Passport Control

The terminal was hot. It sort of felt like the heat followed up from the plane all the way down past the gates. So many gates. With kids running around while adults, who were probably their parents, just watched. I got tired just looking at them. It was almost midnight, how did they have so much energy.

And there was a smell. I'd smelled it when we were in Madras in the summer. Like everything was stale and sweaty. Maybe moldy. Like everyone in the airport had been sitting so long in the heat that they'd started to mildew.

Or maybe the smell was coming from me. My sweat was making my t-shirt damp so it stuck to my body. Maybe I was mildewing. I lifted my arm to smell it, but it just smelled like airplane. 

Finally we reached the stairs. 

"That took forever," I said to my dad.

He didn't say anything, he just picked up both our carry-ons as if they weighed nothing, and headed down. My mom grabbed my brother's hand and followed. It was amazing he could even keep up with her on his short legs. For a minute I thought I lost them. It was really a swarm of wasps, all the people. (I don't know if you've seen the way wasps swarm, but I have. They used to build nests off the top of our balcony, and someone would have to come spray while we stayed inside and watched. And in the morning they'd all be dead on the ground, except for like two who had escaped that would fly off).

Anyway, I think another flight had landed before ours, because there were hundreds of people waiting in line ahead of us for passport control. I mean lots of foreigners. There were lots of Nigerians too, but they got their own line.

"Wait here," Dad said, "I'll look for the guy."

So Mom, and Raj, and I waited. It was funny to hear all the accents and languages. I mean, eventually I figured out what they were, but right then I wasn't sure. 

Dad returned with a smiling Nigerian man. He shook our hands with Mom and me, and patted my brother on the head. "My name is Bola," he said. 

He took our passports up to the front and spoke to one of the men behind the glass. Then he gestured to us to follow.

Dad pushed me ahead. "Go."

"But what about all these other people," I asked, "they've been waiting.

"Just go up there," he said.

So we cut in front of those other passengers. It only took five minutes. He stamped our passports and sent us to wait for our bags.