Thursday, March 7, 2013
My tiny body sits squeezed behind mi tio inside of his tiny VW Beetle. We are coming on three hours outside of Montevideo, just a half mile inland off the coast of the Atlantic ocean, traveling slowly to the house that has a hold of my dreams, the house of my grandparents and their siblings and their parents before that. The road it sits on still lies unpaved and many miles from the nearest town. It winds lightly through the cattle rich countryside. As you approach the sea, the farms become scarce and give way to the candy green vegetation, vines climb every tree and create natural fences as scores of them intertwine and travel along from tree to shrub to tree always staying just a few lengths ahead of our tiny galloping German bug. Next to me is my cousin Anaclara, just a few years younger than me, who bounces with post infant glee to the childish songs sung by my mother. Sitting behind the passengers seat of this makeshift minivan/clown car, she cradles my infant cousin Emiliano as we hop along the rural gravel roads of Uruguay to meet my grandparents, Ya-ya and Ta-Ta, and a handful of other relatives at the family home.
Every year that I can remember down there, our entire family would spend whole summers together, living completely free of the distractions of the capitol city we all inhabited, away from jobs or responsibility to anyone but ourselves. The house is currently in my great aunt’s name but it is specifically for this use, she comes out with her husband as soon as the temperature reaches 70 and leaves when the very last caravan makes it’s way back to the city.
The sun-yellowed stucco of the walls opens to windows framed in maroon wood, it’s Spanish-tiled roof slants ever so slightly to allow the quick summer rains to roll from it’s ceramic armor. Half an acre is cleared of the semi-thick forest that now resides a few hundred feet behind the house, just a stones throw from the concrete horno that would send infinite trails of wispy smoke straight into the seemingly always cloudless sky that cemented my definition of blue.
Ta-ta, workhorse that he was, would spend half his summer splitting wood on a chopping block not too far from the remaining patch of woods behind the house. I would sit and play with my toys in the dirt near him so as to secretly watch his sinewy physique go through tree after tree on some hellbent mission to keep us stocked with firewood well into the next century.
After many summers conquering the splintery battles he would eventually lose the war, I was four when the last cannon sounded. We found him collapsed, axe still in hand, upon returning from a trip into town for ice cream.
To this day, I only have a few truly vivid images of my grandfather. One is of him flattening whole forests with his bare hands... another is of him chasing me around holding his sandals in those very same hands, breathlessly trying to teach me the virtues of discipline.
24 years later and it is finally beginning to sink in.
The lessons of beauty that those summers ingrained within me have left a lasting sense of the profundity of time. They will fuel every romance that fate stumbles across my path, allowing each love affair to link itself effortlessly with my childhood so that my most intimate experiences will forever retain the innocence of youth. Afternoons spent chasing butterflies and impossible to catch hummingbirds with my cousin Diego formed my definition of freedom. We would run down the gravel road blindly, wildly swinging at those hovering and darting flashes of green, yellow and orange until the gravel opened itself up to the sand just before the high grass of the dunes began. The endless rhythm of the ocean washed over my ears every time we got to this point bringing with it the idea of the beginning of the4 rest of the world that I still knew nothing about.
Ta-ta used to show me the vast blue on blue horizon whenever he took me to my swimming lessons in Montevideo telling me of the wonders on the other side of all that water. He fueled my inquisitive nature but it was my cousin’s wild dashes into the razor sharp dune grass that gave me the courage and resilience to venture past the fear of pain, or the unknown, so as to attain the trophy of the w, clear blue infinites of the world.
We would wait until our return to the house to complain of the tiny, stinging cuts given to us by the evil army of beach grasses. Tia Graciela would see to our battle scars as we coyly smiled at each other, victors in our struggle against the oppressive forces of the universe. Afterwards, she would toss both of us in the shower. One fateful trip saw me returning with more than the usual tiny marks. A few rogue jellyfish decided to venture into the shallows to die but just before they did they unloaded some venom filled tentacles on my underdeveloped legs.
To this day I’m wary of ocean creatures.
Each day that lives on in my memory of these summers seems to be filled with wonder and adventure, but to the adults of the family they were filled with tranquility and the comfort of strengthening the bonds initiated by blood and nurtured by love and relation. The back porch area of the house was where we all came after breakfast to sit under the canopy of grape vines for hours. The grown ups would sip maté, each armed with their own thermos, and discuss whatever came to mind as us little people sat on the dusty ground around their ankles pretending to be a part of their conversation, nodding every so often to each other as if we understood every opinion of every topic, sometimes trying a sip of maté only to be snickered at by the grown ups as our tiny faces would contort into prunish imitations as the bitter tea travelled past our tongues.
