At age 11, Julissa Arce came to the United States on a visa that expired three years later. For more than a decade, she lived as an undocumented immigrant, fearful of revealing her secret to anyone. “Every phone call or email I got from human resources would make my blood run cold,” she wrote in her Modern Love essay.
And when it came to love, she would lie to nearly every man she dated, fearing the threat of exposure and deportation.
On today’s episode, we hear about Julissa’s search for love — and what it taught her about isolation and intimacy. Then we hear from two Modern Love listeners who have kept their love alive across borders during the pandemic.
‘I have played our reunion over and over again in my head.’
Greg Cope White is a screenwriter living in Santa Monica, Calif.; his partner, Bob, lives in Montreal. They have been together for nearly 15 years.
They were used to spending time apart, usually one month at a time. But once Covid hit, and introduced travel restrictions, they were forced to be apart for much longer — since January 2020.
To stay connected, they practice a daily ritual that has become their salvation. When it’s 3:30 p.m. for Greg (and 6:30 p.m. for Bob), they have an elaborate “live Skype cooking show.” They spend the next several hours helping each other cook, savoring the meal, watching a movie on the shared screen and catching up. They haven’t missed a single day since the start of the pandemic.
‘I was trapped in the United States, and he was in Spain.’
Was it love at first sight? Probably. Valentina Marinovich and Rafael Pavón De Gregorio met at a crosswalk in New York City roughly four years ago. She’s from Chile; he’s from Spain.
After maintaining a long-distance relationship, they were finally ready to move in together in early 2020. Then the pandemic hit.
Valentina, who was studying in New York City, returned to Chile, while Rafael was in Spain. The two decided to get married so that Rafael would be allowed to enter Chile through the country’s lockdown exceptions.
Since they were not yet in the same country, Valentina had a proxy marriage with an acquaintance who represented Rafael. “We got married in this tiny office while my boyfriend was in the dentist,” Valentina said. “I’m not going to say that it was romantic because it wasn’t.”
By October 2020, Valentina and Rafael were able to reunite in Santiago, Chile. She showed up at the airport hours early in anticipation. “It all came back to me — the smell, the feeling of his beard against my cheeks,” she said.
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