Drew Hetzel: For Love or Shopping

Fall '10 TOC

The guards make us leave our water bottles and camera phones and refuse to hold them for us, but we finally pass the guard station, go to the fifth floor, go to a room the size of a soccer stadium, go to our little chairs where we wait, hard plastic molded chairs, one size fits all and we’re molding in them looking at the government green walls for the past fifty minutes until the door finally opens and a short, stocky man limps out to call our number without looking up, “Eighty-six,” and limps back inside making us jump and grab papers and purse and coats and hurry before the automatic locking mechanism on the already swinging shut door locks and we lose our place forever, but his benevolent cane pops up at the last second between the door and the door jam allowing our sheepish entry to follow his limp down the hallway to his room for the interrogation to assess our ability to jump through a thousand possibilities, a hundred ambushes, ten fire-rings, and one question.

He motions for us to sit with his jack-hammer-arm that stays extended indefinitely from the sheer girth of his muscular torso, takes our stack of hundreds of papers, sits at his desk sorting through them with the top of his red shaved head shining at us, while beside his elbow a leather handled stamp inked and ready to go creaks under his firm grip as the rhythmic stamping begins, and on the wall of his office hangs a photo of him in fatigues with his buddies that I guess is from Vietnam, but he responds with an icy tone, “How do you think I got this cane?” looking into my eyes for the first time, so I search for some other way to enter into his world to convince him of our sincerity, and allow her to stay—I try to think of something else to talk about, but his angry banging of the stamp on our stack of papers is getting louder and jars my attempt to start another conversation and fills the room with a cold heat, while she sits anxiously waiting for the questions we’ve rehearsed: the toothbrush, my job, the timing of entry, the wedding ceremony and invitations, the hair products, sleeping habits, favorite movie, all of which never come, but instead, a simple question that he asks without lifting his hot head or pausing from the stamping, “So why do you want to live here?” to which she croons, “Because I love him,” so he says in a cool GI-Joe voice, “Why here when you could love him anywhere,” but she hesitates, “Because he’s here,” but never looking up from the metrical stamping of our papers, asks again, “So why do you want to come here?” and now her voice trembles as she leans in to plead to the top of his microphone-head, “Because he wants me to,” “But why don’t you go and live in Mexico together?” and she has no answer besides the shaking of her thin body in the chill of the room, until finally I add, “Well, it’s for the shopping,” and he looks up with an affable smile and a warm laugh, “Oh! For the shopping!” and the force of his stamping softens, so we trust and relax, apparently free to stay, though silently dreaming of Mexico until we’re shown the door, only to realize on the way home that we still don’t know the verdict.

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Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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