Passport photo

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The woman in my passport photo is not smiling. She's wearing a sleeveless white shirt and dangly silver earrings. She has a blemish on the right side of her lower lip. She has a look about her that could pass for ardor at a glance, but is likely just sweat. She's so young. Calculating the dates makes her 26. She seems younger to me.

I know, because I remember, that she wasn't planning a trip to anywhere specific on the August morning when she stood in line at the post office, filled out the forms, and had that picture taken. She was old enough to navigate the bureaucracy and pay the fees, old enough to think about obtaining a passport, but young enough to take pleasure in doing so, even without a trip planned. She was in that in-between state of embryonic adulthood. She had the outside trappings of being an adult--a steady job, a mortgage--but she wasn't all the way there on the inside yet. Adolescence lasts longer than we think.

I could say I barely know her now, with her silly earrings and her expectations all over her face. But the truth is I do know her. She's been here all the time. She emerges with every trip to somewhere new, while making reservations or in the security line at the airport or when the plane touches down on new land. And even if I don't remember the feeling she got standing in that hot university post office, posing for that terrible picture, she does.

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April 2012

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