I arranged my features into the soft displeasure of sleep depravation my fellow passengers wore like a uniform, and shuffled awkwardly across the marble floor as they did, eyelids heavy and swaying my weight lightly from foot-to-foot in a near perfect imitation of someone without a poisonous broth of nerves and fear silently eroding their insides.
I’d rehearsed this scene so many times in the past few weeks leading up to this moment, that I’d now become sure my flawless delivery would be what’d give me away at the customs desk, answers a little too polished to be genuine. But I did have a backup if it all went south. Upon the discovery of my true intentions and my inevitable rejection from the United States, I’d hop on the next flight to Reykjavik — preferring to throw myself into chasing the next plan than to face the consequences of my mistakes in the former — and live out the next sixth months quarantined in some frostbitten and romantic Icelandic cabin, desperately avoiding having to admit I’m not as smart as I thought I was, whilst simultaneously trying to piece together my shattered ego.
But not even this equally-adventurous plan B could quell my deathly worry as I inched ever closer, ever unflinching, toward the thoroughly-defeated looking man behind the desk of destiny. For deep in the pit of my stomach, I knew my fear was not really that I was going to get denied entry into the country. Because however adult I was forcing myself to feel, a 22-year old runaway hovering uneasily in the arrivals hall of JFK, inside, I was just that little girl in the playground who’d bragged about the new bike she was going to get, before she’d even thought to ask Daddy if he could afford it. Who at thirteen had promised rambling roadtrips to her wide-eyed friends, years before she’d even sit behind a wheel. The dropout who’d sung plans for an entire glittering career path post-grad to her extended family, even when in her heart, she knew she was never going to make it.
Because as I stood there, trembling slightly in a way I prayed wasn’t visible, what so wracked my nerves and liquefied my resolve, was in fact the deep horrifying fear that I was going to get denied entry into the story I’d already written.
That with just one misstep before the man with the stamp, I’d be denied the chance to become the person I’d tried so hard to convince everybody I already was.