Over the years, the struggle to adapt to new environments, and the acknowledgement of a feeling of no return made Antonio slowly lose interest in holding to memories that made him sad. At one point, he even stopped listening to music that evoked past images. The melodies of local cane flutes and the strings of a guitar would transport him to mountains and dark blue waters that he could only visit in his imagination. The outcome, though, was always sadness and a sensation that such a reality was out of reach. The default became watching rare documentaries on television about distant lands in an odd attempt to compensate for what he missed.
Waiting to go through customs, he observed that everyone walked in a semi-undulating way, as if suspended from the air by threads of transparent silk. This time, Antonio felt calm going through the routine of customs and immigration. The fear of uniforms, often present in his nightmares, was no longer there. It was different from what he was prepared to encounter.
Contrary to the modern surroundings, the customs process was a poor resemblance to the obsessive efficiency of the society he had left behind. Only the motions of the officials were alike. Reminiscent of unfriendly robots, they stamped copy after copy of the required papers with solemn gestures, occasionally looking attentively for wisdom into a computer terminal.
The sounds of rubber stamps created a background of drum sounds in a jungle of bureaucratic rituals. It was as if their identities were enhanced by the stomping noise made on the hollow desks. The stamping of papers created a backdrop concert of a hundred beats trying to get in tune with no success.
Between trampling each paper, the officials looked deep into the eyes of the visitors, as if intimidation was their welcome gesture. In that moment, Antonio recognized that it was the same everywhere. Part of their official identity was not to trust anyone. It seemed that people working in such jobs were trained in the same ‘be-as-unpleasant-as-you-can’ school, no matter the country.
In the past, he had long and painful experiences with customs and immigration back in his adopted country. Countless times he had to empty all his pockets, take off his shoes, go through x-ray machines, answer hundreds of questions, have the tube of toothpaste in his bag squeezed to prove that it was actually toothpaste, and wait for hours to be told that everything was in order. It was the price of looking different and having a heavy accent. These happenings were ironic in a society that prided itself on its multicultural character. It was almost ironic how unaware people were about their deep cultural biases.