from Zachary Towne-Smith: “Here’s a little story about my trip from Mindcamp on my way to see my family.”
“How long were you in Canada?” – He hides a weariness behind a border patrol uniform and a cold hard stare.
“A week.” – I manage from within my midnight Megabus haze.
“Why were you in Canada?” He’s paying more attention now, wondering at my scraggles, contrasting against his blonde crew.
“For a conference” – but I shouldn’t have gone there. Not here, not now.
“What kind of conference?” His eyes accuse my very soul yet still I can’t stop the flow.
“Creativity” A pause.
“What does that mean?” Now he’s downright derisive, though it’s unclear if he really thinks me a threat or if he’s just pushing his power.
“Creativity is bringing together multiple…”
“What are you, a musician?” He’s got no patience for my playful preaching.
“Not really…” But I could have just said yes. I’m really not sure why I kept going.
“A painter?” His eyes narrow, all semblance of respect gone.
“No, creati…” What a stubborn prick I am once weariness widens my filters. Luckily he interrupts me.
“Software. You make software.” He’s got it now. In his eyes I might as well be a terrorist.
“No, I’m…” By now I’m not even sure myself what the hell I do.
“You gonna keep me guessing?” It’s a clash of titans. He can’t fit me into his box, and I won’t let myself be stuffed in. But why? Why bother?
“I’m a consultant.” I push some more. What does that even mean anyway?
“Who do you work for?” He’s through with me. Wants me out of his sight, but can’t let me go without checking a box.
“Sometimes with teachers, businesses…” He didn’t give the Nigerian man or the elderly Chinese couple or even the extended Pakistani family ahead of me nearly as much grief. Part of me can’t help but be pleased by this reverse racial profiling.
“Do you work for a firm?” His final attempt to straighten my squiggles.
“No, I’m independent.” He’s had enough. His eyes glaze over as he waves me on.
“Window number five.”
I’m not sure what we achieved there in that exchange. Next time I’ll probably – hopefully – just say the other half of the truth: I was visiting friends. No need to mention the 200 new ones I just made at Mindcamp. I carry them deep within. No need to struggle against his boxes. They’re not gonna get any bigger through my impudent honesty.
Or did they? What if they flexed just a bit? Even if they didn’t, or if they stiffened up immediately afterwards, why should I hide my profession in order to enter my country? Are the hearts and minds of the border patrol in my jurisdiction?