Chameleon | Teen Ink

Chameleon MAG

By Anonymous

     Countless elbows crush my sides as the line heaves forward. Each passenger strains to be the next one through a three-foot porthole to freedom. Freedom? The lurching mass carries me along until I stand in front of the exit. Ten thousand thoughts pass through my mind in the millisecond that I hesitate. If I step through the door, I resign myself to this future, and yet, I have no choice. Finally my claustrophobia wins and I cross the threshold, abandoning my broken time capsule, and my feet meet the surface of another world.

“Welcome to the United States of America!” a sign greets me.

Surprisingly, instead of careening to the bottom of a snake-infested pit, the floor supports me. Nauseating guilt floods my stomach, naming me a spy, a collaborator with the enemy. After all, why should this earth support me, unless my footprint serves as my signature on a treasonous document? The United States of America, my country of birth, takes an unwelcome and too-possessive hold on me. I belong in Kenya, where I grew up. I should have resisted, refused to leave the airplane. I made it too easy for them to force me to leave. I betrayed my friends by agreeing to come.

“Esther, don’t get too far ahead.” I feel sick as my mother’s voice reaches my ears, crushing my hopes that I will wake up from this nightmare. My steps automatically shrink, programmed to obey her. I place the emotionless mask over my face before I look at her. The hurt expression in her eyes as she recognizes the facade wavers my resolve, but only for a moment. I force a dull, unconvincing smile.

“We have to hurry. We don’t have much time before our next flight.” I follow close behind my father as he dodges rolling suitcases, metal carts and confused old men in Hawaiian shirts. I struggle to control my cart with four identical gray suitcases, all packed to bursting as I maneuver through the customs line.

A slight commotion catches my attention. A customs agent searches through the bags of an elderly Arab woman, producing two yellowish fruits, and he exchanges his patronizing manner for complete intolerance. Embarrassment and anger flush my cheeks at his disrespectful tone toward an elder, and I hurry past the ugly scene.

When I finally reach the waiting area, I watch uneasily for our next flight. Women sit in short shorts, seemingly unaware that their legs are exposed. Curse words float through the room from teenagers, oblivious to how loud they are speaking. Nothing here strikes me as familiar. I lean back in my chair, keenly aware of how dissimilar I am from everyone else. I finally work up the courage to meet the curious stares of others, but to my surprise I find none. I look around and realize that no trait, no writing on my forehead, distinguishes me from anyone else. They don’t even know I’m different.

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