Story by Maiyan Karidi
It was a fine day on a small, tropical island in the Indian Ocean.
A wandering Jew entered the austere immigration building with a feeling of strained optimism. He had already passed the rigid process of eligibility for a work and live permit and only had to renew his visa to buy some time. This was a sure thing, a regular procedure, an extension while in the process. It seemed that his chances were as good as anybody’s. But, they knew all about sure things.
His wife and children awarded him soft, nervous kisses and wished him luck before parking themselves patiently on the bench outside the busy office.
As he opened the glass door his optimism floundered. The airless room was filled with Muslim brothers sitting in obedient rows. They had an air of confidence as they approached the table of their providence, one by one, receiving a loud stamp and a friendly smile from their fellow, bearded official. The atmosphere was almost jovial.
The wanderer took a heavy seat, feeling the weight of his tribal history pressing into his chest. He considered his options… fight or flight… and quickly realized that he had no options. He glanced upwards with a questioning expression, the gray ceiling obscuring his view of the sky.
The brothers continued to slide effortlessly past the desk and exit with ease, consent in hand.
The wanderer’s turn came up. He approached the desk with apprehension and a gracious smile, placing his Israeli passport under the bearded mans nose.
“Bonjour, bonjour” he said nervously.
“I need an extension, my visa runs out tomorrow and I’m already in the process of immigration… near the end.
Could you please grant me an extension so I can continue the process?”
The bearded man gave a self-satisfied grin.
“I cannot extend it, it’s expired.”
“What do you mean? The expiry date is tomorrow, I am a day early.”
“No. A month is thirty days. The visa is from the 6th to the 5th, Not the 6th to the 6th.
“You must go out the country, you are now illegal.”
“But that’s not logical. We have to renew, I am here with my family we have invested everything, we are in the middle of a process.”
The man almost laughed, his eyes twinkling, he stood up and walked away.
As he glided across the room he almost sang the words “Go back to South Africa or to La Reunion Island and get your passport stamped on re-entry. There’s nothing I can do.”
The wandering Jew swallowed hard and walked out to meet his anxious family.
His disconcerting news turned his wife into a rage, the kind of rage that goes together with a lump in the throat and a burst of tears waiting to escape like a compressed water balloon.
She marched into the stuffy office with loud determination and confronted the jolly, bearded man.
“You seem to be enjoying this illogical deception!”
A tiny, squeaky, unconvincing “No”, came out of his beard.
“There is such a thing as KARMA” she exclaimed desperately, not knowing quite why she was using Hindu philosophy instead of quoting the Koran.
“How do you SLEEP at night? I’m sure you have a family too and don’t you forget that!”
It was a losing battle. The wanderer’s wife was losing her cool, her dignity and her tact.
The wanderer and his little family through lack of options, proceeded to book his ticket to La Reunion Island for the next morning.
His wife, after saying a few ‘Ohms’ to calm down and wondering why she wasn’t reciting from the Tora, tried to see the bright side.
“Well, Reunion Island is very beautiful, it has active volcanoes and emerald green forests. You might as well enjoy it.”
Early the next morning, the wanderer found himself approaching La Reunion airport, trying halfheartedly to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
He stepped off the plane, famished. A little dazed and confused, he entered the airport building, passed through check in and hurriedly looked for a place to exchange his Rupees and get a simple sandwich.
“Sorry”, an airport official exclaimed in broken English, “no change at this airport, and no change anywhere else, all the banks are closed, it’s a special holiday today, the Queen’s birthday.
“What f…ing Queen? I need something to eat!”
The following 16 hours were spent sitting under a beautiful tree, next to a highway, writing about the pains of existentialism with a desperately rumbling stomach.
After a very long and thoughtful day, the great, burning, golden sun, the light and heat for all living creatures, slumped behind the trees and the wanderer took his leave.
Back at the airport building, he approached a pretty official to stamp his passport.
“You cannot leave La Reunion Sir”
“You need an onward ticket from Mauritius”.
“But I have an onward ticket, back to South Africa, open for a year”.
“That’s not good Sir, as your visa is not for a year.
You will have to buy another ticket out of Mauritius.”
The wanderer tried not to cry.
“Try talking to Mauritius airlines around the corner, maybe they can help you.”
He dragged himself around the corner, thinking thoughts of doom.
“Good evening,” he began, and explained his latest ridiculous predicament.
The sympathetic and helpful official called her supervisor and tried to find a way out.
“You will have to buy another ticket out Sir.”
“But I have no Euro’s, only Rupees, and no place to exchange.”
“Oh, she exclaimed, no money? That is a problem”.
After finding no solution to the absurdities, the officials gave up, and stamped his passport.
The wanderer flopped onto his seat on the plane and begged for something to drink and maybe a peanut or two.
He opened his notebook and continued to write, trying to make sense of his life. He felt as long as he kept writing, he could look at it all from the outside, watch his own movie and laugh. He came to expect the unexpected and instead of grounding him, it gave him wings, to fly above it all.