Don’t Have a Threesome with Uncle Sam

Don’t Have a Threesome with Uncle Sam

Hanna Kjeldbjerg


Don’t have a threesome with Uncle Sam. Believe me—I should know.

My boyfriend had just moved to the US—for us—and we were celebrating the end of long-distance when Sam sidled up to me at the bar. He was all Uncle Sam wants you, so I gestured to my partner and said, “I have a boyfriend . . ." But that line didn’t work on him. He said he liked my boyfriend too.

He bought us a round without asking, kept eye contact like the upper hand of a handshake. When I told him we met abroad, he smiled, the gold fillings in his teeth glinting like stolen Aztec art.

But don’t get me wrong—he talked a good game, whispered pretty things in my ear about freedom. He was all, Baby, you’re the type of woman who bows down to no king. And when he mentioned manifest destiny, well, I couldn’t help but swallow, the heat of it sliding down my throat like strong whiskey, good, hard, and bitter, Boston’s harbors steeped in turned-over tea, wave upon amber wave crashing against me until I was practically purring Santa María!

And I fell for it.

So when Sam asked, Do you want to get spangled? I hemmed, “Well, we’ve always wanted to try it, and after all, isn’t dominance supposed to be . . . sexy?”

But the porn we watched promised better than this.

Do you want to get spangled?

On the cab ride over, Sam soliloquized: Give me your horny, your perverted, your couples yearning to love free.

God bless, he said, welcoming us to his penthouse, my home sweet home.

But as soon as we got to the bedroom and it was clear we intended to stay, he pointed at us and ordered: Take your clothes off first.

He stood erect at the foot of his bed, looking down at the both of us, and he rose at the way we were feeling small.

He wrenched on the skin of our bodies like rearranging the lines of voting districts. He entered all our borders and insisted his were sacred. He said, Tell me I’m great, tell me I’m great, but never said our names.

Afterward, when we went home smelling something like the inside of a Subway sandwich shop, we fell asleep promising that our love was stronger than any state-shaped stain on a sheet.

He said, Tell me I’m great, tell me I’m great, but never said our names.

But the next morning, my boyfriend woke up itching. So we went to the doctor—amor de guerrero, es vale la pena—and the diagnosis was Immigrant. The HIV of Illegal. I was the one who brought him to Sam’s bed—the carrier—and the green card cures were all letters we couldn’t be prescribed:

H-2A Visa, must be taken while sweating in a field, temporary, a Band-Aid, only good for a season.

B-2 Visa, only good for six months.

Then there were the specialized medicines:

P-1, for athletes.

H-1B3, for fashion models.

O-1, for actors.

O-2, for the assistants of those actors.

O-3, for the spouses of those actors.

The pharmacist said medicine was limited, the restrictions protected it from “bad hombres,” but this was more about currency than character.

Friends, not understanding, told us to just wait in line. Doctors explained, “Permanent residency works like an organ transplant. Just fill out form ETA9089 with the Department of Labor, wait for approval, file with the USCIS, wait for processing, file for an adjustment of status, wait for approval, hold your breath until you’re red, white, and blue . . .”

It just might take a year. If we were lucky. As if we had that time. Because the waiting would cost us. This disease can shift into Illegal much faster than that. And no one wants to be an alien.

There are back-alley cures and my boyfriend tried them. They slipped them to him under the table. They were diluted with grease from pizza shop kitchens, cut with baking soda from janitorial closets, and the people who sold them looked at us like we were duty free.

And no one wants to be an alien.

Then, one day, we heard a whispered prescription. They called it a Green Card Marriage, trademarked by Uncle Sam.

They said he made the paperwork easy. We just had to get married, hire an immigration lawyer, pay two thousand dollars, prove our love by answering questions like what brand of toothpaste the other uses . . . and open our bed back up to Sam, whenever he’d like.

After all, don’t vaccines work by infecting you with the illness? Isn’t anti-venom milked from the teeth of snakes?

I wish I could say that we tried it. That we exchanged cheap rings and I was unafraid of how it would turn our fingers green—why else would they give this marriage a color?

But I didn’t. I let my boyfriend leave, telling myself it was so he could get well. And I cannot undo that. But when people shout that we’re a “country of lawful marriage,” saying there are punishments for crawling into bed without paperwork, I can show them what’s actually lying beneath those sheets. This “good guy” is a man who chokes far past the safety word, whose favorite position is “hands up,” who likes gags because he gets off on keeping us silent.

This is not about how we ended up under the covers. This is about a man who enacts violence and a system that calls it a firm hand.

Uncle Sam is old enough to be our great-great-great-grandfather. And there’s something not right about the way he wants to fuck us.

Hanna Kjeldbjerg was raised to be a polka dancer, but works in publishing instead. She is the events director of Err Artist Collective, where she is hell-bent on championing emerging artists. You can find her cheering on talented creators on Twitter at @hannakjel.

Illustrated by Meghan Murphy


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