“What do you have in here?” the guard asked, his large assault rifle banging against his arm with each movement.
“Just some clothes, my toiletries, a couple of books,” Lyle replied. Inside, his mind was screaming: What if I forgot about something on the banned list? What if my books have been added to the Do Not Read list? What if I’m flagged for something, anything, it doesn’t matter what?
“Mind if I take a look?” the guard asked, the formality almost comical. Almost.
He didn’t wait for an answer from Lyle, already routing through the pyjamas, underwear, shirts. He stopped at the small toiletries bag, a brown faux-leather thing, and unzipped it. He sifted through, stopping to look more closely at Lyle’s deodorant. He uncapped it, sniffed, then returned it to the bag, still uncapped. Satisfied, he returned the bag to the suitcase.
The guard picked up one of Lyle’s books – a favourite of Lyle’s, a book about happiness in the modern era, acceptance of things that could not be changed, joy at the marvels of the current political regime. The guard flipped through the book, looking for any added pages, pasted-over words, margin notes. People cutting out middle sections to place smaller books inside was a common happening, but no, Lyle actually enjoyed the book. The ideas in it, at least. Some of them. He kept his intact. The guard nodded, approving, and returned to his examination.
A few more items pushed aside, and the guard found a small plastic bag. Something Lyle had forgotten. Lyle cringed, as the guard pulled the bag out, holding it with a pen in his latex-gloved hands.
“What’s this?” the man asked, his too-loose uniform hanging off his wrist, showing the arm underneath.
“Some dates. I guess I forgot them in there, sorry.”
“Can you open it please?” the guard placed the bag on the cold metal surface in front of Lyle.
“Sure,” Lyle said, reaching down and untying the bag. He pulled a date out, holding it up for the guard.
“Eat it please,” the guard said.
Lyle took a bite, savouring the sweet dried fruit.
“Okay, thank you.” The guard lifted the bag with his pen again and placed it in the confiscated items bin. He handed Lyle a ticket for ninety-five dollars. “That’s everything, you can proceed.”
Lyle grabbed his suitcase and slid it down the metal counter to the end as the guard waved the next in line forward. He tried to zip the bag closed, get away quickly, before a re-examination was ordered.