He is working on his computer, “Yeah?”
“I know you are working at the moment, but the girls want to know if you are going to be available later this afternoon for a bike ride or something. Not saying you have to be available . . . just want to know what you have planned for the day. Sometimes, you don’t tell me the plan.”
“Nope. I have nothing planned.”
“Although we need to go get our passport photos taken.”
I stare at him, “We going somewhere?”
He riffles through some papers on his desk, “I think we can get those photos taken at the AAA office.”
“And this needs to be done today?”
“When were you thinking we would do this?”
“I was thinking we would leave in about ten minutes.”
“See, this is what I was talking about when I said that you don’t always tell me the plan.”
I round up the girls and tell them to brush their hair and change into clean shirts . . . we are going to get our passport photos taken.
“Are we going on a vacation?”
“Are we going to drive to Canada?”
“Are we planning to go anywhere that is not Oregon before school starts?”
“I don’t think so, no.”
“Do we have any plans at all to ever leave this country?”
“I have no such plans, no.”
The girls stare at me.
Kallan is thoughtful, “Is Daddy planning on running away from home way far to another country but he doesn’t want us to know his plan so he is taking us all to get our passports but really this is like our last family memory with Daddy all happy and getting his passport and then See ya family I will send you a postcard from somewhere where you are not?”
I search through my purse for the keys, “Daddy leaves me with the two of you and that broken-down boat in the driveway, there is nowhere in the world he would be safe.”
Both girls giggle.
Mark meets us by the front door and the girls demand explanations . . .Why do we need to get our passports if we are not going anywhere?
Mark holds his glasses up in the air to inspect for invisible bits of dirt, and then puts them back on, “Make a note, girls. It is always a good idea to be able to flee the country at a moment’s notice.”
We follow him out to the car.
And then we are at AAA.
Mark goes first, and the nice lady makes him take off his glasses for his photo.
Kallan snorts with laughter, “Daddy looks like he just got out of bed! He always wears his glasses!”
Maj is next.
And then me . . . the woman tells me not to smile and to just have my “casual resting face.”
Maj giggles, “You know . . . your serial killer face like you have on your driver’s license.”
So that’s the face I go with.
Seriously . . . every piece of official ID I have looks like a miniature WANTED BY THE FBI poster.
The woman finishes developing the photos and brings them out to show us.
Mark looks drowsy and unfocused.
I look like an axe murderer.
Wait, “Where are the girls’ photos?”
The woman is apologetic, “I’ll need to take the girls’ photos again.”
I look at her and she explains, “The photos I took show their shoulders. You will not be able to get a passport if their shoulders are showing.”
Mark and I and the woman turn and stare at Maj and Kallan, who are both wearing sleeveless tops.
Maj stares back at us, “What’s wrong with our shoulders?”
The woman explains, “Your shoulders are unacceptable in Muslim countries, and this passport photo has to meet all countries’ requirements. In some countries, showing your shoulders is considered inappropriate.”
Maj and Kallan look at me, and I am not quite sure how to explain, “OK, so we’ll just come back and get these photos taken a different time.”
The woman hurries to reassure us, “No, that won’t be necessary. I have a sheet back here they can wrap around themselves, and that way their shoulders will be hidden.”
Kallan is horrified, “A SHEET?”
Maj looks at me, “I don’t want to wear a sheet.”
I turn to the woman, “Yeah, I don’t think they want to wear a sheet. We’ll just come back another time with sleeves.”
But Mark steps in here, “No, we are already here and what’s the big deal? So they are wrapped in a sheet . . . no one will be able to tell.”
Maj leans to whisper in my ear, “What does Daddy mean no one will be able to tell? We will be WEARING SHEETS! How can it be that our shoulders are inappropriate but wrapped in a bed-sheet is fine? That makes no sense at all!”
“Yeah!” Kallan agrees, “How is looking like we just got out of bed better than bare shoulders?”
But Mark is adamant, “We are doing this today.”
“Hey, Mark? Something you need to share with me about that whole being able to escape from the country at a moment’s notice thing, babe?”
He hushes me.
So Maj and Kallan have their photos taken again.
And so now we have . . .
Mark, drowsy and unfocused and possibly drugged.
Me, a sullen and unrepentant axe murderer.
And Maj and Kallan, both beautiful and both clearly wearing bed sheets.
I don’t think we should make plans to leave the country.
Because if I was guarding the U.S. Border?
I so would not let us back in.