“What do you do?”
“I’m a teacher,” I answer, looking past the counter to my reflection in the dark floor-to-ceiling windows behind the immigration officer. A teacher? Really? The person in the reflection looks like he could still be in high school, maybe. I wonder if that wasn’t about how I looked when I left nearly six years ago. A teacher already. When did that happen?
“What do you teach?”
Looking once more at the reflection I’m surprised anyone could buy my story. A little young, don’t you think? They let people your age into the classroom?
“English, History and PE.” I’m not about to explain what Social Studies is. I seem small in the reflection — my usual kamzor, skinny self. I’m going to hear it from the people I meet. They’re always convinced I’m wasting away in Canada or something. Not that I mind that much. It usually just means I get pushed to eat more while I’m here, which is a pretty good problem to have.
“This is this your first time to Pakistan?”
I almost laugh, but I’m too tired to, and I’m not sure he’d find it funny. “No.” How do I even begin to explain? “I’ve been here many times before. I grew up here.” I wonder why he can’t pull me up on their system or something and see how many times I’ve been there. Surely they have the technology for that. Who knows.
He asks me my exact address in Hyderabad. I can never remember it. It’s way too long and complicated, and all I’ve written on the entry card is the name of the “Phase”, the neighbourhood, the city, and the province. Lived in basically the same house for almost eighteen years and I still don’t know the address? Seriously? Drop me off at the highway though and I could find my way to it.
He tells me he’d actually been to the area of my city just the other day for a wedding. I smile. We’re over that hump of feeling like my life is being scrutinized like an weak alibi. He stamps my passport and hands it to me. I smile and thank him, and my reflection turns past the counter and heads toward the baggage claim. I don’t think the jeans help. They make my legs look thinner.
At home, the doorbell rings. I open up the gate for Shanti, the lady that works for us — who’s basically an aunty to all of us kids. She hugs me, asking me how I’m doing. She smiles and adjusts her dupatta as she steps back and takes her shoes off. “You’re so skinny!”