I went to Saint Pancras station to get my passport photo taken. It wasn’t far to walk and I was glad the heavens had finally opened after an exhausting Indian summer in the capital. I splashed all the way there; revelled in it. I dropped my twenty pence in the slot to go to the bathroom and make myself look alright for the next ten years. I had made the mistake, as a ten year old girl, of thinking hello kitty was timeless, and thinking my lip gloss looked good in the booth, which came out shining and looking like drool. My mother, affording me the three pounds fifty, said that was my only shot. Today I would get it right. I’d had the foresight this time to not put any makeup on before leaving the house, that way I didn’t have any rain smudges to wash off. I’d tucked my hair in my hood and was a blank canvas for those big mirrors in the station toilets. When I went to the photo booth, face subtly enhanced, it was occupied, and so I waited till he was done before I could go in. As we exchanged places with each other then, I caught a glimpse of his face (it reminded me a bit of a boyfriend I had had at university) and we resumed our etiquette of revealing only our feet to each other, as I took my photograph, and he waited to collect his. As the instructions appeared on the screen inside, the man spoke to me, through the curtain. “I’ll be back for my photo’s, I just want to get some coffee before I catch my train. I’ll be right back for them”.
“Sure,” I said, not really thinking about it, but concentrating on the screen, which then showed me my mid-sentence face. Retake. You only get three shots with these machines, which I suppose is a good thing otherwise women would be in here all day, but the first shot was not the winner. I lined my face up perfectly, and poised. I sat, determined to be ready for this next one. It was passable, and I pressed the green button before I could change my mind, I looked sane, it would be the best I’d probably perform.
As I stood outside the booth, waiting for my results, a little noise like the ticket printing machines at the station spat out four faces. I went to pick them up, but they were the man’s. I looked at him for a moment, it had been years since I’d seen William, the boy he looked like now, but I was sure of the parallel between their faces. It made me smile as I put his pictures back in the tray, waiting for mine. Mine spat out much more quickly, then to get them I had to pick up both sheets, face to face. Holding them between finger and thumb; I clenched my teeth, having to peel them apart, still sticky wet print. I looked at my four faces, all identical. It was quite alright actually, for a passport photo. But then the fourth one wasn’t quite identical, after all. I looked a little harder. Something about the fourth picture looked a little off. It was like when you see people in dreams, and you know who they are supposed to be, even though that’s not what they look like in real life. I looked at the pictures in my other hand. Our fourth pictures looked like mirror reflections of each other’s- identical but warped. Our faces had printed together where I’d held them, where they had stuck together. The man came back with his coffee in it’s paper cup, his fist wrapped around it. He smiled at me and his eyes went to the tray, I shook my head a little and handed him his pictures. He took them from me, he thanked me, and he went. When he sits on his train, gets out the pictures to check, he’ll see that child we had for that moment, the perfect blend of our features into the face of a stranger we would have made, the stranger William and I might have made one day, if we hadn’t grown out of each other at twenty-two. He’s on his train and I’m heading home in joyously wet shoes.