PASSPORT explores departing, arriving, and being stuck in a multitude of in betweens. In the quest to belong, we are confronted with what we imagine being & what others make us believe that we are. Identity, ownership, Otherness----passport in hand to find where you are meant to be.
Spring 2019. Final Creative Project for "Literary Borders" (Prof. S. Cassarino)
You look outside after thirty-three minutes of trying to tell yourself that it will be okay. It may just as well be the last opportunity you’ll have to prove yourself worthy. You know the first impression sticks. You know that there’s a lot to catch up in order to belong in this land where you let yourself fall. You are pacing outside the room. The clock reads 32°—but how can it be if it is snowing outside? You know what thirty-two feels like and it is not this. You mask your confusion by checking your phone. 14:42, no messages. Now, it’s hot. You’re hot. You feel all the molecules in your body bouncing in anticipation for not knowing who or what you will face. No messages. You can hear some laughter in the distance; three athletic bodies marching out and discussing the latest news from the ski races—which you didn’t see, you don’t even like skiing. If only you could learn to ski. Your pacing around feels a bit distracting now. You sit yourself in a comfortable red chair and hope that time will somehow speed up at this point. It doesn’t. You enter a much cooler space, vividly colored with black boards, white walls, and just about that. It is much cooler, too. (Perhaps those ski boys left the windows open to get a feel for the mountains, you wonder). You sigh in relief as you leave behind the pale wooden floor and as the figures in front of you transmute into sitting smiles, angsty shirts, and young hopefuls of people. The opening and close of the door creates a soft breeze that fans the heated greetings enunciated between Goldilocks and the red man in boy skin. You look around. For a moment, it all feels right.
You take a deep breath and then another. It brings you an unexpected, but much anticipated taste of belonging. The first transports you to that afternoon you went down to the park and threw a snowball for the first time. You still remember the children and how their laughter was somehow universally understandable. The second one gives voice to that hatted man who said “Welcome to America,” to which part of you was grateful, but another was left confused wondering if you had ever left it. You are back in your seat. You look north and witness one at a time sounds of here and there fall in line as dominos. What is your name? What is your story? Why do you matter? You shimmer. In a silent gaze, you scream who you are. Pause. Pause. Oh. My. God. You are so… different. You decide it is best to assume a plausible deniability—are you just unique and is that not a reason to celebrate? You speak so cute. (Never mind you spoke of grief and nothing else at all). You wonder how your pronouns suddenly became out, outside, outsider. You wonder if your English is really so good all things considered. You wonder when you became object to the foreign gaze. But to resist is to admit to being Other. To being less than you are exactly because you are everything that you are not. Do you not speak Spanish? But you don’t act like the Hispanics I know. Are you sure you are not white? Wait. You are not white. But these voices are not your own anymore. Still, to resist is to admit being Other. Here’s me, you scream again with a silent gaze. Inaudible. You resign and join in the game. Yes, I would love to hear more about Minnesota. Yes, isn’t football fascinating? Yes, I bear the weight of cultivating nine and then thirty-three lands and peoples that I never knew, but that somehow I became as soon as I spoke. But to resist is to admit to being Other. So, you smile. You smile and pass your turn to the left. You sit blank as a white canvas waiting to be colored. You sit and think of those children once more; how they laughed in an unpretentious language, how their movements reminded you of the auburn Helene, or Wilmar, or Shirmai, or Maria, or you. You who became a universally understandable window into the Other, whose body was rendered legible as if anything you felt was literature-worthy and could fulfil a Latin American distribution requirement. You, who looking outside for thirty-three minutes after, wondered still when you became a Rosetta Stone.
--- (am) a. martins