Ended With Military Precision

, , , , | Working | September 11, 2018

(It is the early 2000s. During this time, at the border crossing all you need is your driver’s license. My parents recently moved to a seaside town in Mexico for their semi-retirement. My siblings and I are visiting my parents over the Christmas holiday. I am still in college, while my siblings graduated, but they are able to come celebrate Christmas with us. My father and we three siblings have last-minute Christmas shopping, so we decide to cross the bolder. My father and brother have the fast pass to bypass the traffic, but my sister and I don’t, so we have to walk across the border. I am wearing a typical college student outfit: my university hoodie and jeans. My siblings and I are half-Japanese, half-Caucasian-American, but I look more Caucasian than Asian. My father is Japanese, so I have an extremely popular Japanese last name. After waiting for about forty minutes to get to the front of the line, my sister and I arrive. We wait for the border control guard to gesture for us to come over one at a time. My sister, being older, insists that I go first. I show the border control guard my driver’s license.)

Border Control Guard: *looks at my license and, without looking at me, asks* “Why are you coming to the US?”

Me: “I still have to do Christmas shopping, and I’m visiting my parents in Mexico.”

(He looks up at me, then looks down again, and at me again. He smirks.)

Border Control Guard: “[Asian Last Name]?”

Me: *answering the same question from people I had all my life* “Yes. My father is Asian, and my mother is Caucasian-American.”

Border Control Guard: *tilts his head, confused* “How?”

(My initial response is to be sarcastic and say, “Sex,” but I don’t want to get into trouble.)

Me: “Well, my parents fell in love, and then they got married, and then had me, and my siblings. My sister is over there.”

(I wave to my sister, and she waves back, concerned as I am taking a long time. The guard looks at my sister, who does have more Asian features than I, but the guard shakes his head and looks at me.)

Border Control Guard: “Um… But how?”

(I’m getting a bit annoyed, but trying my best not to show it.)

Me: “My parents first had my brother, then my sister, and then eventually me.”

(The border control guard starts to tap my driver’s license like he is holding it hostage. He snaps his fingers and asks:)

Border Control Guard: “What is your nationality?”

Me: “American and Japanese.”

Border Control Guard: “How?”

Me: “My mother is Caucasian-American, and my father is Japanese.”

(The border control guard leans back and rubs his chin and continues to tap. He’s trying to figure me out, or trying to catch me in a lie.)

Border Control Guard: “Where were you born?”

Me: “Tokyo, Japan.”

Border Control Guard: “What?! How is that possible?”

Me: *thinking it’s not his business* “My parents met and got married in the states, but my father had to transfer to Japan for business. So, my parents packed up and moved to Japan, and a few years later they had me.”

Border Control Guard: “But how?!”

(The border control guard leans back again, tapping my license — I am worried that it might get damaged — trying to figure out how to answer his “But how?”s without getting my family, or me, into trouble. At this point I notice even the other guards looking at him, wondering why it is taking so long. I glance at my sister, who looks worried. I am also worried about my dad and brother, who have already crossed at this point, waiting for us, wondering what has happened to us.)

Border Control Guard: *leans forward with a smirk* “Was your mother in the military?”

(Neither of my parents is in the military. My grandfather on my maternal side was in the Navy, so what I say next is technically not a lie, and I just want to go.)

Me: “Yes. Exactly. We are a military family. May I go?”

Border Control Guard: *beams, hands my license over, and nods* “Yes. You may go!”

(I waited for my sister to cross. She crossed without any additional questions, and we went to the waiting spot where my father and brother were. In the car ride, I told them the story. The family in-joke became that we were in the military, since that is the only way interracial couples can meet and have kids.)

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