It still feels very natural to resurrect these sacred memories of my youth even while I sit at this metal table half a world away. The same warmth i remember feeling back then washes over me no matter the sterility of the environment forced upon my physical being.
It is because of these memories that they can never truly imprison me, never force me to unlearn all that makes burn within these arid emotional deserts of today.
I owe my life to my family who taught me how to push away the world every so often so as to live immaculately even if for just a few months at a time, who showed me what it meant to care for one another, to build experiences with one another so that neither time nor space could ever separate us from each other. They will be with me until my mind’s eye replays it’s last picture show and i am once again in front of my grandfather.
I think the first thing I’ll do is thank him for all he showed me in the very few words and experiences between us, even the dreaded sandal chases. I’ll take him to some celestial cliff overlooking the ocean of the universe and share with him all the wonders that it brought to me.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
My eyes focus, the sleeping smile besides me rolls over and takes all the blankets with her… fucker.
It’s now just turning 7a.m. but I feel as if I’m on borrowed time, as if at any moment a guard is going to come trampling in through her French doors telling me that my time is up, that I have to go to the cell next to her beautiful bedroom, strip down, bend over, cough to make sure I’m not returning to my block with anything concealed in my asshole, then march me back to my pod.
The winter air hangs gray over the warehouses that line her street. I grab my boxers lying next to the bed and head for the dining room to put on a cup of joe and straighten out some thoughts. Turning towards the kitchen, a sudden surge of confidence comes over me as I close her doors behind me because I realize that I can damn well sneak back into bed with her if I really wanted to. I don’t have to have some validated reason for doing the things that I do. My sole responsibility again is to just be, to simply follow any inclinations inspired by my invisible guttural pulls.
I am free to do what I wish with my life.
That’s why I woke up the way I did today.
These last three months forced me inward; they dropped my foundations from under me like a sack of kittens being thrown into a river. I was encased within; a person had to peel back many layers to find me in there. If they were going to keep me physically, it was my responsibility to defend myself intellectually. I dug into their trenches and kept my mind free.
Institutions are good for only one thing, rigid discipline. They are places and ideas in which you have to defend your actions and thoughts as an individual against people who care only for the continuation of function. Discipline is good but should only be necessary when the work of producing and staying sane bears it’s full weight on your shoulders of your own volition. Disciplined work comes naturally when you take pleasure in having control over your own time and challenges.
That was something I never forgot in that damn place.
A few hours pass by with just my thoughts and some classical music. I alternate between coffee and water to balance out. The creaking of the French doors pulls my focus away from my words, she enters my makeshift sanctuary in the corner by the window wearing only a silk robe...
I follow her back to her bedroom with a smile.
Anther few hours pass through time.
“I really have to start getting ready for work,” she recalls as she stands fully nude before me, “but I don’t want to.” She turns to the vanity and begins shuffling through drawers.
Her skin, fair and freckled, is calling me, beckoning my hand to explore every inch still not memorized. I want to travel, want to go places I’ve never been before. I want to reach a place of sensation inside her skin that introduces me to who I might be in some better, more brilliant future. A smile appears on her face, she knows I’m watching her. Our eyes meet and a giggle playfully passes her lips, filling the air between us with an image of sound as beautiful and delicate as a water lily floating to the surface of a black pond on a still and lonely night.
She believes in me, trusts the way I look at her. Two minutes around her feels like an hour. I think we’ve known each other a few lifetimes by now.
We were never meant to be strangers, none of us were.
As she begins to get dressed, I continue to watch, poking fun at how unorganized she is as she flings clothes in every direction.
“You know... matter is most stable in a chaotic state,”
“Think about who you’re telling this to girl. Of course I know this, life is chaos but your damn room should be organized.”
A pair of pants flies dangerously close to my head.
The simple irony of this can’t escape me. She’s getting ready for her job at a large fashion house while I, her adored, is about to spend my first day out of jail... yet she speaks to me of chaos. It doesn’t surprise me. Her stability is rooted in grand sweeps of dysfunction. She keeps busy to mortar the bricks dropping from the sky, I dance underneath them trying not to get caged in.
There was a snowstorm that blew into Brooklyn last night blanketing the runaway concrete. It gives this boro a very virginal feel. The morning rush has since turned this immaculate canvas into a grimy, slushy mess. I lie still on her bed as the snow’s reflection illuminates her room bringing with it an almost holy glow that opens the moment to biblical proportions. Her own reflection is now following her lead.
Freedom in the morning is the strongest stimulation I’ve ever had the pleasure to ingest. It washes away the stench of tyranny like lye on a soot covered face. It’s a drug that makes you feel shiny as well as energized. I’ve waited for this to return to me, knew deep down that if work was done, if I kept busy enough, time would move me along. The next stage of my life will always need to happen regardless of the periods spent delayed en route. Sometimes, just sometimes, that delay is the catalyst.
