Anxiety of aliens
The flight was only delayed by a day. I landed on Heathrow before noon. I was going to stay in the UK until the end of May, full six months allowed to a foreign visitor. I had researched what documents the foreign office would require: Stuart’s letter that confirmed my stay with him, his business card, my return flight information, and the printout of my bank balance to prove I had enough funds to stay in the country without working. The customs officer was a woman of my age. She asked me questions I had expected, and I handed her the papers. She said worryingly, “six months is a long time to stay,” and asked me about Stuart, how long we had been together and if we were engaged. Eventually, she decided to call Stuart, who was waiting for me outside. When she disappeared into the back room, I sat on a stool prepared for people with questionable reasons to cross the border. A flight from China had just landed, and behind me were lines of young Chinese students with passports and admission letters from their new schools. Some of them struggled to hear the foreign language of the customs officers, who grudgingly raised their voice volume and slowed their speech. I resonated with the anxiety of those young ones. They were going to the top universities in the world to study engineering, medicines, and finance & economics, and their first-year salary would far surpass that of any customs officers berating them now. But until then, they would be at the mercy of the control of the foreign country they were about to enter.
My customs officer returned, smiled at me, and apologized for making me wait for so long. Then, she stamped on my passport and wrote down the last date admitted. I felt fortunate to have had a kind officer. I thanked her, picked up my suitcase, and walked through the exit door. Stuart saw me and smiled. “I got a phone call,” he said.