Thursday, January 10, 2013


When Hillary’s passport was new, each fresh expedition brought the thrill of the unfamiliar and the hope of a lifetime of new experiences around the world. And there were many experiences on many expeditions.

For instance, in Japan, one of the passport’s first destinations, it was handled delicately by the long, gloved fingers of a smiling young woman who bowed incessantly. But in Greece, a sweaty bear of a man with greasy, furry fingers barely glanced at the passport before smashing his great ink stamp onto one of the pages.

Big hands, little hands, even hands missing fingers; Russian winters, summers in the French Riviera, monsoon season in Southeast Asia; rain forests, deserts, glaciers, jungles — Hillary’s passport had experienced it all. Everything a fresh young passport could hope for.

But after a few years, the passport began to realize that its youthful dreams were naïve.

After a while, all that travel started wearing the passport down.

Over the years, it had seen countless airports and been stowed in numerous hotel safes. It had passed through hundreds of hands — from thick, calloused, sausage fingers to dainty, manicured digits. Each new handling brought with it a new inky stamp, smearing the passport’s pages letters from Greek and Cyrillic alphabets; logograms in Korean, Mandarin, Japanese; and collections of numbers marking a long chronology of world travel.

So frequently was the passport handled that one of the Ps had been worn completely off the cover, and Hillary had taken to calling it her “assport.”

It was sometime around the second trip to Greece that the idea of home reached the passport. It was an odd idea at first: a single place that one could always come back to. A stable, predictable, familiar place where one could just relax and be. No strangers’ rough hands. No stamps.

But Hillary’s travels continued, and the idea of home haunted the passport so much that it thought it might throw a staple from the longing. It didn’t want anything special, just a sock drawer, or a shoebox in a closet, or even the dusty space behind a refrigerator, anyplace where it could cease its constant movement and manhandling.

Soon, each expedition brought, instead of thrills, a dark sense of distress. Of misery. Of remorse. Until finally, one evening in the cold darkness of some Parisian hotel room safe, it decided it had had enough.

Hillary’s passport was done with travel . . . but wasn’t that really up to Hillary?

The aromatic mix of salty ocean air and street vendors’ spicy meats was immediately recognizable as soon as Hillary stepped out of the airport: Jamaica, one her favorite vacation spots.

The plane had been delayed in Miami, and Hillary’s hurried gait indicated a packed schedule that she was already falling behind on. Freshly stamped, the passport was dropped into the hodgepodge of personal items in Hillary’s oversized shoulder bag. She slid into an automobile of some sort, and the passport, practically mad from the month of solid travel since its decision to stay still, foresaw another short sentence in a dark hotel safe.

It was surprised when the door opened and Hillary emerged, not in front of her usual fancy hotel, but onto the beach. Gulls cried, children laughed, and the sounds of a steel drum wafted into the open top of Hillary’s bag, along with the brightest sunshine ever to reach the world-weary passport.

The bag soon landed on a hard floor that swayed slowly back and forth in a way that the passport remembered from other boat trips. An engine fired up nearby, and the passport sensed forward motion. The engines grew louder as the boat picked up speed, and soon the rocking motion was replaced by rising and falling as the speedboat skipped across the waves. With each jump the wallet and the coin purse jockeyed for position.

The boat must have launched from a particularly large wave, because when it thudded down, Hillary’s bag fell sideways. Through the bag’s opening, the passport no longer saw empty sky, but the white, spreading foam of the boat’s wake slicing through glistering blue sea. The beach was a shrinking white line backed by old, green trees and the clean angles of resort buildings that climbed into a clear azure sky.
It was the most beautiful thing the passport had ever seen, and the passport had seen a lot.

The boat came down hard again, and the contents of Hillary’s purse shifted, pushing the passport closer to the open top.

And it saw an opportunity.

The passport concentrated on pulling its covers together, closing itself as tightly as possible. When the next wave came, it opened its pages hard, springing from the bag.

For a moment, the passport was airborne and surrounded by light. It was a thrill like none the passport had experienced since its very first travels.

Then it hit the water.

The boat’s engine noise receded. The cool waves rocked the passport wildly so that it started feeling dizzy, and it liked the feeling.

Even as the passport enjoyed the sun, the constant movement, and the susurrus sloshing of the waves, its pages absorbed the salt water, softening and thickening. That, too, was a new, thrilling feeling.

English: Coral Reef in Florida by Jerry Reid, ...
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Before long, the water-logged passport sank under the waves. The sunlight danced across its cover as it drifted downward, passing wide, colorful creatures and schools of tiny, shiny, silver slivers shifting in unison. As the passport sank, the light dimmed, and the ocean shifted slowly from a transparent blue to a dark green.

The passport floated down, down, down, coming to rest lightly on the ocean floor. White sand wrapping around its edges like the world had caught it and held it there.

Above, the environment was alive with movement, strange new creatures traveling in all directions to unknown locations, while the passport just rested and watched.

It was home.
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