Time as an object can only be stolen if you allow the outside world to control the way you view it.
Jail tried to steal my moments from me, it tried to harness my anger and rage and force them to make me succumb to them, they wanted an animal… but I stayed all too human in there.
This is why what you have in your hands was made. It was my tool, my weapon that defended my mind and thoughts inside this place that was at every interval of time trying to influence all that I did with the very ideas I’ve been fighting against during my stay in this country.
The only people that have ever called me anything but American were the ones that made me feel shame about calling myself one.
I wrote this not as a South American stuck in the cracks of the immigration system but rather as an American viewing the fruits of his country’s failures. It was this country that had taught me the spirit of rejecting its ways, of rejecting what was unnatural to me.
If you live to their definition of a person you become automated in action and thought. Individualism is a major threat to the umbrella of power yet it is the very thing that makes us unmistakably American. It is that gust of rain soaked air bursting from the narrow alleyways. We all could blow the whole thing inside out if we felt so inclined. Problem being, we never feel inclined to do much of shit these days.
I began early, skateboarding by twelve, elbows deep in hip hop by thirteen, independent and alone by sixteen and a dropout from school just around the same time. During the first years of my twenties I barely had a job, if I did I only kept it for a few months at a time. The living was easy back then, living in a small college town cost a whopping 75 dollars a month. After I moved from there, I would spend only half of the year in whatever city I decided to call home, Minneapolis, Chicago, Brooklyn, travelling by bike for the remainder of the year. This only working in the winter time so I can expand my summers fueled a power surge inside the ideas behind who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.
It’s been a boxing match ever since.
Nobody wants you to have it easy, nobody wants you to succeed at being yourself unless they themselves have succeeded at preserving their own sense of self. Our country has become a coliseum for would be gladiators to fight it out to the death. Who will drop their sword first to allow the real fighting to commence?
They released me from that New Jersey jail just twelve short hours ago, in the middle of the northeastern winter with only a hoodie and a pair of thin, ripped jeans… no money, no phone, I then walked out into the dark and cold semi-freedom of a much bigger cell.
The night was freezing every inch of skin it could cling to but the thought of seeing her so soon kept my slightly larger than usual muscles warm as I waited for Rogers from Elite Couriers to come pick me up. Rogers co-owns the company I rode for when I was schlepping packages up and down that damn island of Manhattan. Rogers is a good friend as well as an amazing boss, one of the only people I know who understands the nonsensical actions of humans because he has known and been close to so many nonsensical humans. They are flawed and will never change that but as a whole they are worth putting up with.
“So, how many jail rescues does this make for you? Just how many messengers have you had to pick up looking all pathetic and shit?”
“Not a lot but enough. Seems like our kind finds its way in sometimes, some it changes for the better, some for the worse. Fuck it, you seen this yet? ”
He hands me a copy of the Voice with my picture top to bottom on the cover.
“Holy shit. Didn’t think my ugly ass would look this cute on print.”
I realized this was the real reason I was out. My community made enough of a stink to get me seen by the whole city even though I had spent the last few years traversing every square inch of it basically invisible to it.
I’ve been riding off and on as a messenger for Elite for about five years now and during those five years I gave Rogers, his partner Sonny and our trusty magician in dispatch, Terry, more than enough headaches through my youthful chaos and often with my misadventures. I was constantly having excuses not to work. The way I figured it, if my rent was paid for, why not give the other guys a chance to make more money? They had kids to feed; I only had myself to keep sheltered and drunk, or intoxicated in other ways. The weight of work, life, loves and ideals have always given me a good excuse to go nuts.
It was this job and a few others like it that have come before it that brought me into the culture of cycling. I had found others like me that couldn’t give half a shit about someone else’s idea of success. As long as we weren’t homeless… we were winning.
The wonderful irony of them trying to deport me is that ever since I became conscious of my life and thoughts surrounding it, I’ve been racing towards the very ideals that were spelled out upon the birth of this once glorious womb of individualistic freedom. Good ol’ freedom, American as apple pie and mashed potatoes, too bad a whole shit load of us forgot how to cook.
True freedom comes with the confidence of relying solely on yourself to decide what is in your best interest and what is not. This individualistic responsibility is one that is earned through trials met and won of your own momentum and is often loaded with booby traps set to make you wander into someone else’s area of interest. Altruism naturally follows happiness in one’s own mind.
