The line is long and slow, isn’t it always. The man in front of me is rocking a sleeping baby back and forth in a cheap stroller. He’s got the blackest hair and his skin is rosy brown. Finally it’s his turn, and there’s something a little frightened in the way he approaches the window. He’s holding out a tissuey paper, a carbon of some kind of official form. His words are soft and incomplete as he says to the clerk, “I need a photocopy. Can I do here?” She shakes her head. “No?” he asks, still a little hopeful. “I can not do that here?” The clerk waves him away.
He turns the stroller around and wheels it slowly toward the door. He’s looking at the paper in his hand. He’s navigating strange territory, things don’t work the way they work at home. He’s got the door open when a fat woman steps out of the line, clucking her tongue at the whole situation. “Over there,” she tells him, pointing out the window. “Across the street at the Arab store. They do it.” She patted him on the arm. “Just cross the street, honey.”
I swear he was about to cry.