Passing Inspection

When my father's only sister migrated to East 
Lansing, Michigan forty years ago, she hand-carried
the x-ray film of her lungs in a large brown Manila
envelope, as proof she didn't have tuberculosis
or any other malignant respiratory condition
that the US CDC should be aware of. She came
back to visit only thrice; we never saw her again,
but I heard she died in relatively benign
circumstances though she was on several
types of heart medication by then. Some things
still shock me: the kinds of intimate
disclosures uncovered in the act of transit,
in crossing borders, while others are overlooked.
A former student has been body-searched
(every imaginable cavity) each time he flies
to or from his hometown in Illinois. Of course
it has something to do with one of his names
being Ahmed. And I found out twenty years ago
that the Hep B virus is basically bound to my DNA,
thanks to an executive check-up I was required
to undergo before hiring and travel. I was told
it's hard to determine when I picked it up
(like one picks up a coin on the sidewalk?)--
It could've been at birth, as I floated
down my mother's birth canal. Or anytime I went
for bloodwork, or at the hairdresser's, where
my scalp could've been nicked by a contaminated
hairbrush. No matter--it lives in me now and I
with it and though I'm symptom-free, I take
a small blue pill every night to keep it from
making any more crazy photocopies of itself.
My doctor friends say one should wash one's hands
for the entire duration that one sings the Happy
Birthday song. Another swears by hand sanitizing
gel she fishes out from the bottom of her humid
gym bag. A whole side industry has sprung up
around confiscated goods at port, unclaimed and
forgotten. Roaches scurry between boxes stacked
in giant container vans. A friend sails
past customs officers with a rolled-up art work
made of shells and jute, declaring it's a hammock.

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