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  • The little stub of automatically generated paper said "Waiting Zone H, 5th Floor - The MA55 Cordially Welcomes You!", followed by an imprint of your number in the queue. The numbers were rarely in sequential order, which made the logic of the waiting room somewhat alien from the outset. But the queue started before you got to the designated waiting zone, already at the elevator that took you to that 5th floor. That's when nerves begin to fray collectively, tired anxieties resurface.

    Here we go again.

    First application, seventh prolongation - it doesn't matter. Suddenly being first takes on existential proportions. It's primordially important to be first. Elbow your way in, cut the line, create your very own brand of jay-walking.

    Then, when the doors finally open, you'll bulldoze your way in, like everyone else. You’ll follow the herd. Borderless co-habitation starts here all over again. You can check in your nationalism and hastily secured self- determination at the door.

    There is no security here, at the MA55. Civility is a sine qua non. If you want that visa, that "right of abode", that "leave to remain", that "Niederlassungsbewilligung" - you'd best behave.
    When you get to the 5th floor, there it will be. Digital clock-like display. Black screen, red characters. Two columns, six rows.

    The number board.

    Red lights. Flash. New number. Too fast for human eyes. “IS MY NUMBER UP?”

    The vending machines, dispensing only overly sugary products, whether in liquid or solid form. Keep your diabetes contained. Little boys with mullet hairdos, the gold studs in their pink fleshy ears reflecting the hard neon lights. Pregnancies. Extenuating circumstances?

    Sustained fixation. Repetitive electronic ping. Keep those white headphones from snaking up to your ears. Don't try to block out the noise. Don't read, either. And by God, don't stutter when you finally walk through that door. Be ready, feign confidence. But if it's more appropriate, feign ignorance. Act like you know where you are. Pretend you speak the language. Keep nodding.
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