It’s butt ass cold in Brooklyn and will be for some time. The streets are quiet again but that will all change soon. Soon, the delivery drivers will have loaded up their straight trucks to shuttle around the wares of the city. Vendors will take on the bustle of a morning where they will pour thousands of cups of coffee for people in a hurry to get to their places of work. Receptionists will take their bunker behind the front desks of the world and greet the new business of today.
And time… that ever flowing stream of human history will move with the speed of interaction, only bending for those who know the physics of their own existence.
She leaves the house after an urgent and drawn out embrace. I wonder how long this bit of comfort in my life will last? How long before my mind complicates this to the point of exhaustion on both of our ends?
A pattern emerges in life, one of structure and of the desire for the destruction of it. It is a cycle that regulates the majority of our tribulations with the questions of passion and life.
Progression is simply change aimed away from the misgivings of the past. To call them mistakes would be foolish. Our flaws are our starting points; the endings occur only when you dive into those oh so human fuck ups so far that perfection begins to reveal itself from their depths.
This pattern of emotion, intrigue, obsession and destruction has plagued me all of my life. I work tirelessly at building only to watch what I have built tumble continuously towards that broad and swollen ground, a feather bed of failure stuffed with iron and rock. I have felt this ground so often that I feel kin to the dirt that covers it, I now make it a point to run my fingers through the silt just to remember where I came from and where I must return.
Every word from this page on is a direct record of just one of those falls.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Hampton Roads Regional Jail, Immigration Wing
I met the Professor today. Time intended for this to happen on my first full day into this new home of mine. He wandered among the rest of the weary inmates but rarely said a thing. I noticed him pacing about the place, watching me write diligently in my notebook and approached me only when he knew I would be receptive. The teachers of this world hide inside of the walking pools of humanity disguised as students because they still consider themselves to be on the path of learning.
They call him the professor because before being jailed for a DUI and then never released, he taught philosophy at a nearby university. He’s been fighting his case now for fifteen months. Because he was born in Iran and is in a position of influence here in the states, the Professor stood no chance of getting through this easily. He’s been in the states twenty years, attained his doctorate in Maryland and now has a beautiful home filled with a wife and a sixteen year old daughter who just graduated from high school.
If the professor had been born here, he wouldn’t have even been jailed in the first place… who’s ever heard of someone doing this kind of time over a first offense? Any citizen of an enemy state is immediately targeted within our boundaries, no matter how American they have become. They are picked straight out of our populace and placed into experiences that remind them just how alien they are and that they are not without monitoring. No matter what this man was worth to society on the outside, in the government’s eyes, he is just a few pages of history that can now be filed into the ever growing population of the detained.
This is our shared reality, immigrant or not, and must be used as any other opportunity must. We began our initial conversation with education because I mentioned my writing was meant to continue my own. Then, the conversation skipped to innate human nature, the human condition, societal empathy and the analyses of all this from a perspective slightly off the common path.
Life seems a mere repetition of our emotions played out in intricately different scenarios every day. Man is the only animal without a simple purpose, we have obviously conquered simple survival and procreation and are on to the more complex aspects of consciousness and progress. Soon our minds will outgrow our bodies, this will be our next step in the cycle of evolution, one of the mind and of the infinitely expanding connectivity we share with each other. I believe in our lifetime we will see all seven billion of us linked to all of our pasts and forever into our future. We record more and more of the human experience with every passing day.
Our talk lasted for hours. It ended the way it started, with a handshake and a smile.
Now showered and clean, the dirty light in my room is allowing my thoughts to spill out from the day. The air is settling in my international abode for the unlucky fucks of the world. We have settled ourselves into the cracks of freedom’s foundations, made a nest and are now searching for comfort and growth within the embrace of the relatively damned. Regardless of the situation, we find time to laugh, to share stories of love and pain, of our fight and of some surrenders, we share to strengthen because essentially… we’re all on the same banana boat.
This very unconventional jail somehow fits perfectly into the formation of my values, of my unfettered chase for knowledge in the most unlikely of circumstances. I succumb to the fact that this is simply a plan written in some unknown space between the molecules ever expanding into chaos, into eventual nothingness. I have landed in the most cosmopolitan prison in the world, a breeding ground for the melting together of disdain, of disgust and of general ideas generated from the underbelly of this society about this society. The wider my eyes and ears allow logic’s spectrum to unfold itself, the more vivid this whole picture becomes.
Our home here in unit Z pod 4 reminds me of New York in it’s diversity. We have my friend Lucas from Brasil, then there is Columbia and Panama and of course the Professor. Most of us here will never learn each others’ names identifying each other solely by our nationalities unless there are too many from one place, like the Hondurans and the Mexicans. Of course, I’m the only Uruguayan here so naturally my name is Uruguay.
