The doors to the bus pry open and a rush of the mid-afternoon heat engulfs your senses. A heat so dense that you feel it encasing your body; creating a thin film of condensation on your skin. The reflective surface of the hardened concrete that awaits you enhances the its presence…bringing temperature to life in a way that you catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of your eye; dancing above the surface of the road. It’s a familiar feeling…stepping down out of that bus, the sole of your shoe making contact with the road. The familiar sensations bring forth the memories that are embedded in the road. They rush over you just like that mid-afternoon heat.
The border embeds itself within the body and can be brought to life in these moments of sensorial reattunement. Things converge in a way that feels like something and place becomes something real. The border has affect…border affects. The smells and sounds that you encounter while crossing borders gather meaning. The emotional sensations are connected to your experiences within that place. These personal feelings and experiences give place a body. It becomes something more complex: ‘the border’. You can carry the border with you as you leave that moment in time. Affect expands place and drags it into far off places; always moving, always re-formulating.
As you move away from the bus you can hear it…a final squeal of the metal doors closing behind you followed by the rumble of the diesel engine as the bus continues on its route down the road. The heat continues to work its way through your senses. It conjures up smells that coincide with life on the road. There’s something about the smell of tar on a hot day…that smell of kerosene mixed with bitumen. It reminiscent of the burning fuel emitted by tractor trailer trucks, but also of all of the time spent walking between customs offices. Combine this with the rhythmic grind of semi-trucks hauling along the road and the percussive beat of tires slapping away at the concrete—a vehicular symphony—and the sensorial transportation is complete. Like the road you are travelling, affect keeps you connected to distant places reminding you of the emotions and sensations that constitute your experiences; those border affects. Even though you may be stepping out of the RTS in Gainesville, Florida, the smells and sounds—the pounding heat—reattunes you with life on the border. There is something there that connects the two places.
Border affect is built upon an endless combination of feelings, experiences and expectations. These aspects must be taken into account when discussing what the border means to those who interact with it every day. To take a singular perspective will leave you with a flat representation of the border, like a line dissecting a map. This is the role of customs regulations and state legal codes. They imagine the border in a unidirectional fashion with movement being placed into rigid categories; documented migrant/undocumented migrant; legal goods/contraband; legitimate documentation/counterfeit papers. They imagine borders as a turnstile that quantifies movement in terms of international trade: how many people crossed, how many tariffs were collected, how many smugglers were stopped. But the border is more than a thin line demarcating state territories. It is expansive; reaching far beyond a point on a map. It marks bodies and is reconstituted in moments of reattunement.