—the package we submitted months ago to lift the conditions from Mr. Shakes' permanent residency. Every time, there's a fear—a fear about which we don't really talk, because its source is too hard to contemplate. It's a fear that any moment, we could be whisked to different parts of the globe, back to falling asleep in separate beds, composing emails instead of lazily drifting fingers over warm skin and looking into familiar eyes. This time, the fear was magnified—I was national news for political reasons; we could do nothing but hope our fate did not lay in the hands of a dues-paying member of the Catholic League or a Factor fan. The wait was excruciating.

But last night, Mr. Shakes opened the mail, and a part of our life ended. And another one began.

Out of a crisp white envelope from Lincoln, Nebraska tumbled his green card and a brochure exclaiming "Welcome to America!" We looked at each other for a moment in utter disbelief, and then we began to laugh wildly. The relief was almighty. I threw my arms around his neck, and it felt as good, and so much the same, as the first time, all those years ago, on a train platform at Kings Cross Station—because I was thinking, as I did then, "This is it."

This is it.


Mr. Shakes will now embark on the citizenship process. He's "tootally gooing to becoome a citizen in time to voote in 2008!" That's my guy.

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