Today I found great solace in the presence of the Professor. An immense respect for him is growing quickly in my head, as is for a few others that were curious enough to approach me today. I think we all need people to relate to in this world, without each other we are nothing, less than nothing, we are the amoeba unable to duplicate itself, doomed to leave not even a reminder that we once were alive.
All my thoughts and connections are necessary right now, it’s all needed for sanity, stability, some sense of grounding! Need to figure out how the hell I can get more books in here. At least I have Ulysses. Joyce is definitely a slow read too, thank god! I love his points but his language isn’t really that enjoyable unless you are in the odd state of creative delirium where you can ingest such unique prose. It takes a lot of work to follow his brush strokes but they explode with color when you open the seeds of his thought in your mind. His language is carnal and unmeditated yet thoroughly laid out in a woven pattern of romanticism and intellectualism.
In one way or another we leak it out of us. Whether with a conversation on everything atop a metal table or with a pen over page after page of visceral expression, we are not whole without our bonds to guide us through it all. The best make it seem effortless.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
5:30 in the a.m. and breakfast has just finished. I lay back down in my bunk and pulled the covers over my head trying to ignore the screams of the five year olds tormenting that poor kid again.
It took a few moments to realize that the guard was telling me to pack my things. They are moving me somewhere, finally, but the where is unknown. I have been waiting, hoping for this moment for a few weeks. I hear the guard scream out a few more names that echo into the artificial yellow light of this artificial morning.
The last name is called, it’s Javier.
I look at him, he did not deserve this stolen life, did not understand the actions of these angry and confused people.
A few days earlier he had told me about how he was put in. He was out celebrating his brother’s birthday deep into October when fate turned red on him. The family and their spouses all were dancing and sweating to the Spanish euphoria of a local Tex-Mex club when his girl’s very beautiful Colombian cousin and her friend showed up to meet the rest of them. She came and greeted the group with the Latin custom of the friendly kiss on each cheek. Javi’s brother, amidst the group, embraced her in a hug and reciprocated. His brother’s wife witnessed the exchange and dove into a violent rage. She was white and, from what he was explaining in more words, also very, very ghetto.
She pounced on the beautiful Latina girl setting off a chain of altercations that ended the festivities pretty fucking abruptly. Javier tried to stop the fighting unsuccessfully then resigned to finding their coats to head back home. At the coat check he found himself face to face with accusations from the large bouncer by the door. An argument between them broke out while he was trying to explain what was going on. Once again he tried to leave and was stopped yet again but this time by the long, hairy, flabby and bored arm of the law, might as well remind you now that this is also in the commonwealth state of Virginia.
Having a bit of experience with this species of Hayneous Swineyous, I know what he told me didn’t need to stray too far from the truth. Beat cops on a club night are always waiting for those people leaving the party, goddamn jackals in the weeds. They found words when he began to search, and then detain, Javier immediately after exiting the joint. No reason given for his detainment, Javier decided, rather stupidly, to argue his case to them as well only to be received by a sharp blow to his ribs. This started the end of his stay here in the grand ol’ United States.
Javier swung back, breaking free of the cop’s grip and tried to get away but the cop pulled him by his scruff, mid-stride, back into the fight. His back-up was not far away, only watching and laughing while leaning against the hood of his car. The “fight” lasted a few minutes before he decided to step in conveniently upon the arrival of the other squad cars. Javier, now in cuffs, received a few more hidden blows from this pig just to solidify who was boss ‘round these parts, a few goodbye presents from our benevolent protectors of their pieces.
He was an illegal that came over with his family at the age of 14, a hard worker for a company owned by his brother and father, as well as the father of a beautiful bouncing three year old girl. The American dream was built from the dirt found underneath this man’s fingernails.
This country is dying of desperation because of men who refuse to build from the dirt they tread on, a few men blind to the toils of farmers and the people who depend on them. And we all watch as this vulgar display of power unfolds itself as if on a script written a generation before this one and the one before that, we a captive audience for the unholy auteur, the 0.1% of humans who are devoid of understanding and compassion.
Well this specific time it was the always useful human scapegoat, the immigrant, who took the fall for the comfort of others so that they may correct all the problems of the country from the front row of their couch.
Javier Gonzalez spent the next six months inside the Richmond City Jail in a block filled with the most violent prisoners that city had, gambling, fighting and screaming all their, and his, time away. They are still blind to what is being done to them but Javier had his eyes open the whole time. That was the first thing I noticed about that man. The others, they were unfortunately born into a culture mimicking the one I watched up until today and were almost doomed to repeat it unless they decide to educate themselves.
In a place where fights happened sometimes two or three times a day, he managed to not even get into one. Hell, I didn’t even last one week of pacifism, I was thrown right into the fire. Maybe it’s because javi is like 190 lbs. and I’m barely 140 soaking wet.
