I Lost My Passport and Gained Perspective in Malta
The policeman sitting behind the desk in the St Julien police station looks too young to have graduated high school. His senior co-workers, clustered in a semi-circle behind him to oversee his report-writing, seem to think the same: good-humouredly teasing him about his pretty eyes and winking to me as they explain that he’s single.
I’m inwardly growing more agitated, providing occasional short smiles to their banter, watching the clock hand behind their heads inch forward and rob me of precious time to gather everything official I need to before getting to the Australian embassy by midday.
The policeman frowns at the screen, fingers trembling slightly as he taps at the keys, eyes nervously flicking between me and the monitor.
“Um…” quick flicker of the pretty eyes back to me, “do you have… driver’s license I can see?”
“No,” I reply, incredulously. “When I said I lost everything, I literally meant… everything.”
The report is a few lines of official information, elegantly finished with the circumstances explained: “Julia states she left her things on a rock.” It was an embarrassingly accurate description of how I lost every shred of identity I owned, less than three days from flying home after almost half a year of backpacking.
My best friend, me, and our impromptu, drunken roadtrip buddy Ross had spent the day gallivanting around Gozo, the north island of Malta, stopping finally at the smaller island of the Camino. We arrived back at our hire car at the ferry stop to head back to the mainland. The sun had set hours ago.
The realisation shot through my body like a cold shot of awful adrenaline that my throwaway comment in the fried chicken shop half an hour earlier – “Nori, can you shout me? I left my bag in the car!” – was in, in fact, totally incorrect, and I had instead left my bag on a fucking rock on the island, foolishly placing it beside me as I sat down for a scenic ciggie.
Within a matter of 10 minutes, we’d called the boat owner, the police, and interrogated every worker we could find at the dock. Ours had been the final ferry to Camino for the day. We could return the next day, but if we were unsuccessful, I would have missed the opportunity to apply for an emergency passport in time to get me home. I was already in a bit of debt, and if I missed my flight home and had to book another, I would be in a crippling amount of debt. My boyfriend and I also had a 48-hour crossover back in Melbourne before he headed off on his own travels, and my heart may have physically cracked if I missed that window.
Upon hopping back in the car to begin researching my likelihood of getting an emergency passport accepted in time, heart racing and hands trembling, I first opened my notes and made a list of everything that had gone right about the situation to keep me centred. No one was hurt. I was healthy and safe. I had Elinor with me. And for the love of all things good, I had the fucking car key – a missing key would have entailed a night on the island, a tow truck the next day, a 1000 euro fine, and an absolutely missed flight back home. Everything else was fixable.
My favourite thing about my best friend is her ability to function in a crisis. She and I immediately went into problem-fixing mode, sitting in the front of the hire car, surrounded by focussed silence, except for Ross salivating all over his cold fried chicken in the back. I turned to her.
“Okay, you find the number of the embassy and research how long it takes to issue an emergency passport. I’ll cancel all of my bank cards. And you,” I twisted around in my seat, glaring at the drunk idiot behind me, “you just need to fucking chew quieter.”
Ross had a penchant for unfunny and inappropriate sexist jokes towards Elinor, me and any woman he passed on the street, and considering I’d spent all day exercising enough restraint to not kick him out of the car, directing my despair on him in that moment felt so fair.
“Hey, look on the bright side!” Ross crooned to me as we swayed on the ferry back to the mainland. “At least you don’t have to work 12 hours tonight!”
Look here, Ross, I thought. I sure as fuck am trying to be as positive as possible right now, but not having to work a shift at your night-time marketing job (which, by the way, Elinor and I know is a website where old dumb men think they’re buying mail-order brides) is not high on my list of things that are keeping me sane right now.
I was struck with a funny feeling of both fury that Ross had irritated the shit out of me with such an unhelpful comment, unaware of my internal monologue of helpful positive-thinking, but also gladness that he had unintentional given me another thing to see the silver lining of: getting him to work, and then never, ever having to see him again.
“You truly have nothing? Not even a student ID?” the embassy official frowned at me the next day.
“But you still look so happy!” she laughed.
I appeared so stoked because it felt like I was standing before my real-life guardian angel; I pretty much saw her bathed in a halo of golden light the moment she pushed the emergency passport application toward me.
It also had something to do with the fact I was the second person in the room to be called to the counter to plea for my freedom to travel home to Australia.
I eavesdropped on the whole exchange of the gentlemen before me with the embassy official. They were seeking refuge from Sudan, asking for answers as to why their refugee visas for Australia had been cancelled. Their pleas were stricken; their faces lost. I caught sentences that allowed me to infer that Malta was a temporary stop for the ultimate goal of the freedom of Australia; that the battle had lasted many months; that they had been stuck in a restrictive limbo of not living in Malta, not able to return to their home, but not be able to fly across the seas to settle in the country they believed they would best thrive.
My grandmother used to say to me, “You’ll always be lucky because you know that you are.” I always thought she meant it in a way that the universe would have my back in a karmic fashion, following the rules that I’d always be presented with more good fortune so long as I never took for granted what I had. But now, I realise what she meant – so long as I view life through a lens of positivity, I will always find something to feel lucky for.
So, I hope whoever found my 50 euros and leftover ciggies that day feels the same as well.
Cover by Micaela Parente