I started this story in response to the end of the election and all the subsequent turmoil that followed it. It’s It’s a cautionary tale, a reminder that it is an on going choice to live in this country. It is a choice that requires constant effort from a committed citizenry, to get along and accept each other and what can happen if we don’t.
The start…maybe…for now, and the names of people and or places may change as I go forward, but anyways,
Mariah hated the immigration office. It was always crowded, always busy, and always impersonal. She hated that she had to go, hated that she had to pick a side, let alone live with a side, but pick one she did. Hated we had a war, and she really hated the result of it all, which was why she was there, walking through the main door, mashed in with everyone else early this morning, there to get her papers before the deadline.
She’d delayed, and delayed, and delayed until delay was no longer an option. She’d left her home about four, thinking she might get a jump on the others, but nope. It was a four-day process, this completing the paperwork to select a country, and the reason the line to get inside never really slackened. Wrapped itself around the block two times, it did.
It was what she deserved, really, waiting until the last minute. The only thing she could say in her defense was that it was a hard decision to make. Where to live for the rest of one’s life was serious business. It had taken her longer than most to weigh what she was giving up versus what she’d gain.
The treaty that followed America’s second civil war, scrapped the fifty state model, and replaced it with eight smaller countries. The countries and its inhabitants were now to be all of the same race, with three exceptions. The new country would no longer be referred to as the United States of America, instead it would be known as A Confederate of Countries.
Blackland was her choice. It was where most of her kind, former African Americans were settling, and there was some comfort in being around others that looked liked you, she guessed . . . she hoped. Plus it was situated in the south, so that climate was also a draw.
“What country?” the woman behind the front desk asked.
“Blackland,” Mariah said.
“You sure? And people don’t really say the entire name around here, just BL; just sounds better, you know?”
“Good luck then,” the woman said, taking Mariah’s passport from her hand. A set of stamps, lined up in a row, seven of them, rested next to the woman’s stamp pad. She picked up the smallest one and stamped it. Red, yellow, black were the colors selected to represent BL, a round red circle, with the letter B outlined in yellow, the letter L outlined in black. She handed it back to Mariah when she was done.
“What did you choose?” Mariah asked the woman, curious. It was fun to see how a person matched up to what you pegged them for.
“Nativeland, or NL.”
“Yep, I’m one quarter Apache,” she said.
“Barely, huh,” Mariah said. Each person had to take a test to determine lineage, as it was taken into account. Couldn’t just say you were white, or black or whatever, you actually had to have proof. Proof had to be at least a quarter, half if you could get it. More status, if you could prove you were pure blood.
Now was the time to own stock in one of the ancestry locating companies. They were making out like a fat rat. Each country set there own requirement, and each country had its own minimum standards.
“Barely is good enough. I’m thankful for that, it’s so where I want to be,” the woman said.
Mariah shook her head. She would not have guessed that. With the woman’s red hair and soft pink skin, she would not have thought Native American, but there you go.
“The Basement,” the woman said, interrupting Mariah’s musing, pointing to the set of elevators that ran behind her.
“Thanks,” Mariah said, moving onward.
Was this place never not crowded, packed to the gills, stuffed? Mariah thought, moving to the elevators, where her next set of lines beckoned. She found herself standing beside a young man, who looked to be her age. She guessed white, felt safe in that assessment, but who knew, really. He was cute though.
He looked over his shoulder, doing his own version of checking her out. He smiled. “What country did you pick?” he asked, all friendly-like.
“You first,” Mariah asked.
“MB,” he said, chuckling.
She laughed too. One had to laugh to keep from crying at the absurdity of it all, and it felt like the names they’d picked for each country reflected that. MB stood for Mixed Bag. The states along the eastern sea board comprised this new country, where diversity reigned, and would continue to reign. “That was my second choice,” she said, meeting his gaze. “Guess,” she said, ‘cause he was still smiling at her.
She laughed again. “Ding, ding, ding, you’re our lucky winner,” she said.
“I hate the names,” he said, chuckling.
“Me too,” she said, smiling still. “It’s appropriate, don’t you think? Dumb names for a dumb process.”
“I do,” he said, tilting his head to the side in assessment. “I’m Ben. Ben Young,” he said, extending his hand to hers.
“Mariah Johnson,” she said.
“Well, Mariah Johnson,” he said, chuckling as he shifted his backpack on his shoulder. “Is this your first time here?”
“I’ve heard it takes about four to get though the process,” she said.
“Yep. Are you married?” he asked, chuckling at the lift of her eyebrows, as he’d clearly surprised her.
“Ah, no,” she said, chuckling. “Why, you want to marry me?”
“You never know.” His smiled widened. He so loved a woman who could laugh. “Meet me for lunch? Trust me, you’ll need it after your first day,” he said, chuckling at the lift of her eyebrows, which went almost up to her forehead.
“At the front of the building, by the fountain,” he said, pulling out his phone. “Your number.”
“So aggressive,” she said, laughing.
“That’s a good thing, right?”
“Yes,” she said, smiling as she rattled her number off to him.
“You’re next, sir. Where?” the attendant asked.
“MB,” Ben said, and smiled. He could hear Mariah giggling behind him.
“The third elevator from the end, elevator number three, sir,” the attendant said, motioning him to get on the elevator.
“See you soon,” Ben said to Mariah.
“Yep, see you soon,” she said. What a way to turn this day around.
“Where?” the attendant asked, not as nicely as he’d been to Ben.
“BL,” she said.
“Of course,” he said, pointing toward the area in front of him. “It’s the last elevator to your left. Takes you to the Basement. Appropriate, don’t you think?” he asked, a reminder of why this country had gone to war with itself again.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling, not going to let him know he bothered her. Really, he didn’t.
“Yep, good luck, I hear you’re going to need it.”
“Right,” she said, moving away. She was past the point of people offending her. Plus she had a date with a handsome man to get to, so there.
To be continued…