Day #6: Immigration
She had been in line for more than forty minutes, willing the queue that snaked in two twisty lines to go faster. She had seen the inside of Manila’s NAIA airport, had seen lines like this once or twice in the news. It felt so different, being in the thick of it now.
There were metal posts strung with flat ropes that told people where to line up, and for a moment, all she could see were the tops of heads and bodies in colorful clothes mashed up, shoulder-to-shoulder. Everyone seemed to be leaning forward, as if it would bring them closer to the windowed cubicles at the front. She herself was trying to inch her way forward, in an attempt to escape the heavy breathing and occasional tongue-clicking of the person behind her, whose elaborately-cased phone have been accidentally brushing her back for the last forty-five minutes.
Carmen willed herself not to be terrified: of the queue, of the immigration officer, of the thought of boarding an actual plane that would take her far and away from the Philippines. Away from her family.
She felt the woman behind her lurch against her back, heard the delicate pings of her phone as she typed. Or was she playing a game? Carmen closed her eyes for a moment. She could do this. She wanted to, and most of all she needed to. She had followed Uncle Tinio’s instructions to the letter: arrive early, head to the travel tax counter, pay the 1,620-peso travel tax, then proceed to the check-in counter. Then immigration, the most important part.
Her nerves had been in tatters, and she had felt incredible relief after walking away from each counter. Every time the person behind would look up, her maroon passport open in their hands, Carmen half-expected them to say that something was wrong, that she was not supposed to be there and worse, that the police was being called and she was, finally, under arrest.
Don’t think about that, Carmen, she told herself, even as she saw a woman, close to her height and age, being questioned, her passport and papers checked, then taken out of the queue.