I needed an old-fashioned set of fingerprints made. So I drove down to Fresno from Yosemite to be printed. I spent 45 minutes reading an ancient People in the LiveScan office–a small reception area that looked like it had been designed for a dentist. Eventually, Faye the Fingerprint Girl came out with a clipboard and called my name. She took me down a long gray hallway to her office. She had tiny sailing ships glued upright on her long blue nails. The nails also had waves drawn on them.
“I like your nails,” I said.
“Oh. Thanks.” She blushed, turned in place to set the fingerprint card on its base. Faye was 22, maybe 23. She was very thin and had bone-straight black hair in a middle part. The name tag on her blouse said Faye Your LiveScan Print Technician. Her jeans had elastic across the back. Who under the age of 45 wears jeans with elastic across the back?
Fresno, I said to myself. Fresno does.
She started rolling the fingers of my right hand on the ink card. But then she took a big step back and looked at me. “Nobody does ink anymore. What did you say you needed this for?”
“I’m going to Japan.”
“Riiiight.” She laughed, rolled her eyes.
“Really?” I asked.
“No shit,” she said. “But that’s unprofessional of me.”
I had no idea what we’d just communicated to each other.
Her office was in disarray. Crumpled papers. Stacks of three-ring binders. Overflowing trash can. Vertical blinds half turned. Motes of dust hung in bands of late afternoon light. Faye smelled like the enamel paints I used on models as a kid.
“Next hand,” she said. I gave her my left and watched the sailing ships work while the humidifier on her desk sighed. It was shaped like a fish jumping out of the water with pursed lips. A little column of steam shot up between them, went soosh.
“You know, I’ve always wanted to try that.”
“Try it? Japan?”
“Being unprofessional,” Faye said. “But yeah. If that’s what you want to call it. I need your thumbs.”
She aligned my thumbs beside each other on the ink pad and on the card. Then she slid the card off the base and framed it for me with her hands, making a decorative gesture across the bottom edge and saying, “Voilà.”
“Thank you.” I felt lightheaded from the vaccinations I’d had earlier. I held onto the edge of her desk.
The fish sighed. Faye looked at me. “Sorry I got you dirty.”
“It’s just ink.”
She laughed and nodded like the ink was now our private joke.
“Can I have the card, Faye?”
“Only if you really want it,” she said.
I said I did. Then I went out and sat in my car for a while, rolled down the window, and looked at the clouds.