The Power of Green

“Do you want to make money?”

The call came on a particularly busy Friday–one of those days where a business meeting turn into lunch and lunch turns into a business meeting. The tone was matter-of-fact, demanding, and impervious to any hypothetical rules of etiquette followed by contractors the world over. The speaker? — Sasha. The timing? — Bad. The purpose?…

“Depends how,” I answered tactfully, though I could immediately think of a half dozen better questions my contractor could ask me during work hours.

“This one girl, a friend of mine, needs papers,” he pressed on, totally oblivious to requirements of propriety and context. “She can pay.” Presumably both him and me.

“No!” I said, before he could go on. This is a major difference between old Yan and new Yan. Old Yan would field the question, then allow the guy to spend 15 minutes talking about the project (in this case, a green card marriage for money). He would then slink out of commitment with some vague statement about not being comfortable enough. New Yan is more efficient–he says no and means it, knowing full well that he has right of immediate refusal. New Yan doesn’t mince words [so much]. He loves hearing about exciting ideas–freelance projects, spontaneous adventures, invention fantasies; but he continues to detest the idea of marrying someone for $30,000 (though he admits an easing of moral and personal distaste upon hearing from his dad that the price is closer to $50,000–he guesses he’s been out of the news loop too long). And now, he knows that the word “No” is both more satisfying and easier to swallow earlier than later.

“Why?” he demanded, without response.

“Listen, just give it a try, live with her for a while, see how you like her,” Sasha continued.


He seemed to be backing off slightly on this second “No.” “OK, but just go out with her, give her a chance. She’s a good girl, not too shabby-looking either.”

Images of Sasha’s women flashed in my head: gold-diggers, desperate paperless seasonal workers from Ukraine, lonely middle-aged housewives in Staten Island joylessly cleaning his pipe while he did theirs. I don’t know much, but I knew that Sasha was not the right matchmaker–not even for green card partnerships.

“No, sorry, not gonna happen,” I said, in English and Russian, for resonance.

“OK, no problem,” Sasha said, losing interest.I could tell he was already laying the groundwork for another scheme. He’d already asked me to be his construction apprentice, as well as to go shoveling snow with him following recent Snowmageddon blizzards. Sasha had already moved on, checked out, he was already on some other level, some other plan to make money, to get rich or die trying.


Ex-Soviet immigrant turned wanna-be scribe. I bite off more than I can chew, but at least I've got good teeth.

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