Sitting at the customs in Chicago we find out there’s a glitch in the computer system. All passports must now be hand verified.
I couldn’t have asked for a worse end to this trip.
I might literally spend this night / day (this befuddled, time-traveling brain can’t even tell what it is) on the floor, in the sterile holding space of O’Hare, with a bunch of equally peeved strangers, head spinning, tile as cold as the customs officer’s blank faces.
The US is one roped-off tile away, and I’m only leashed back by that blank space waiting for its stamp of approval in my little navy booklet with my unsmiling mug. One little blank space pushing me from home into the weird intra-space of non-countries, and non-belonging.
Two hours later, legs trembling in the slowly shuffling line that coils forward with the laziness of a snake in the winter, I’ve made several sympathy friends and ten calls home. It looks like another hour to go.
Once he finds out I had yet another plane to catch to Houston that I have just missed, the US customs officer is surprisingly sympathetic. Even friendly, for the amount of stress he must have been going through at the moment,
“Here ma’am, just for your troubles you can stamp your own passport!”
And I grab the heavy metal stamp and push down hard with a grateful punch. Home. Home at last.