The passage through immigration feels like as if I’ve crawled through dirt. The tone of the questions asked, the officer putting you under pressure so that you might either lose your temper or make a mistake. It takes away the fun from traveling, this trial of words. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth and your skin begins to feel dirty. You feel as if you have done some wrong by coming to this country. The chance of birth determines the ease of arrival in the developed world.
In the dim neon light everyone seems sulky. Grim looks as people hurry with little molehills of suitcases; black, brown, red and green. A limo turns up suddenly. It feels as out of place as an elephant would on the streets of New York. White coaches turn into the bays and people scurry like disturbed ants. The wind carries with it the smell of rain, a cold and unhappy rain.
The bus arrives. It’s arrival is greeted by a bugle of horns from the other vehicles hunkered down in their respective bays. I wonder at all the journeys these buses might have undertaken. How many stories can they tell for every kilometer they have traveled? What horrible accidents have they witnessed? How many roads have their tires tasted? Does the petrol they drink ever leave behind a memory? A memory of ignition and constant burn?
The world is dark around me with only a small light overhead to guide my fingers. The road stretches on to the blind horizon like a coiled snake waiting to strike at those who threaten it.
My destination moves ever closer like an alarm waiting to ring. A year and a half since I last saw her. How the world between us has changed! A lifetime of anguish and heart full of loneliness later, it is finally time. Where will things take us? How will the next four days pan out? Will they fly without leaving any time for reflection or will they drag, like boring lectures do at the university?
It is strange that when finally the moment has arrived I do not feel almost anything. Yes, there is a certain tightening of the heart when I think of the time ahead. But other than that everything else fails to elicit any emotion. It is perhaps the lack of sleep and the quiet boredom of the journey. I haven’t had a drop of water in almost 6 hours and ate only 2-3 little pieces of chocolate in that time. So yes, I’m hungry, a little thirsty and quite quite sleepy. So perhaps that lack of excitement is not so surprising after all.
The way the bus moves over a bridge is strangely fascinating. The tires make this staccato rolling sound as they go over the small gaps between the different spans of a bridge. It reminds me of the sound of flour mills I used to go to when I was in Hyderabad. It was the sound made by the rubber thread that wound around the grinding wheel.
The red dots between the numbers on the electronic clock blink back at me. The time is ticking they seem to say. Every minute ticked up brings me closer to a new future. The future of hope and friendship. The future of trust and unrequited love.
Somehow I’m suddenly reminded of one of the questions the immigration official asked.
“Is she your girlfriend like?”
“More like ex-girlfriend really.”
He gave a Gallic shrug and said ahem as if that explained everything.