Passport Photos

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I greet my friend at the pharmacy. (He works at the pharmacy, and we always say ‘hello’.) He asks me my last name as he logs it into the photo printer computer in front of me, and we find out we have the same last name. Something we had not discovered yet, despite us talking every time I set foot in there. He is a nice middle aged Hispanic man who is always by the photo area and magazines. When we see each other, we chat politics, life in the neighborhood, etc. “Maybe you are my long-lost twin sister,” he says to me. He sets up the chair I will sit in for my set of passport photos. He looks at me, and we both laugh. “Maybe,” I tell him smiling. He gestures for me to sit and starts telling me, “Chin up. Ok, now down a little,” he says with slight irritation toward a man who is tapping the plexiglass divide at the photo booth. “Sir, can you wait a minute? I will be right with you,” he says to him.

He gives me a look that says he is gonna knock the other guy out clean and wanders over to the photo booth. I see their tense interaction and also see my photo pop up on the screen behind him in the booth. He starts clicking.

“Make me look like a celebrity,” I tell him, joking. “I gotchu,” he says laughing as he clicks. I look at my photo, and there is something interesting about it. Passport photos look so stripped, you know? I am sitting there with a psychiatric hospital white background in a Steve Jobs turtleneck, with just my features. I cringe at the wisps of baby hair near my sideburn area. They were all messy. Grr… What gives? My eyes are naturally downturned with zero lift, as I am not smiling. My skin looks good. It looks just like me, but also not like me. Maybe it’s the fact that I am expressionless that makes it look unlike me. I am very expressive.

Looking at a passport picture is like when you hear your own voice in a recording. It doesn’t feel like you, but it is you. It makes you immediately think, “Is this how the world sees me?” Not that this would be a bad thing– it’s just different. Self-perception is interesting. I am not sure we ever see or hear ourselves the way the world does, but it’s interesting to try.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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