So much in his life had been dictated by a 32 page booklet: that pocket sized collection of paper that dictated his identity. Sat opposite her he found it difficult not to despise her. Not to judge her based exclusively on the watermarked pages of her EU passport.
There were many similarities between the two booklets, the US visa crossed through in black marker, the Central American border stamps, but the stories the ink didn’t reveal were strikingly different. In hers: a student visa, a high school exchange programme paid for by her parents, 8 months in New Hampshire enjoying the Fall, the Winter snow, joining prom committee, her name on the honor roll even though her grades weren’t necessary, her place at university back home already assured. And then the stamps for Nicaragua and Costa Rica, a voluntary teaching project where her rudimentary Spanish had meant the work had achieved little except boost her own sense of worthiness.
His stamps told a difference experience. Working his way from Honduras, border crossing followed by casual labour where they could find it, the gaps between the dates leaving open time he’d rather forget. His visa was a forgery, put in after they had crossed the Rio Grande and worked their way up to Michigan. Designed to appease anyone who felt they should ask but weren’t inclined to look too closely, and then defaced by the immigration officials as they ejected him from the country.
And now, in a pueblo on the border between Guatemala and Belize they drink cheap rum and discuss marriage and everlasting love and he thinks about the European stamps he will collect.