I’m pretty sure that man looked at me and thought, two fingers, index and middle – what does that mean? Two birds? Victory? Peace? Why’s he doing that when I’m saying, no, he filled the form out wrong, he’s not Edward Manning, he’s Manning Edward, look at his passport, he can’t remit the money, he’s got to fill the form out again.
And I thought, great, this is great. Annoying, but great. I can get away with swearing at him without him even knowing. So I pick up another form, fill it out properly, and go back over to the counter and say, here you go, Manning Edward, and stick two fingers up at him, just like it says on the passport, even though no one has ever called me that (I got Manning at school, get Eddie at home, Ed with friends, Edward Manning when I knew I was in trouble).
I put the form down and stick the index and middle up on my other hand for good measure. I am sending $400 back to cover my loan for a few months. He’ll see the four, he’ll think I’m just trying to be extra explicit. I smile too and say, there you are, you officious little prick, making it sound like I’m saying hope it’s okay this time, sorry about that, but he just shakes his head and says, ticket, and my V-signs lose a bit of their confidence and begin to curve and waver.
I say, ticket? And he repeats it without the question mark, and nods over at the little box dispensing queue tickets to my right. I got one last time. I need a new one now. So I say, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, but he just says another number (at least I think that’s what he does, I don’t understand Chinese), and this other guy stands up and walks over to the counter. He says, excuse me, in English too, but I’m angry now, so I say, for what? For your country? Or just for being alive? I stick my fingers up too and say, fuck you, but he just gets on with what he’s doing. So in the end I get my ticket like a good boy, and sit down and wait and begin talking to myself, so much so that people begin to stare, so I stick my fingers up at them too, until eventually it’s my number again, and I go up and hand over my passport and form.
The guy looks at them for a moment and then at the clock on the wall to his right. Then he stops and stands and steps back. It’s four o’clock on the dot. I say, what the, but all he says is, finish, and he turns and goes.
I can’t believe it, so I stick my fingers up again, both hands and say, fuck you, arsehole, have you got nothing better to do?
But he just ignores me and walks off, leaving me with my hands, my fingers, in the air, showing them to everyone, the security guards, the customers, the other members of staff. And none of them, not one, have any idea what I mean.