I remember seeing the two of them walking down Elmwood Ave. toward me, hand in hand, and the way the smiles grew on their faces as they approached. I was working as a paralegal at an immigration law firm at the time and was working on his application for permanent residency as the spouse of a US citizen. They asked me to come to their house, down the street, to watch a movie with them. They gave me a tour and he showed me the new kitchen floor they had just put down. We ate popcorn and watched Waking Life and chatted through the whole movie about the philosophical concepts it raised. I barely knew them but they brought me in; it was as if their love grew to encompass me for an evening and I felt a sense of belonging.
I held on to that sense in the coming months as I worked on his case. His ex-wife, also a US citizen, had accused him of immigration marriage fraud, and he was barred from ever becoming a permanent resident until we proved otherwise. I worked closely with the attorney on the case to discover everything I could about his history, and ultimately was responsible to write his story. It was a labor of love. There was a way of viewing the facts that was unfavorable to him, but I had felt the genuineness of his present marriage and didn't believe him capable of committing fraud. And so it became easy for me to see his version of events and how they were believable. Ultimately, he became a permanent resident.
Only this past summer did I find out that he was charged in another state with a pretty heinous crime. From the facts available in the news, it seems pretty obvious that he's guilty. I don't know that there is any other way of looking at these allegations. He is in jail awaiting trial and probably will not be free for decades.
I have long since moved out of the city and into the suburbs, but I was in the Elmwood village recently, walking alone down the street as I had so many years ago when I met them. I could see their ghosts mingled in the crowd with their simple joy. I felt the weight of what could have been his life. I wish I could write a new ending.