Echoing the asshole’s sentiment that being “processed” doesn’t sound ominous at all is one thing. Leaving the safety of the gathered crowd is quite another.
Nobody is pushing me forward, and I’m sure nobody would hold me back if I tried to leave, but I find myself reluctant to do so.
It’s not like I’m on a deadline. Even as more and more people disappear into the tents, yet more come out of the surrounding city blocks, usually in twos and threes but some wandering alone, like me. Also like me, their attire is far from practical for the most part.
I’m becoming part of this movement, I realize, when I find myself a mere five people away from the soldiers who are busy taking down names, addresses, blood types, pre-existing conditions, and in turn hand out colorful slips of paper. There doesn’t seem to be rhyme nor reason to who gets a blue, yellow, or pink slip.
I hold back a little more, a family of five happy to push past me, the Karen in the lead not even noticing me. She gets a blue paper. Her older daughter and toddler son get pink ones. Her husband—very silent and pliant—and younger daughter are yellow. They push on forward without missing a beat or any attempts at separation.
I let an elder couple pass. Both turn blue. There’s no similarity to the woman from before that I can see.
Maybe it is random?
I feel very reluctant to find out what I will be.
I should leave. Just turn around and slip away to the side. I can easily watch from a close distance from where I can rejoin them in moments should things change.
Instead, I turn into a lemming and prattle off my details even before I’m being prompted to.
Malory Jay, 1993. Juvenile asthma but no recurrence since high school. Programmer. B negative.
The female soldier, young enough that her cheeks and forehead are still splattered with acne, doesn’t miss a beat.
Turns out I’m yellow.
She doesn’t miss a beat handing me the paper.
Already, her attention is on the middle-aged guy crowding in behind me.
Guess the only way forward is forward. How poetic.
I shuffle toward the tents, clutching my yellow paper in the same hand as the half-drunk coffee.