During his whole stay he never heard one thing from immigration, never privy to the plans being laid for him. Javi calmly awaited his reunion with his family and his freedom. His last day was supposed to be the 24th.
When they called my name I was almost happy, still scared but almost happy. They had called a few names in between us that we knew were not immigrants so when they finally called his I tried to assure him that he was going to be released. His whole family had made the trip into town yesterday morning to receive him back lovingly into their arms.
He was one of the only people I came to trust in that month spent barely even trusting myself. I knew in the back of my mind though what was going to happen. They walked us out, bedding and property in hand, lined us up to the processing room. On the right wall there were 6 other inmates, obviously natives to this country, laughing and joking with the guards about the next time they’re going to see them again. They were on their way to the outside world and already they were planning their returns.
Five minutes passed, they brought another inmate and directed him to the left, a man from Honduras who couldn’t speak a lick of English. The guard sat him down right next to the two of us. Unable to deny the situation any longer, Javier’s face turned to that of a child engulfed in sorrow and disbelief, that innocent, immaculate look of the first true feeling of injustice and pain.
I placed my hand on his shoulder and found myself instantly fighting back the tears. It is a fight that is still with me, an ongoing one that I met early on only to be repeated endlessly throughout the entirety of my life thus far. As I touched him, I could feel the impacts of the images of his daughter, of his wife and of his parents shooting from my hand directly to my chest. Tears began to well up in his eyes as they already were in my own.
He pulled himself together, I sluggishly followed suit.
There are some in this world who will never have it easy, who fate has chosen as martyrs, the ones that others will try and make examples of, the ones who must cry in solitude. These are the patriots of the human condition who must show that even while staring in the face of absolute hell will not break their spirit completely for they will work ever harder until this life kills them.
Javier barely spent five minutes inside the terror of his reality before going back to that façade of invulnerability that only a man of great strength or undying foolishness would want to carry.
It wasn’t long before we were back in our street clothes, ready to be transferred to the next facility. I, looking like a dirty mad max character and Javi a rapper from a raggaeton video. We took one look at each other and broke out laughing, both of us trying desperately to ease the blows we’ve been enduring. The I.C.E officers loaded all of us into the right side of the van but not before they shackled us wrist to waist to ankles. The beleaguered group of immigrants all shared a look of solace before our heads were lowered into that beat up people mover.
We were seven deep in the back of that van. Spanish banter filled the busy space between my ears to full capacity. I tried hitting the mute button in my mind but the damned this was broken, so I pressed my head against the steel shell and the window and tried to sleep or daydream it all away. Luckily, the shocks of the van were more worn out than the sandals of Moses from all the trips it had been taking recently up and down the beautiful Virginia landscapes while on the path of G. Dub’s great brown exodus through the holy land.
We begin to get closer and closer to the outskirts of D.C. where we will be taken to for processing. The flag is painted on the exterior of every office building around here, plastered in commercials, married all around us to the term Freedom, worn on buttons attached to the people driving next to us. I’m guessing this is all to convince the true colors of this country that they are in good hands, that the important crayons in the box are safe from having to color the bad images, a conscious being devoid of the knowledge of dirty work. This country so often forgets, or ignores, whose backs those buildings were raised on top of because the marble they were built from happens to share the same color with the smiling, shiny men behind the curtains pulling the strings.
How fucking convenient.
The van clunkers on, my head now bouncing NBA style against the pane of glass separating me from fresh air, the colors of this state bursting and blurring in the depths of springs as they whiz by my eyes and my life altogether. I see a driver next to us, a brown man whose eyes are wide because he knows exactly what the contents are of the solid white van speeding by him. I smile and wave a shackled hand as if to try and ease his worries, this is not the end for any one of us, we are simply being rerouted or simply pausing in our journeys. Some of these men will sign off their rights to stay and take their single allowed bag of no more than forty pounds across a border painted by politics only to return soon enough, but some will never make it back.
Some have decided it best to uproot, liquidate and leave the sinking ship altogether feeling it best to keep air not liquid in the lungs. Funny how right at the end of the trip they turn the captain’s wheel to a black man and salute his historic and brave duty of going down with the ship all the while fighting still to keep the ways of ol’ that tore the damn hole in the hull in the first place. That vacuum is growing ever bigger with every successful rape of our once ravishing lady liberty.
Sleep came for about twenty minutes during the four hour trip. I woke up drooling with my whole right side numb. Our arrival at the facility in Fairfax was greeted by an open slap to the face just oozing with irony. Our van of tired, hungry and poor took a right off the main road and onto a street aptly named Prosperity lane, a street that opened into an office complex that was damn near deserted. As we pulled into our destination, we were slammed with the visage of a huge flag that adorned two whole sides of the building whose basement we were entering. These things had to be fifty feet by a hundred feet in size.
