You stand at a distance they’ve asked you to keep.
You look at the people in front of you in the queue
and smile to yourself,
noticing how everyone’s disciplined here
unlike at the metro station or at the airport.
You see the man behind the glass screen,
the one who will decide how close to your dream you can get.
you have speculated often,
what makes up the blackbox of his decision making,
and if you could find a flowchart for it somewhere.
you don’t want to conjecture.
You have promised yourself you’ll stay away from anything of that sort.
No guessing, no overthink.
When you sat in the waiting area earlier,
you looked at the man to your left
and killed time
by noting how his hairline receded more on the right side of his forehead than on the left,
how uniformly grey his hair looked,
and how the crisscrossing wrinkles on the back of his palm formed a grid.
You even made up a backstory about why he needed to fly to America.
Now, at the queue,
you have more time to kill
until your time arrives.
You imagine another backstory
about the man behind the screen.
His kids go to an American School in Delhi,
they are fluent in Hindi,
and they can’t stop laughing at their father’s accent
when he says namaste.
He loves mutton biryani
even if it means he has to be careful
he doesn’t upset his stomach.
He’s the kind of guy
who would go out for a couple of beers with his Indian colleagues
and get them to explain the eleven different cricket dismissals
while they watch an IPL game.
The man behind the screen is your friend.
Just as that thought trickles in,
it’s your turn to walk up to the screen.
The man on the other side is a friend,
you repeat to yourself.
And then you watch your brittle story break over the next four minutes.