The Bureaucratic Weight of the Past

There is no escape from the past. You will always snag a part of yourself on it, and get dragged into the depths from which there is no escape, and you will drown.

I was reminded of this today. There I stood at counter 4 at Home Affairs in Randburg, waiting to submit my application. I’d spent a running total of more than 11 hours queuing by then. Two hours wasted at two different branches because I had meetings to get to. Then three hours to pay. Then another five hours to get photographed, only the system went down after that so I had to come back, for another of queuing (two, by the time I left). The system resets if you don’t get everything you need to do in one day.

And there it is: according to the screen, I am married to a man I divorced more than five years ago. The man whose surname haunts my current passport, the one I need to replace. He has moved on. I, as it turns out, will not be allowed that freedom.This, despite presenting my divorce decree all those years ago, despite getting married again and filling in forms and doing it by the book.

I thought I’d moved on. Remarrying tends to lull you into that assumption. But there’s always bureaucratic ineptitude to remind you that you will never get away from something you thought was a bad memory, one that faded with each passing day. My second marriage was ostensibly recorded with Home Affairs, but it seems not to have registered on the system. Am I bigamist then, in the eyes of the government? Are we not actually married now? Is my husband married to me, but I’m married to someone else, and if that’s the case, what does that mean?

What?? I don’t know what to think.

I should have known.

 

 

 

 

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