By Diana Arterian
Failure crossed her mind and choked her like sand in her throat. The scent of her mother’s tortillas wafted in front of her face, but she dismissed it as her imagination.
It wasn’t over, it couldn’t be over. Days ago she had starved, sucked the water out of mud, but she promised herself she wouldn’t stop. She had ran faster and longer that anyone else. She ran as they shot at her like a wild animal. She had fallen, cut her legs but dashed and sped forward, through everything, until the law captured and bound her.
Ahead of her was a line of people, leading to the bus that waited to take them all back across the border. The twelve of them dragged their small tired feet in a path that pointed to the past. Tall relaxed men in aviator glasses watched them follow their orders.
She thought she felt the touch of her father’s leathery cheek against hers, his hands rough like rocks against the rope he pulled to haul fish out of the sea. She could smell the stink of the dying fish, who begged to be gutted for relief. Their eyes used to turn grey when she ripped out their livers with a blade.
She heard a howl, it called to her from the recent past, out the mouth of a boy who caught his leg on a fence…She had turned to the sound of his voice, and watched the spike push its way through his flesh. His eyes were still alive when they left him behind, not like the dying fish, not like the eyes of her sister’s daughters who beg for money on the street.
She had paid the price of passage. I am not going to go back to fish. But the decision was not hers to make.
The line in front of her became shorter as the defeated boarded the bus. She blinked up at the sun, and then it happened. Her eyes went wild and her heart pounded quicker and quicker until she jerked out away from behind the others. She ran the opposite direction, back into the mouth of the white stucco fortress.
A heavyset officer turned around and, half jogging, followed her towards the enclosed walls. Where does she think she’s going?
She ran fast, until there was nowhere left to go. She reached a white stucco wall six times her height. It stared back at her, solid, unsympathetic, unwilling to listen. It is unfair, the high price we pay for our ambitions.
The first blow didn’t hurt, but when she pulled herself back she saw that the stucco wall cut her eyelid, her lips, but wore only a little thumb print size of red. Dreams give birth to ideas reason would not allow. The second blow closed up her left eye completely and she threw herself so hard against it the third time, she screamed, cried and the wall was specked red with her pain. We suffer disproportionately for slight of chance and circumstance. It stung. There was warm blood gushing from her face, it dripped into her mouth, matted her tangled brown hair. She was dizzy but she picked up speed. Again and again, she closed her eyes, tasted metal. She broke her nose. We endure the worth of our ambitions. She couldn’t hear the shouting as they came closer, the pain was dull, smothering, almost comforting in its grant of control.
With all her strength she struck her head again and again against the hard unsympathetic wall until the world went black.