Link to actual news article from The New York Times:
My Story below:
Night Journey Into Freedom?
I opened my eyes after a fitful sleep. For a moment in the darkness, I forgot where I was. The stench and the overwhelming heat pull me rapidly back to the present. I am crouched down in a small area of a very large truck. My muscles are tight and aching and I feel the tiny pin pricks of a thousand needles tracking the blood flow as I try to stretch out my legs. Hot, dripping bodies are pushed up against me on all sides. Sweat oozes from their pores- large, wet and oily like fat drops of dripping wax on an over-sized candle.
I had scraped together the money for this ride to freedom by selling tacquitos at a roadside stand to the laborers in the cornfields. Twelve hours a day in the broiling sun I stood calling and cajoling the men to come to me. When the tacquitos were not enough to fill my rusty Crisco can with pesos, I sold my kisses to them along with my soul. I would have done anything to leave that God-forsaken place.
Now here I sit, pesos having been spent on this nighttime ride with passengers from other villages, other cities, other countries. All of us with the same dream: to discover the gold-paved streets of opportunity in the
Suddenly I hear loud voices outside- it is the drivers. They are unhooking our wheeled home from the truck cab. They begin arguing in dual languages and we hear a door slam and keys being turned in the ignition. Then they do the unthinkable. They drive away leaving us stranded and locked inside this hellbox on wheels. The air becomes heavier around me and the panicked voices rise in a crock-pot of dialects to a crushing crescendo. The strongest voice emerges as the leader and a large man with a sweat-stained t-shirt takes control of our band of 100. He tells us to stay calm- that they will be back. This quiets everyone for a while.
Rosaries are soon pulled from pockets and satchels and old women silently mouth ancient prayers, working the worn, wooden beads through their gnarled fingers. An hour passes and then another. The heat continues to intensify as the morning sun works its tentacles on the outside walls of our prison. I know it is a prison because I know our supposed deliverers are not coming back- I can feel it in my bones. All around me, my fellow pilgrims are releasing bodily fluids that can no longer be contained. They erupt and spew forth from every imaginable orifice of the body. A revolt begins to take place within our tiny kingdom. I am not afraid, for nothing could be worse than the life of poverty and pain that I have just come from. Finally, it is decided that we have been left to die a slow hellish death. The stronger among us, begin to paw at the insulation in the truck walls trying to rip the cotton-candy pieces from their resting place to get at some opening to the outside. A hole is found and a thin stream of fresh air flows in- enough for a gnat to take a breath.
We bang on the truck walls screaming out in dust-choked voices. People begin to drop like flies. I hear a gurgling sound and a thud and someone lands in a pile of human excrement. This surely must be Hell that we have been thrust into. The screams, the smells, the feeling of dead bodies below my feet are an unimaginable horror. Slowly I begin to lose consciousness.
But my attempt to escape my surroundings is only a temporary one. One of the old women with the rosary beads pulls out an old bottle of smelling salts from her faded brown satchel. She uncorks the bottle and forces the vial to my nostrils. A strong, pungent odor travels down my airway and escapes to my brain giving me a chemical brain rush. I snort and choke back rivers of mucous. I am swimming; closer and closer I get to the surface and am about to break through into complete consciousness.
Strong arms reach out to steady me. There is sunlight all around. The smelling salts are gone and the old woman and her beads have vanished. It is ok, mucha cha. You will be ok. It was just another nightmare. But we were locked in and I couldn’t get out. People were dieing all around me. No, no Teresita you are safe. It was Louisa, your friend who perished in the truck across the border. You missed the ride to freedom that day. You stayed in the fields a little later than usual to sell the last of your taquitos and you missed the ride to the border with the other journeyers. Louisa left without you and now she is gone.
I could only close my eyes and sink down into the mattress quietly sobbing in both pain and joy. Simultaneously, I felt the shattering of a dream for a better life; the loss of a good friend and the knowledge that I had been spared a most horrible death. In the center of all these emotions, I knew that somehow I would find the inner strength to make it through and try again one day to leave the work fields of my ancestors forever.
Copyright Michelle Beckham-Corbin 2009