I’m not lying when I say I was violated at the Orlando International Airport

I’m not lying when I say I was violated at the Orlando International Airport

By Amsel Saleem ’21. Art by Laila Rodenbeck ’22.

I’m not lying when I say a small piece of paper claimed to give him authority over everything I held personal to me  he held my phone like he owned it more than I did he stood there with a slight kneel to the left, clicking his tongue and wrapping his greasy fingers around my slightly cracked iPhone 5s just because he wore a uniform  he asked me to unlock it I did because I was afraid of being sent back my cold thumb pressed against the only button of the iPhone the only thing that was stopping him from everything he key-searched my messages like I was texting about bomb drops  he made me watch him scroll through my WhatsApp, open mine and my brother’s conversation, completely butcher the pronunciation of his name, and ask me who this person is my brother’s name, meaning Radiant or Luminescent or Brilliant or Clear or Pure, was reduced to the shambles of a stereotype in this man’s thick Southern accent  in that very moment of white airport tiles and sleepy eyes everywhere just hoping to finally sleep on a real bed after a long flight, this man’s whiteness and my brownness meant something  his eyes wandered left to right left to right left right left right the weight of my nineteen-year-old self, my nimble body, my insecure face, my admission letter, my Brown University hoodie, and my parents behind me, combined, was nothing against the green colour of my passport  I stood there fully clothed in my typical grey travel sweater and worn out sneakers I don’t even remember buying and completely naked  I smiled, smiled & smiled at him the corners of my lips ached I didn’t want him to think I was hiding something he scrolled without showing me what he was looking for or what he was typing or which apps he was opening or what he was writing down in that godforsaken notepad of his  this day I realised the star and crescent moon I held in my heart was a stamp for punishment  this may mean nothing to you but violation to me  the day I stepped into a country known for freedom was the day I lost mine.