The customs officer responded like he heard Pavlov’s bell ringing. He might have let Matt off the hook with a warning or a stern look, maybe a lecture about courtesy and god knows what, but that option went up in smoke when Matt uttered his curse. Instead, the officer slapped the scratched aluminum table behind him. “Open up,” he barked, pointing at the suitcase.

Matt hoisted the suitcase and the duffel on the table.

Without waiting for permission the man zipped open the bag and emptied its contents on the table.

As submissive as possible, Matt unlocked the suitcase and stepped away from the table in what he hoped would look like a respectful manner.

The latexed hands of the customs officer grabbed through Matt’s laundry and when he couldn’t find fault, he waddled over to the suitcase, the look on his face resolute and determined. He would find something even if he had to rip open the suitcase’s lining. The man started unpacking the suitcase, one piece at a time, every single item balancing in his hand for the longest time before he would chuck it like a . Clean shirts, socks, a pair of jeans, cabling, note books, everything landed on the pile of laundry.

Matt bit the inside of his cheek in an attempt to push back the irritation that rose up from his gut like a flame fed with gas. Silently, he thanked regulations for ordering the customs officer to wear gloves. He smiled a meek smile at the man.

The officer didn’t smile back, but pulled a handful of pill strips from the suitcase. “What’s this?” he growled. A triumphant look gleamed in his pig-like, puffed eyes. He flicked a look over his shoulder to his colleagues in the small office in the back. Two of them got up and positioned themselves in the doorway, hands on the hips, faces alert and expectant.

“Amaryl,” Matt hurried, ignoring the two colleagues in the door. He forced himself to smile once more. No drug tests, he begged silently, no fucking drug tests. A test would reveal the Modafinil in the tablets in a matter of seconds. “Diabetes,” he added and he quickly pulled the medicine passport from his pocket.

The man shook his head in disbelief, the surprise in his eyes lined with more annoyance. “Diabetes?” he studied the back of the strips and compared the information on it with that in the passport, his finger and lips moving along with the words.

“I work out now,” Matt said. “Daily. It’s what keeps the injections at bay. Lost a lot of weight.”

The man squeezed his eyes to slits and stared at him. Matt met his gaze with a look as open as he could muster and after a stare-down that lasted for minutes, the man threw the strips and the passport on top of the pile and wobbled off. “You can go,” he called out. He snapped the latex gloves from his hands and tossed them in a bin.

Matt waited until the man was safely back at this desk, before he started repacking the suitcase and duffel. He willed the patience back into his system. Not long now, he promised himself. Not long now and he would no longer need the pills. Not long now before he could close his eyes and sleep without the terrors that haunted him at night.


digital data flow through optical wire