Wednesday, November 24, 2004, is the day when I was born for the second time. It was the day I crossed the border and entered the United States of America. The day that erased my past and put in my hands the promise of a new future. That day I cried, just like a newborn, and opened my way toward the world I was going to belong to.
The previous night I didn’t remember how many hours I slept, but I was sure it wasn’t more than four. The cold November morning felt sharp, like blades cutting through my skin, waking me up now and then.
“Wake up!” Negro said.
I opened my eyes, saw Negro standing next to me, and stood up at once. “I’m gonna fix the blanket,” I said.
“Don’t worry, my wife will take care of that,” Negro said. He then walked toward the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and grabbed a bottle of water. “Do you want to use the bathroom before we go?”
I wanted to use the bathroom, but crossing the border was more important, even if my bladder thought otherwise. “No, I’m ok.”
We walked outside. It was still dark at four in the morning. I didn’t see the moon or stars up in the sky. Jose and Skinny Man stood near the house picket fence, along with three more pollos. I didn’t like to be called pollo because it made me look small and fragile. On second thought, there was some truth there because people who crossed the border illegally are frail up to some extent.
We walked toward the wall and hid behind dry bushes. We pollos stayed there, and the coyotes walked up the hill. They didn’t need to explain why.
I wanted to light up a cigarette.
“Don’t do it!” one of the pollos said. “La Migra is gonna see us!”
I obeyed. Unwillingly.
We stayed there for a while. It felt like an eternity. The cold air coming from our mouths almost froze our lips. Even if it was dark, I was able to see the faces of those around me. They were all suffering. Then, I remembered that I wanted to pee, and it actually felt terrible. I hoped the urine didn’t freeze, and now I was going to face a dilemma. Because all that time we had been squatting there, I couldn’t feel my legs. I wanted to move, but the pollo who didn’t want me to smoke gave me an angry, don’t-you-dare look.
The coyotes came back, running, “Let’s go!” Negro yelled.
First, the pollo who was against cigarettes got ready to jump. He climbed up with such dexterity. It was obvious he’d done it before. Then, there was a girl. I hadn’t noticed her since we all dressed in the same manly way. The girl couldn’t jump. She was scared. Negro tried to help her, pushing her up, but she couldn’t move. It was as if the cold had numbed her bones.
Negro looked at me, “You! Come here!”
I didn’t think about it. I came closer, put my hands against the wall, but there was a sudden and unexpected problem.
A police truck flashed its light at us. Everyone was startled, and our eyes nearly fell out of their sockets. We all wanted to run, but we didn’t. Where would we go? We realized we were still on Mexican soil, which meant the cops were most likely on our side.
“Stay where you are!” Negro said.
Now, thanks to the police truck, I could see everyone’s faces. Negro walked toward the truck to have a chat with the driver, Jose was on top of the wall, and Skinny Man was nowhere to be seen. We pollos were still hidden, afraid to move a finger. I felt the urge to pee again. I stood up and walked down the road to take care of business. The cops noticed, flashed the lights at me. Seeing the urine streaming between my legs, they turned the light off to give me some privacy.
The conversation between Negro and the cops was short, so he came back and took care of a different business. The cops left, so everything was dark again. “Let’s go!” Negro called me while I was resisting the need to scream after I caught a bit of the flesh of my penis with the zipper.
As expected, my whole body felt frozen.
“I’m gonna push you up,” Negro said. “Start climbing.”
I climbed. My muscles seemed to crack as I went up. I was about to give up, too, just like the girl. I couldn’t blame her. Jumping that fucking wall wasn’t as easy as it looked. The sharp pain in my legs and my arms was too much. I can’t, I thought, but my weak muscles kept moving up.
And just when I was about to open my mouth and say that I was done, Jose grabbed my right arm and pulled me up. I had forgotten about Jose. I wanted to thank him, but there was no time for that. From the top, the wall looked even higher. There was a road on the other side and houses within walking distance.
I didn’t want to jump. It was too high.
“Hug this pole and slide down,” Jose ordered, signaling at the pole that was attached to the wall.
Because of how everything was happening, fast and without much planning, I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t wearing any gloves. If I did as he told me, the freezing metal pole would keep some of my flesh as a souvenir.
No way, I thought. I can’t do this.
Even if I didn’t have the luxury of time, I still stopped a second or two to think about it. Heights scare me. They always have. But I was also afraid of being a nobody for the rest of my life. For the time being, I had to jump.
And I did.
Photo by Sciencefreak.