Guilt Trip: a short fiction


I am quite the conformist. I pass my paperwork on time, do my chores at home, and wait for the green to light before crossing the road… which is why it shouldn’t surprise you to see me dig my nails hard as I curl my hands into balls of fists. In the duration of this soundless stroll, my companion and I have emerged close to uncertainty.

“So this is how an immigration office looks like.”

There were rows of blue chair, neat but well-used, plastic, indifferent. We were told to take a seat and wait for our turn. In a room clustered with several other rooms, you could have mistaken it for a customer service area in some commercial establishment. I would have content myself to slinking inside my own thoughts but the presence of these strangers refused to allow me such luxury.

There were people in uniforms; they are your immigration officers. A lot looked young, like they were hired fresh from their university days. It would have been easy to assume that you’d be in safe, gentle hands with these young officers. But some faceless guy inside a separate box of a room said something wrong: how else could you explain the sternness in these young officers’ voice? They caught him lying about his purpose for entering their country. I see now. In this small efficient office, they are gods.

To worsen the horrible quake in my nerves, another woman got caught. I have no way of knowing how they knew it because all I heard was… “I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry, Sir.” Her apologies had been wedged deep into desperation. The old officer wasn’t moved. “I’m giving you 14 days. After that get out of Singapore; go back to the Philippines!”

Gulp.

I had to look somewhere else. I can no longer bear to look or hear this. In my search, I saw the peering CCTV cameras at the farthest left. I stared at them: perhaps, these tiny protruding lenses have been checking up on me, searching for signs of anxiety — the type of anxiety that could only be caused by guilt. One by one, the strangers in the front row went. They entered this door accompanied by anxiousness. And they always went out sporting either a frown or a smile that’s quick to fade and hide.

I collected my wits and recall the prior half-truths and half-lies. They were like a litany of kinds: I went here to visit my college friend. I had an aunt who also stays here but (I) chose to stay with the friend because poor auntie was too busy to tour me around. We went to JB because it was my last day here; and she wanted to give me a treat me before I go back home. Job? Yes, I have a job; back there, I’m a writer. I’m also a blogger and I plan to write and post about my adventures here for fellow bloggers to enjoy. I’m also studying, a master’s degree in Literature. I have saved much to make this trip possible. Yes, I plan to travel all over Asia and blog about it. No, it couldn’t be too soon because I am studying and it’s quite expensive. I have to keep on saving.

“Indeed, it’s expensive. It’s hard to travel because you also study.”

We were escorted outside. My passport was stamped: 30 more days. In my companion’s eyes, I did it. But in my head, I wondered: “did I really make it?

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