On December 29th, 2020, I went to the Manatee County Clerk of Office to re-apply for my long-awaited passport that expired only a mere 11 months ago. With all of COVID and everything... Eh, But that's not what's important.
It wasn't my first time ever going to a government building, but what was different from what I usually saw was the people who worked there. Growing up in Hawaii, there's always a familial kind of tie between every one of us that no matter who you were, there never was a feeling of "Employee vs. Customer" in any situation. The people who worked at the City Hall in Hawaii were all older ladies, mostly Asian descent and sometimes white or Polynesian. I never really felt uptight the way I did when I walked into this city hall.
"THE MAINLAND"... was a scary word for a little local boy that used to live there...
It felt real. No fabrication or a blanket. Just what life was. A little harsher than you'd expect. But when I walked through those doors, there was a security checkpoint where I put my belongings into that machine that x-rays your bags to see its content. I eagerly grabbed my bag and walked my way towards wherever I had to be, which I didn't know at the time. I felt like I had to be more vigilant, and I observantly looked at the signs on the wall to see if something associated with the passport was on the arrow-shaped plaque nailed into the wall. It was too big of a building, and I coincidentally ran into the information desk, so I quickly asked where the passport area was.
The lady at the desk told me it was at the end of the hall in the dullest manner possible, which made me laugh, thinking, this sure isn't Hawaii. Making my way down the hallway that seems to get longer and longer, as I said, I had my guard up for some reason and keenly reading off each section/subdivision on either side of me.
Reading off "Misdemeanor, Felony, License, etc., etc. where at the end of the hall said, "PASSPORTS/Marriage". I sigh in some kind of light relief and wait behind the person who was at the window. Being such a nosey and observant individual, I just have to hear, see, smell, touch, and taste everything around me. Eavesdropping on the fact that this lady in front of me just got married and I was even wondering about her marriage license and all that, even though it didn't matter to me at all. Right as I make my way up the window, I notice this Latino family behind me, and all of them stood around under 5 ft. I caught a quick glimpse and assumed they were all kids, which sparked questions into my head. But as I closely looked, I mistook the mother as a child because of her height.
Not the point I'm trying to make right now, but what I was trying to point out was how real it felt out there. Away from the campus, where I'm jailed in, but kind of how I forget how cruel the world really is. When the window next to me opened, all four stepped up, and the lady asked, how can I help you. The mom would be speaking Spanish to the oldest daughter, and she was directly translating every sentence. The lady was asking questions about where the father is and the matter of the situation, and being the nosey person I am, the oldest daughter, probably around 13 years old, said that them four got deported from Mexico and their father wasn't in their lives anymore. A Latino man stepped in so that the interaction would go smoother, and the paperwork and all that, but seeing what they wore, how the girl acted, I just wanted to hug them all and tell them it's going to be ok.
I had 28 dollars in cash and was going to give it to the eldest daughter to say go buy some ice cream, but they left for somewhere before I knew it.
Then to my left, I see a Black man in a white tank top and baggy short waiting at the Juvenile subdivision. I see the man talking about a matter I couldn't hear from where I was, but the fact is, again, the world is cruel.
I felt hurt in a sense and so privileged that I was wearing an IMG shirt and had a passport, a water bottle, a phone, and so much more.
I proceeded on with my passport and everything, but I swear I don't remember a single thing the lady said, which I feel horrible for disrespecting her. But, my head was all over the place, and I also don't expect anyone to understand.
What I found out in my heart after relentless reflection and thinking is that as much as I do not want to see anyone in pain or distress, it is the most necessary thing in life. It's apart of nature, and at the end of the day.
"What don't kill you make you a whole lot stronger."