“Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”
“The time is out of joint.”
Last night my partner bought me a gold Casio digital watch for my three-year hormone anniversary. The watch is anachronistic, dischronic, an artifact of 80s nostalgia. Mark Fisher views the prevalence of such nostalgia for the paraphernalia of the past as the cancellation of the future. The present is flooded by the ghosts of yesterday. My future won’t materialize. The time is out of joint.
I arrived at Utrecht Central Station to find the direct train to The Hague had just taken offline for construction. I now had to go backwards, around the Randstad loop. As I sat in the nonspace of the train, the rain lashed in rivulets down the long windows, a streaking star field of pathetic fallacy. Time felt dilated, the world was moving and I was staying the same, stuck in a long present moment. I missed my stop and had to get onto another train before disembarking at The Hague’s central station. The office building housing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was adjacent to the station, one of only a few tall buildings cloistered together in the administrative centre of the Netherlands. I entered the building into a long rectilinear lobby. I approached a kiosk in the centre of the room and took a ticket for legalization of documents. I sat across from a bank of windows which were the service interface between the bureaucratic and the human world. Each window was fitted with a microphone and a drawer to pass papers through, a liminal portal between worlds.
I waited for my number to be called: F39. People approached the windows when their numbers were indicated by a ringing noise and displayed on a big screen — sometimes they approached the window without this signaling. “Ding,” I approached the window. I greeted the woman behind two inches of what I assumed was blast-proof glass. I held up my document, a translated record of foreign birth documenting my name and sex marker change, and asked to have it legalized. She looked at it and asked for what country did I need it. “Canada” I replied.
“Oh,” she replied. “Canada is a legalize country, you will have to have the document legalized first. This document is apostilled.” I looked at her with all the frustration this process had created over the past four years, the endless non-starts and obstructions. All the times I had to wait in nonspaces like the surrounding lobby.
“Look,” I replied, “this is the original and your ministry has legalized it.” She repeated herself. I nodded and said, “but you can legalize it.”
“No, Canada is a legalized document country.”
“Yes, but I only need your legalization, Canada doesn’t require the Utrecht Court to have legalized it. Surely the apostille sticker will work for you to authenticate it.” She repeated herself, again. And held up an example of a legalized document. It had the same sticker on it but with the word “legalize” at the top instead of “apostille.” I could feel tears well up behind my eyes. “This apostille is what this ministry directed me to get.”
“apostilles are for internal documents.”
“But you are a Dutch Ministry!” I began to cry and had to leave. I didn’t say goodbye or thank you, I couldn’t speak anymore. Another regression. I went back out into the rain. Panic was taking hold and I stumbled towards the courthouse. The block of tall buildings glowed menacingly in the grey mist. I was reminded of another piece of 80s nostalgia, Blade Runner. Just like my watch, I wouldn’t get until the following Sunday. I found the court, stumbled around its geometric nonspace until I found another kiosk and row of windows. I got my document re-stickered. And left. I clutched at my chest, struggled to breathe. I had missed my appointment with the Canadian Embassy. The time felt out of joint.
On the train, I nervously looked at my gold watch. I was early for my appointment. I felt apprehension at the inexorable fact that I would be misgendered at the gates to the embassy. The guard would look at my passport and then the blackness would wash over me. This usually only happened at these mandatory moments of security, where I had to pass between bureaucratic and official spaces, my passport or ID was a spectral piece of evidence which evoked a previously gendered state. My gendered legibility would breakdown and I would become indeterminately gendered, the document the only evidence of a corporeal state no longer present.
I stepped off the train and grabbed some coffee. At least it wasn’t raining.