everyday banality casts back

At my sister’s–in San Carlos, CA– for my nephew’s third birthday, and a friend from her childhood who happens to be passing near stops by. Bethany, who I have not seen since I was nine, eighteen years ago, prompts idle chatter from the parents about my grandfather (my mother’s father, one of the calmest, mildest men I know) thrown into moodiness, in Paris, by his inability to get an American cup of coffee; not emerging from his funk until Dieppe, a week into their trip, where his hotel proprietor accommodated him, and his entire demeanor changed for the better.

Transition into Barry, the sister’s husband, flying into Singapore for a Malaysian kite festival and, somehow, failing to get his passport stamped when he crossed over into Malaysia. All the trouble, when he made to leave again, because he was not officially in the country. Him saying: well, here I am, do you really want to keep me?

And I recalled, on one of my border runs while I was staying in Chiang Mai, an incident in the border shack, just inside Myanmar, where they stamp you in. A young couple, Asian, but American accents, US passports. They asked: how long can we stay in the country? and the border official tapped at the little stamp on the folded cardstock they give to you while they hold your passport. Just today, he said.

Oh, said the couple. Then one of them smiled. What if we stay a little late?

Just today. He handed them their cards. Shifted his attention, expecting them to go on their way. They did not.

If we stayed just a little late (one said) like an extra day (their tone light, playful) would that be OK, really? (they leaned together, the young couple, happy, in love).

They were ignored, the official leaning over to chat with a colleague.

They insisted: I mean, what would you really do? would it be OK?

He turned back to them, surprising sharpness, his hand springing up to level a finger: you stay one day! one day only! you back by tonight!

They blinked.

The hand stayed rigid.

Oh.

OK.

They shuffled out the door.

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~ by ironcupshrug on 10/25/2010.

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