“We know you are a heroin trafficker.” It wasn’t a question I could answer because it wasn’t a question at all. It was a statement. I observed the customs official with wonder “Okay..” so this is where you’re at. “But that’s just not who I am”. He looked back at me as if it was. Whereas previous to the statement I was managing necessary protocol now a virus had broken through the firewall and entered the mainframe. Click. I pressed the mouse in my head. Exit. There was a flicker on the screen of me. Maybe now I look like someone with something to hide. His words scrolled down my face. He continued groping the bag while watching me. Exit. Exit. Exit. Exit.
My movements, a scratch of the nose, a glance, even watching his actions could look suspect. I became hyper aware of every twitch of my skin. The air solidified. Guilty. Carefully he raised a hand sized box from the bag and flicked open the miniature golden clasp. Click. What! This is no discovery! This is nothing. You hear me. Nothing! Slowly slowly slowly he opens my award from Fatima Jinnah Women University, which I was given hours ago by the Vice Chancellor. If the young women of that university could see me now. It’s a green velveteen box and as it yawns open and the polished award shines on his face I’m tempted to shout “BANG!!!”.
Click. Some part of me, deep inside, somewhere , something opens. Somewhere and definitely something . Click. I was locked away as a child for a year. The memory stayed with me ‘til I was thirty-five. It invaded my dreams. I’d wake sweating from the nightmare of a grown man locked in an institution that he would never be free of. I badly need the toilet. And water. Should I ring the bell so the night watchman can take me. Why am I here. I shouldn’t be here. HEY YOU! WHY AM I IN HERE. He finished fingering my bags then raised his eyebrows and looked through me to the next person. I think it’s over now so gingerly I collect the bags and turn away.
Suddenly, and yes it was suddenly, I realize I was cased in an entrance hall of an airport with no passport. Who took it? I lug my bags to the first man, still polite and still outwardly calm. “Excuse me” It’s the calmness that’s getting me through each challenge, or so I believe. ”Excuse me sir I gave my passport to a gentleman after I had spoken to you and he’s gone”. He ignores me. I ask again politely but he waves me off.
Two young security guards are walking towards me “Excuse me..” stay calm “Can you help me? I gave my passport to a man who asked me to get my bags checked and now I am looking for him. He has my passport.” And the security guard with the face of a mouse said “So…have you had your bags checked?”. Politely I reply “Yes” and I tell them again. “So this man told you to get your bags checked” the mouse man says. I reply enthusiastically again “yes” then the other guard who had a face and body like a Meerkat said “So did you….?”. It’s 1.45am and I’ve fallen down the plughole into Alice in Wonderland. Simultaneously they point in the direction of a nonchalant pot bellied man sat with legs outstretched and hands in his pockets.
He looks every bit the corrupt cop – I live in England I should know what one looks like – with a paunch and a mustache he’s a badly groomed 1980’s cop. “I’m looking for my passport” I say. He stood up and circled me while eyeing me up and down with a look of belligerence – How dare I speak to him. What? I didn’t realize (until writing this) that this entire theatre of disorientation was his making. He was the director and the star and I the enemy. He directed every player in this story. I was the bad guy in his film. And this was the denouement, the Moriarti finally meets his archenemy Sherlock abdullah Holmes the star of the Bollywood movie. Oh purlease.
Am I going to miss my plane? From nowhere the man with my passport appears. Relief. But Sherlock takes it. “why are you here?” he asks. “to take your wife for dinner and talk out her relationship problems”. Now I am close to getting through the airport . I’m on the home run. Now my passport is within reaching distance, now my bags have been checked. “I was invited by the British council….” He swaggers a little “Come this way” and he nods to the security guards then opens a door in the wall that I hadn’t seen before.
The door slams closed behind me. All noise of the hustle and bustle in the airport disappears. Silence. If there’s such a thing as dirty light then this tiny room – ten yards by ten – is filled with it. And men. The Meerkat and the mouse have shuffled in. Sherlock is keeping up the rear. And in front of me is one tall light skinned man in uniform and two others who seem to have been searched by him. They’re zipping up and tucking shirts into their trousers and looking down submissively to floor. They look distressed. No table. No chairs.At the right hand corner of the room are concrete steps but in that corner is what looks like dried shit and vomit. The smell! Everything in here is wrong. I’ve entered Homelands. But this is real. This is all very very real. The tall man in the uniform takes one careful step towards me. He’s the body language of an army sargeant. He looks directly at me. I have to recalculate everything in my head All the possibilities of what might happen here.
The final part of this story is scheduled for 7am Friday morning GMT. If you would like to see it uploaded click on facebook like or ShareThis and I will. This Story is part 2 of 3. Click here for part 3