The past couple days I spent in Buffalo. I drove out with Iris riding shotgun, through the U.S. because she’d left her passport in San Francisco. We passed through the Seneca Nation — marked on one border by a purple sign in several languages. Just over the border, there was a large banner on the side of a truck, parked on a ridge overlooking the freeway: “Break the treaties, break the law.” And another: “Honor Indian treaties.” They were desolate border guards, as traffic on I-90 East sped on, not seeming to notice. We stopped at a rest area, complete with gas station and McDonald’s and Denny’s, ostensibly within the Seneca Nation. No sign marked the boundary from the other side.

On the way back I drove through Canada — it took me all of 45 minutes to get over the border on the eastern side — another passage through a desolate place (no gas for the next 242 kilometers!) but policed on either side. I think it was a longer drive back than there, even though the way was longer. I couldn’t stop thinking about borders and crossings and who is allowed to police what and how. The American customs officer interviewed me for a few long minutes before sending me on my way. His Canadian counterpart was a bit more forgiving.

What about their Seneca (non-)counterparts, who didn’t ask me what I was taking into their territory?

There are a lot of places that are eerily empty even now.