Flu Season

“Do I have your file?” she says, as a greeting.

She walks into her office without waiting for my answer.

“Oh. It’s on my desk,” she says. I get up from the waiting area and linger by her doorway. She gives me a perfunctory nod, motioning for me to sit down.

“It’s nice to meet you!” I say, reaching out my hand. I am prone to girlish sweetness whenever I meet a female bureaucrat. I want to ask her about the pictures of the children framed on her desk. I want to see if she is capable of smiling.

“Mhm” she says, opening up a manila file, my life in a stack of papers. “Mhm.” She looks up and sees my hands still out.

“I don’t shake hands,” she says. “I can’t afford to get sick.”

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