It is a terribly mournful activity, having to erase your life. Certainly, deleting traces of your identity from your devices so that prying customs agents don’t flicker through them with bored expressions and malicious objectives isn’t the same as packing your few belongings onto a rickety boat, watching your home burn to ashes, severing yourself from your fearfully sobbing family, and floating in the sea for idle months of hunger and thirst to arrive at the hostile shores of a foreign nation financing your destruction. It isn’t remotely comparable. As I scroll through my phone, deleting the private documentations of my life I keep from strange uninvited gazes, I consider the enormity of the act. There, vanished, short clips of music, excerpts of poetry, photos taken in places I kept secret, notes to someone I loved, quickly scribbled half-formed thoughts, the voices of friends laughing, glimpses of confidential emotions, photographs of myself in lingerie, plane tickets to cities I—
Gone. They were dispersed elsewhere less immediately accessible to me, disorganized in fragments on the cloud like the remnants of myself after years of ostracism, removed under layers from my memory, and therefore less accessible to those who felt I do not belong here. They were right. I could not be myself and I was well accustomed to this. But some secrets, no matter how innocuous, are bound to float to the surface for a gasp of air, a shock to the lungs. My family never knew I travelled too vastly. They will find out when the airport questions me regarding the visas at the gate, when they detain us asking why we traveled where we traveled, why I am who I am, what I was doing—“We need passwords, not passports,” they’ll say. “It isn’t sufficient now.” It never was. And now I’ll find myself exposed, in ways never considered, for the sake of security. (Theirs, not mine.)
Precautions for my rights are beneath me. Still, if I leave my things behind, they can’t—won’t bother—look through them. I prepare to purchase a physical journal to chronicle my travels, rather than lug a laptop that could be compromised with me. It is sad, and lonely, a blank page facing another blank page; the page echoes despondently against itself, but I am accustomed to this too, like the reverberations of my heart before they are spilled, with a gentle caress, or with a knife. I flicker through the pages with an apprehension as though I’ve travelled in time, but I can’t travel to the future, only to another place that doesn’t want me, when summer comes.