The First Stamp

Two weeks before I moved to New York, my new passport arrived in the mail. My old passport was due to expire this November and though I did not have any international trips planned until Spring 2014, I felt an odd rush to have it renewed.

“You never know,” the travel bug whispered.

The passport came in a small flat envelope which I had to sign for.

“What is that?” my father asked, hearing me close the front door.

“Passport.”

“Ah,” my father said, “That’s pretty important to you, isn’t it.”

“Yeah.”

I took it back to my room, which at the time was a horrendous mess – clothes, shoes, bags and belts piled over every available surface waiting to be stuffed into giant cardboard boxes that stood like gaping mouths, expecting to be filled (but not too filled), sealed and shipped off to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I was to start graduate school in the fall. At my desk, I opened the envelope. The passport slid out, a neat, navy blue booklet much stiffer and thinner than my old passport, to which I had added pages some years ago but did not manage to fill. I blamed the year I spent working at a desk.

When it was time to leave home, I carried the passport in my backpack, along with other important documents I did not want to lose. At Long Beach Airport, I showed them my driver’s license while my passport waited patiently in the small inner pocket of my backpack. It understood; it was not time yet.

I arrived in New York on Monday morning. On Tuesday night, I went on a blind date. Mutual friends thought he and I would make a good pair. Something about my thick skin and his sharp tongue. Or perhaps it was the other way around. It went well, as first dates usually do. We went to an Italian restaurant and then to a Russian lounge. It was very international. We talked about our backgrounds. He had gone to American school in Japan and was now working in London temporarily until December. He was back in New York for a few weeks’ vacation but would be leaving again at the beginning of September. I grew up in Orange County, I said, but I like traveling. When the tiramisu came, I thought about my new passport, like scratching an itch I couldn’t quite reach.

A few days later in Chinatown, he asked if I’d consider visiting him in London. I nodded slowly and tried to look skeptical rather than surprised, because this is what one does when asked such a question on the third date. Inside however, honesty lay splayed out like a Playboy centerfold. “I love London,” I thought, “Why not?”

——

Two hours before he had to leave for the airport, we walked through Central Park, walked through the bustle of the city we both loved and back to his apartment, where his suitcase was almost packed. I sat at the small, round dining table and watched him try to remember essential things.

His roommate walked out with his laptop charger.

“You’ll be needing this, probably?”

“Ah,” he grabbed it,  “Yup. Thanks.”

The car came. We got in and were driven first to my building, in front of which we said goodbyes that fell somewhere between awkward comfort and comfortable awkwardness.

“I’ll see you in London, maybe?” he said.

I smiled, “Yeah. Maybe.”

Two months later, he saw me in London.

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