Church of freedom in the land of prosperity my brown hairy ass!
They unloaded us from the van using a beat up milk crate as a step ladder. While accounting for our personal property, I yet again had to argue with the officers working that I had a little bag containing a four hundred dollar cell phone as well as an ATM card linked to an account that, for the first time in my life, actually had money in it. After that came the routine frisk, even though they did this upon entry into the van, you know, to assure I hadn’t conjured up a tec-nine out of thin air or my condensed feelings of rage and pain.
This is where Javier’s story will be forever separated from my own. I would catch one more glance of him while in intake before he went off on his own battles to try and return to his family. Even in that last moment, the image of his daughter flashed into my mind, a faithful reminder of the weight of his existence as well as all of those who have passed through these concrete halls before us and all that will follow. I felt their stories planting themselves firmly into my mind.
Lines were formed, dividing us into three equal groups. There was a shuffling of shackled feet in every direction and we were suddenly led into the catacombs of the building’s basement holding cells. As soon as my body touched those hard and dirty benches lining the walls I passed out for a few hours. I dreamt of Mexico, of Uruguay, of my family there, of my family here. When I woke up I was sweating and being shuffled off again.
Within half a day, we were loaded up again except this time it was a completely different set of brown faces around me, but... yet again, Spanish was all they spoke and yet again my head was bouncing along that Virginia countryside wondering what the fuck else would happen next.
Somewhere in Indiana: 2002
The road seems never ending. It has been three hours going through the motions and I feel as if I’m nowhere near Indy. My legs have grown stiff, the pain is unbearable. Something told me this sixty mile ride was going to be a lot harder than I initially thought, but my god I had no idea my legs would fall off from it!
Mile thirty and the acid in my legs could have burnt a hole straight to China. I decided it was best to grab some food, but since my work ethic allows for only one day of work a week, it would have to come by way of five finger discount. I lean the bike, which was freshly assembled by my own hands by way of our friendly neighborhood bike project, on the side of the nearest supermarket and commence with one of the invaluable skills I picked up through my turbulent early years. Of course it was mainly candy I stole with the exception of a box of pop tarts. The whole load was consumed in a frenzy which gave my legs just enough time to completely lock up on themselves, a pain the magnitude of which had not been felt in years.
A little under an hour and about four self massages later, the trek resumed but only for about another hour or so. As soon as my front wheel crossed the city limits I called it some kind of victory and phone my mom to come get my sorry ass.
I am slowly leaving what I know to chase my sleepless nights away. Although this is the first real trek alone into that which I have no idea about, I have been running my entire life. I ride alone now because this is how it had to be done then, alone.
It was under my mother’s very roof that madness painted image after image into my fragile developing mind. He never truly knew what he was doing, never had a good example of a father and because of that, neither did I.
Upon arrival at my mom’s, I settled myself into the scalding waters of an Epsom salt bath, letting the salty sweat residue break from my skin. I had never felt water so cuddly. While falling asleep my mind wandered.
My life was mine, a fact never realized until a death tickled psyche kicked my teeth in the night. I decided to wake up and be ready for the next kick so as to not get surprised at the sight of blood. And so, my dreams set me off on a life I knew would be hard.
While drying off, the mirror stared me down. It doubted me. I collapsed under the weight of shame as I had been doing since my stepfather came into my life. At this point, with love and support, I am a mountain, alone, I’m just a sandcastle in the way of the rising tide but life cannot always be led completely surrounded, not physically at least. I now pack my friends and their effect on me tightly up in my mind and carry them with me wherever I go.
I toweled off, mom had dinner waiting with an I told you so grin for dessert. She told me originally that she would just come down and then drive me back up from Bloomington. My sheepish smile translated my cares, which were none, and we ate under the excitement of my new relationship with life.
I had found my way out of the caves, but I had yet to find their end. Before dinner I was decided to wander both ways, inside and out, until I fell from exhaustion. It was not known at that time that it would not stop even then. No, it would intensify with every fall because with every journey that likened death, stood another chamber to the caves and another sun to chase into the outside world.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Night falls and the wailing shrieks of the caged beasts begin to burrow at my sanity. Chants, nonsense, entertainment turned machine gun funk. Dropped boxer’d slap fighters are calling the new boy a pussy and condemning him for ignoring them. Today, he slept the day away.
But sleep is the enemy, our cousin of death that’s chasing our nightmares into the front of our mind usually reserved for our views and beliefs from the real world.
