She’d motioned she wanted to see the picture in my expired US passport before I sent it off to the Embassy in New Zealand to get a new one.
And the bitch laughed!
To be honest, it was a laugh of amazement and disbelief more than anything. For staring back at her from the pages of my slightly worn, very used passport was a picture of a more shy, less mature, very insecure me.
The picture was taken in 1995. I’d split up with my first boyfriend a few months earlier, and the future was so unknown: something you can see in a mix in my face of excitement about travelling and fear of the unknown and the glimmer of youth and hope. After trying to find a passport photographer, I’d found one down Golf Road from my parents’ place, and, on my way to university, I stopped to have my photo taken.
A young woman with a hairstyle that died in the early 90s appeared, not terribly concerned about anything, as far as I could tell. I imagined this place was her father’s, or her uncle’s, or maybe she was so indifferent about the dead-end direction her life had taken after so many hopes and dreams were quashed in one way or another.
And there was me, nervous and shy as all hell because I’d never had a passport photo taken before and it was all so new and I was getting this new passport which I’d never had before and my first trip was to New Zealand in February.
She took the picture, still indifferent.
Glasses adorned my face. My face still bore the smooth contours of emerging from the teenage years (not yet fully a man, not still a boy). My hair was short, as I’d had it throughout the years, and, ironically, I wore a shirt my ex-boyfriend gave me years before (as I had joked to everyone, the only good thing he ever gave me).
So here I was full of hope and dreams and aspirations: things that, with a few brave steps, moulded me into the man I am today.
Looking at the photo, it’s not a place I’d want to return. Yeah, I’m still a bit shy and nervous, but more confident and more self-assured than I was. More likely to speak my mind and stand up for my rights.
Between that time and this, I’d fought a battle with a government for equality for gays in immigration and won. My hard work paid off for the school and still does to this day. I look different than the boy I was back then. Even my father, the first time we went to the States, said I was very much different, more calm, more settled and more sure of myself, than I had been when I left.
So, after I received the old passport back, I took one last look at the picture, smiled, and tucked it into a nice dark corner in the safe, thinking, I wonder what the next ten years will bring?