Passport and prophylactics

A customs agent probes the intimate details of a traveler's love life.

By David Fox
May 21, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
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The customs agent molests every sandy, lint-nested corner of my duffel bag.
He finds a half-used box of prophylactics wrapped tight in a wrinkled pair
of shorts.

The agent's already crinkled eyes crinkle more. He continues rifling
through the bag.

You had some fun there in Thailand, huh?


I met a friend ... I keep my eyes on my bag.

You met friends?

One friend.

A friend you just met while you were there?

No, a friend of mine from here, who I met there.

Was that the purpose for your trip?

In large part, yes.

Must've been an expensive trip.

Oh, I suppose.


Hope it was worth it.

We'll see. All depends on the memories of it that stick, doesn't it?

He's not amused. Your girlfriend ... where in Thailand she live?

She doesn't live, she travels.

I see. And when is she returning?

I'm not sure.

You're not sure?


She's not sure. Soon, maybe. She seems ready to return soon.

So she's your steady girlfriend?

I wouldn't say that, exactly.

What would you say?

Are these questions relevant or are you just making curious talk?

Son, while I'm inspecting you, anything I ask is 100 percent
relevant, understand me? Are we in perfect understanding?


Oh. Sure.

This ... He uncoils it from a side pocket. What's this silver chain

A friend.

How much did it cost? Looks pretty expensive.

Not a lot. Currency exchange is ... the conditions are so bad there, it was less than $20, I think.


Yes, sir.

This is real silver.


A good deal.

A girl?


This chain, it's for a girl?

Yes, a girl.

The girl you were traveling with.

No, a different one. One who lives here.

Is she your girlfriend?

Um, I wouldn't say that, either.

You're a popular guy, aren't you?


Put your stuff back in. Hand me the backpack.


Here you go.

I try folding each item and placing it carefully back in my duffel
bag. But things have already been violated, so I just shove everything back
as quickly as I can.

So you've got a girlfriend there and one here?

That's about the long and short of it, but the one here is here and
the one there is there.


When the girlfriend there quits traveling, is she going to return


Unwrap this, please.


What are you going to do then?

I'm not quite sure.

Sounds like a little predicament.

I try not to dwell on it.

You should be careful.

You're right there, sir.


Are each of these girls aware of the other, or are you playing games?

You sure this is stuff you want me talking about?


Yeah, they each know.

That makes it better. But also worse.

You're right again there, sir.

Are you being glib with me?


Show me what's in your wallet.


Here you are.

Wait right here.

I try to zipper my bag closed, but it's too stuffed. I take some clothes out and begin to fold them properly. I watch a Chinese guy at the next
counter being given the fifth degree -- the agent has found four gold watches in
his bag, in a hidden compartment. The Chinese guy is sweating all over his
white suit.

The customs agent returns. He hands back my passport.

OK. You're free to go.

That's it?

That's it. You're completely free, completely free.

David Fox

David Fox is a novelist and game designer who lives in New York.


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