Harsh is the environment never making sense, we jail ourselves, we prejudge the world. They scream pussy in unison, wrestle in their boxers, dance with no music, slap box at midnight, shower together in a long team effort stall, masturbate next to each other in the bathroom stalls, groom each other, but deny this new boy a bed for being obvious about liking the touch of another man.
He is the first gay inmate I have had come across my path.
They refuse him bunks, ridicule him immediately. He can probably take most of them, probably been fighting his own war for some times now. Must be hardened at this point in his life, he would have had to just to survive as himself. That would explain his over confidence. It’s killing me to see this. I want to offer him a bed, but I would be wrapped into the fight.
Is this wrong of me? Is self preservation more important than generosity?
Shit, this is jail, I just had to fight my own battles in here a few times over… yet my intuition screams action at all costs…
I don’t need the hardships right now, sorry friend. Will not deny him if he approaches though, I will not be them. I am just in no position to help. He must arm himself. This is war, war is hell. Jail is all the devil’s fantasies, the debasing of god’s creation.
Wonder what he did? Probably drugs, damn commonwealth.
My Mexican buddy Javier, who sleeps in the bunk above me, is on his last few days, but it’s already nightfall and he is no closer to his wife right now than when he was when he entered this god forsaken shithole. At the end of the day we all sleep alone in here.
Missing the touch of a woman in here is enough to cause hallucinations. No nurture for the unhuman, no affection, no contact save a speeding fist. They stole a piece of me when they separated me from the touch of my better half.
I miss the caress so much that it wanders into my dreams every so often. They can never rob me of my memories. Months and years are long stretches of time though and they are infinitely lengthened because of longing.
The TV runs constant to keep people from dwelling too much in their sorrow; it only goes off because the devil grants me mercy after midnight. I spend my time watching, writing, reading or swimming in the depths of memory. The latter less than the others unless smoking pages under this little pen of mine because the pain would be too unbearable.
From time to time, you can steal a view of the beast with his mask down, merely a child without direction in a world of advertisements for a downfall, a world of perpetual glowing night. Those eyes will haunt my memory, desperate, hopeless. This can only birth the rage of unreason, well… it will mainly do so.
There will be a few among the many that will fight against this urge, he will work out just to release, he will punch only walls and they will crack under his John Henry hammer for that steamed machine we call home cannot hit back when under the arms of my brothers .
We need more legends in our present, less gilded fairy tales.
They are born unknown daily, they will be forever young, suspended in their fight through all of time so our children can burn candles for the dead so as to illuminate their children’s future. We must find the spot where truth echoes through the corridors of space and time. We must have tea parties with more Hawking to underestimate the touch of man onto the universe.
As I write he watches alone and cautious. They would not hate him if they did not fear what he represents. He has an uphill battle ahead of him but he already knows this I’m sure and is at the very least ready to take on what time will hand him.
Javier and I notice the steely stare of that boy on his own in this world of metal and rage. His arms are behind his head, his eyes are fixed on the bunk above his. The c.o.’s finally assigned him a bunk.
Basketball horns blare from the screen, snack are consumed, slap boxing continues, segregation of all things different ensues, collect calls are made, secret tears are hidden under covers and I’m in deep up to my chin with a horrible, itchy wool blanket.
It is not unusual to wake up in the middle of the night and catch the soft weeps of boys fronting as warriors. Even the soldier must understand when to be human again.
There is a defiant grimace on our flamboyant hero right now, I think he’s finally convinced himself that he’s got this.
I want to trust his expression. I want to believe that beneath his perfectly styled hi-top lies a mountain of a mind and persona that has no doubt in its ability to handle all that is about to come it’s way. It is the lone lion that sleeps ready to defend himself at all times.
Just a few beds away I can hear the smirking chatter of a group that has prided themselves in disruption and injustice. They are talking about him, planning all the ways they’re going to get this kid. While he’s showering, while he’s asleep, when he gets in line to go to lunch, during shift change… all that I can hear in my mind is this right now. I cannot lift my attention anywhere but their voices that echo with malice and ignorance. In a time that we should all huddle together for strength, the only conferences being called are for violence and the repetition of all that has put this population here in the first place.
If they were to follow up on their threats, I would probably lose all sense of pragmatic thought. I would be forced to get between them, fight against that which I hate in this world more than anything else because it is what I’m most scared of. Ignorance has scarred us all and threatens to kill right under our noses.
Well I can’t do it anymore… if they want him I’ll have to stand or risk being haunted with his face for the rest of my life, more so than I already will be. This is not what I want right now, I’m scared… so fucking scared, confused and hurt but I can’t let this happen.
Please god, get me away from this place, I’ve seen enough!