I belong here just like you
April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
I sit in the immigration office and think about being an immigrant. An immigrant for five months only, and really, I feel like a citizen because we’re all Irish, my family, all the way back, and my grandmother grew up on a farm on the West coast and I’m a pale redhead waiting for an extended visa, for Christ’s sake. I look like a typical Dubliner decided to stop by and while away time for the fun of it, get a glimpse at all these people with funny accents and anxious faces. A woman looks at me suspiciously as she wraps her hijab, a pretty, pale, pink one, tighter around her head, while her husband paces the floor and the baby she cradles twitches in her sleep. Everyone’s got different colored passports–a Chinese man, dressed in his best suit, leads his little wife over to the pot-bellied, red-faced immigration official, and they’re both touting deep red passports. Mine is dark blue, and the woman in the pale, pink hijab’s is brown, though her husband is carrying that one. Every two seconds an Irishman butchers a name over the loudspeaker so that they all sound the same and no one knows who’s being called, until the loudspeaker finishes: Singapore national, or, Brazilian national. The called bound up, shuffling their documentation, muttering their rehearsed English under their breath before blurting out Hello sir, how are you? to the same hostile-looking pot-bellied, red-faced immigration man. Often times they’re missing a piece of documentation, or they need a certain signature, and the immigration man tries to explain this and the want-to-be-immigrant can only nod feverishly and act as if they understand completely, yes, two floors up, yes, medical insurance, right, but all they understand is disappointment. You are still outsider.
There’s my name, crystal clear over the speaker, American national, and the waiting eye me as I quickly make my way over to the desk. I show my documents, receive my stamp, get my finger pushed into some ink. Free to go.
And there’s a sense of relief from the man at the counter. He still looks like he’d rather be doing anything else, but his jaw relaxes somewhat and it’s clear he considers me an easy case. Hand me this, sign that, out you go. Maybe it’s because I look Irish, or because I’m white, or because I speak English, or maybe just because I had all my necessary documentation neatly organized in a little portfolio. Either way, I feel a strange sense of guilt as I make my way towards the exit, the rest behind me, still tapping their feet and coughing and sleeping, and now the woman’s baby has started to wail. And as I walk down the street, I become a local again. Because I’m just another pale girl pushing through the crowds, not looking twice at the tourist attractions, walking right by O’Connell Street, moving with purpose, with a sure sense of belonging. And I find that I take an almost sick pleasure in it, that I can leave that stuffy, overcrowded limbo of others behind me and act as if I have a right to my spot on the sidewalk. I’m a fraud, with just a stamp on my passport allowing me to stay a little longer, and sure, my heritage is here, but I don’t know these streets like the girl I pass smoking a cigarette on her doorstop. But I’ll pretend. Because the feeling of I belong here just like you is so warm.