today in art history class (20th century photography), the professor had us pass our drivers’ licenses up to the front of the room, where he shuffled them and handed them out to us. we were supposed to write a page about whatever drivers’ license photo we ended up with. “analyze it,” he said. “just write about the photo.” i got the professor’s license; here’s what i wrote:

i always found it hard to smile when my drivers’ license picture was being taken. some middle-aged, bored lady behind a counter is aiming a camera for the eight-thousandth time that day; how can i be expected to smile at her? at the wall behind her? at the camera she’s maneuvering with a three-foot pole?

this, perhaps, is why you are not smiling.

your hair looks different in the photo. it’s longer, browner. mine is different too; i’m starting to get strange looks from bouncers and bartenders when they look at me and then at my photo taken six years ago. its’ an odd sort of record, a drivers’ license photo–like a reminder in your wallet of that day you drove to the DPS and waited in line behind a mother and her two screaming children. whatever became of that haircut, that expression? what were you doing that day? did you stop there on your way home from work? on your lunch break? whatever happened to that t-shirt you were weraring? i bet you use it to wash the car, to dust furniture.

a drivers’ license photo is, i suppose, meant to capture the essence, the uniqueness, of a person’s physical being. that we try to do that in a one-inch square with a camera you aim with a pole is rather astounding.

i thought about writing “by the way, i’m an english major” at the bottom, but i think he could probably tell. after all, big-boobs mocha-frappuccino girl next to me was writing “it is a drivers’ license. he is a capricorn. in december. he probably gets a lot of ‘merry birthday’ presents.”

the sign in front of the university center has one of the i s missing, so it looks like un versity center. yep, this is definitely an un versity.