Corona, California. He stared at his hands. Calloused and rough. His heart was in a similar condition. Where was the boy he once was? Peering through the trees, he watched a bird flutter in the branches and hitched his pack higher on his shoulder. It would soon be dark. America was a country of dreams. He hadn’t come very far in this land of opportunity. The only opportunity he found was a chance encounter with the Border Patrol. A group of them had walked together for two days and were stopped near Escondido. In the ensuing chaos, he found an opportunity to slip away. Good luck? He figured that it would only be a short time and then – once again – he’d be in zip ties, bouncing down a dirt road and headed south. Poverty. Tears. He had watched his father grind out a mundane existence throughout his childhood. Hunger was ever-present. The sun set on thin bodies and empty bellies. Tired eyes looked towards the sky. Prayer. Muttered words fashioned with hope. Dawn brought more of the same. God didn’t seem to be listening. Most of his friends looked toward the north. America.
The boys sat around the Mexican village and spoke of it. Americans had it all. A real man could have gleaming cars and sex with any woman he wanted. Food never ran out. He remembered tugging at the sleeve of his uncle and asking - “Is it true that people in America have televisions in every room?” Contempt was the response. “Spoiled Americans. A fat belly cannot believe that such a thing as hunger exists.” He thought about his uncle’s bitter words. He knew that one day he would cross the border. He’d have a television in every room. He’d leave it on all day and night. He’d work hard… he had built his body up to be strong. He knew that he would go to the clubs and flash his dark eyes. He dreamt of blonde beauties clinging onto him. Soon.
The cold Corona night had settled over him as he set out once again on foot. His backpack dug into his neck and he was tired. Soon, he arrived at a lone house up an overgrown driveway. He saw no lights. Approaching, he realized that it was abandoned. Walking slowly inside, he heard glass crunch and a rattling tin can was startling in the quiet night as his foot sent it spinning into the darkness. A corner served him well as he adjusted his backpack under his head. He slept. Dawn and the cold air awoke him. He heard a car approaching. Border Patrol. Panicked… he gathered his things. There was no time to flee. He pulled himself up into the second floor of the garage. Through a wooden slat, he noticed the swimming pool and the backyard below. The minimal grass was long dead and the bright blue colored pool had some black water and refuse in it. He heard voices. There were a few men that came into the yard. They seemed uninterested in anything but the pool. One guy walked down inside and made comments to the others. Shortly after, they walked out of sight and returned with a pump, tools and skateboards.
They then drained the water and sat around waiting for it to dry. He had moved down to the first floor and stepped out of the back of the garage to go and that was when he saw one of them. The man was standing beside the garage taking a piss. He nodded at him calmly. He finished urinating and curtly said “Hello.” The others came over. Awkwardness. He was unafraid. These men seemed nice. In a moment, he found himself sitting near the Americans. They were bright-faced and laughing. They spoke to him and he answered their questions as best he could. “No. He didn’t live here. He was just passing through.” They shared some food with him and offered cigarettes. The sun was warm. For a moment, he felt like he belonged. It was a strange thing. For most Americans, a Mexican is invisible. People looked right through him.