The Line

I woke up from a dream and my hands trembled as I sat by my computer to recreate what I’d just experienced. Here it is.

The line snaked around the corner as everyone nervously waited. The women fixed their hair and the men alternated between straightening and loosening their ties. Was it better to look sharp or composed? The men thought the women had the natural advantage, but they seemed just as nervous. One young woman whispered to her friend, “The big guy at the door is my cousin’s college roommate—just stick with me.” The man behind her reacted. “Hey, this is all I have on me.” He tried to hand her some bills from his pocket. “I’ll give you more after we’re inside. Say I’m with you.” The woman couldn’t believe she made the mistake of speaking of her connection loud enough to be overheard. She didn’t want the man’s money, only to get in. This was the place to be—everyone knew that. “What are you talking about!” she exclaimed. “You shouldn’t eavesdrop. Leave me and my friend alone.” The man raised his voice as he turned to the people behind him. “Listen everyone, she knows someone, but won’t help any of us!” The people on the line became loud as they expressed their displeasure. Two of the three large doormen rushed to the source of the commotion and escorted ten people off the line, including the woman, her friend, and the man who started the ruckus. I still had my spot—the last person removed, only two places in front of me.

The line inched forward and the door was almost within view. The next group peered hopefully at the doormen as they waived something they pulled from their pockets. I intuitively understood their thoughts. Pick me. Pick me. Please pick me. The men started to point and give instructions. “You, and you, not you, no, no, no, definitely not you.” Two of the men laughed—the last person never had a chance.

I woke up for a moment in a sweat as I asked myself. What was this line? Was I back in the 80s trying to gain entry to the most popular disco in New York, and what was the deal with all of the ties on the men? Why did getting in matter so much? After giving it some thought, I discounted the disco possibility. The clothing didn’t fit—no colorful shirts, no tight jeans, and no platform shoes. I had so many questions, but no answers. It took a while to fall back asleep.

I found myself back on the line within the next group to be considered for admission, pulled something out of my pocket, and raised my hand. I still had hope. Pick me. Pick me. The doormen approached, “You yes, no, yes you on the right, no, no, no.” They looked at me, paused, and asked me to step forward. I finally understood as I read the sign above the door and realized what I held in my hand. It wasn’t a disco, it wasn’t 1982, and I was not holding a ticket. I woke up in another panic. My God, how did we get to this point? It was 2017, and I was waiting in line to enter US Immigration with passport in hand.