TAKE A NUMBER by Hugo Gonzalez

Images by Cody Calhoon

Fluorescent lights illuminate the nervous crowd seated below them; the constant beep, beep, beep, from the computers is anything but soothing. Everyone stiffly keeps turned to the front of the room.

They murmur in different languages between themselves: Russian, Spanish, different Asian dialects. All of them clutch large stacks of papers, over-prepared, just in case. The immigration office is not a place you want things to go wrong.

“27,” a curly brown-haired woman from the front desk screams, her bark strangely feminine. An older woman stands up; a younger lady helps her walk to the front. No one smiles, few people whisper among themselves the rest just listen.

“28.” Everyone checks their number. Another gets up to disappear to the front of the room.

A TV softly plays against the wall; a wrinkled piece of paper stuck to it reads “DO NOT TOUCH.” Even in a quiet room with only the soft noises of the computer and impatient shuffling of the waiting, the TV is nearly inaudible.

“29.” Everyone checks their number. No one stands.

“30,” the curly-haired secretary barks louder. A young man steps lively to the front of the room to disappear. The low whispering suddenly gets louder, and the room turns to see some unknown commotion. The whispering fades as quickly as it started.

Their eyes glued to the floor, as if it holds the answers to the universe.

“31.” Everyone checks their number. A boy sprints to the front of them room yelling back “here!” Smiles spread and conquer just for a second.

“32.” A man in front of her flinches stumbles to his feet spilling papers, in flash he gathers himself together and goes.

A long while passes, blank faces staring at empty walls, doing everything but interacting with each other. The numbers go on.