Power, Privilege, and Prosciutto

Returning through airport customs, a dog sniffed our bags. Meat. Which falls under food, which we did not declare, which is a crime. We went through four agents, each with increasing condescension and intimidation. I seethed. I ran the conversation in my head with different comebacks and rants. I thought of them walking into my bar, how I’d refuse to serve them, how I’d vengefully remind them that they were in my house, now. I played out how I’d take their drink away before they were finished, and laugh loudly at how I should just give it to the dog.

We sat outside the airport waiting for our bus. I said I’d be right back, I needed to fill my water bottle. I walked back inside, eyes open for an officer. I wanted to know the name of the current customs supervisor, wanted to let him know…fuck him, I don’t know. Just fuck him for being a fucking spiteful, malicious authority figure who wasn’t helping anything really. I rounded a corner and saw a small, sixty-some woman asking a passerby where she could find her equipaje. She kept trying. Not frantically, but persistently, and with not a single word of English. The man floundered for a minute before I stepped over and translated that she was looking for her luggage. I started to speak with her directly, and she said she needed her big bag, and that she’d come from Guatemala. At that moment, a massive badged man came up, and I thought to demand that he put me in contact with his buddy who’d belittled me and put me on a future screening list downstairs. I asked him for baggage claim instead. Her tiny, resilient frame turned to follow my translated directions. The officer thanked me.

And then I sobbed. I walked back to the curb, heaving. They took my prosciutto. What if it had been my kid? What if I didn’t know the words for the comebacks? What if every time I bought my plane ticket I knew I’d get stopped at the gate? What if every time I got in my car I had to make sure my tags were current? What if those grooves in my tongue were permanent from biting it every single day? I hated them all. All the authorities, all the systems, all the arbitrary fucking rules.

Sure, I’d done a kind thing. I’d helped someone. I’d redirected my anger for the half second that mattered, and that woman hopefully got exactly where she needed to go. And in theory, if we all did that, everyone would get where they needed to go. But what about the asshole downstairs who gives his dumb beagle my salami?

Published by chambersresidence


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