Rainbow colored children bounded elastically up the steps leading to the counter standing in their way to freedom. The damp, dark, dreary prison was already forgotten- school was already forgotten. The queue to freedom snaked its way a mile out of the building. The children in the line fiddled with their release papers, as smiles could be seen pasted in the midst of trillions of conversations. As time grew longer the exalted faces and animated conversations involving wildly gesticulating actions slowly, like the sun sets, transformed themselves into weary smiles and tiresome movements that conveyed nothing but the shear fatigue of waiting. This was the state of those children who made up the snake’s tail.
The children in the snakes head were truly vulnerable to its bite. She sneered; hissed and spat at them, leaving them in no doubt that the escape from prison would best the stay they had just finished enduring. Her eyes, like that of a hawk, scanned every document, compared it to the tediously long, newly amended requirements and almost always found a fault in a sea of impeccability.
My turn drew near. As the line mimed the agonizing speed of a slug, my mind decide to follow is Usain Bolt’s footsteps as it churned out all the worst possible situations. My head was an overheated machine, producing oceans of perspiration. Two people were ahead of me. My heart stumbled. The clock went “tick-tok, tick-tok, tick-tok” implicitly saying that my time was growing closer with its every movement.
“I was young, I had youthful skin and worst of all I hadn’t even begun to plan my wedding!” screeched my brain.
I was at the counter.
“G-g-g-good morning “, I stuttered.
Her facial muscles cringed and coiled forming deep ridges and valleys reeking of dissatisfaction. I felt like an infamous villain -deserving the most gruesome of deaths- and wanted nothing more than to sprint back to prison and double lock the steel bars behind me.
“One, two, three”, she was counting something.
The number of errors? The possible offences committed by my pen? I felt like a man, clock watching, waiting for a bloody end that he wasn’t even sure existed. My undertaker, hunched over my flourish Victorian writing put on paper, eliminating her fingers one by one like a pre-schooler doing maths. I held my breath. She was on her second hand. Were her toes next?
“Fifteen, sixteen”, she loudly concluded.
She glare at me as the seconds turned to minutes and finally to hours. My palms bleed of perspiration leaving me feeling like I’d just stepped of a merry-go-round while my feet entertained themselves with the notion of buckling forward.
“When are you turning eighteen?” she barked
Falling backwards, with lips quivering and my chattering teeth sending out earthquake-like vibrations throughout my face, I mumbled through the fact that I was already eighteen.
Defeated, her eyes narrowed. She gave my passport the look a mother gives hers son’s murderer and with all her might stamped my passport authorizing my freedom.
I understood what Mandela must have felt – long walk to freedom.