AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following short stories are fictional, but I believe depict the truth and reflect the ongoing struggles of children and young adults who live on the U.S.-Mexico border. Rebecca
It has been 302 days since I saw you last. I imagine that my baby brother, Romero, is so big now, going on 10. When I left, I had just celebrated my 12th birthday. Remember that day? You had bought me a piñata in the shape of a fairy princess, and I had complained that I was too old for such games.
But you a covered my eyes with a scarf and brought me a broom handle. I hit the piñata with it over and over until candy came flying out over my head. I didn’t even give Romero a chance at it! He cried and tried to pull on my arm, but I just kept laughing and dancing around the room.
I knew every corner of our house, every piece of furniture and even the location of Mamá’s prize pottery vase, so I did not break a single thing as I danced, blindfolded and unafraid.
Little did I know that I would be blindfolded again soon after. Two men grabbed me on the way home from the grocery store. The fruit and vegetables in my bag fell to the ground as I tried to fight them off. I’m so sorry that I lost the food. I know money is hard to come by and I hope you will forgive me.
Papá, I saw their faces for a few minutes before they covered my head with a scratchy old bag, and tied it tight around my neck. I will never forget their eyes. Your eyes are kind and thoughtful. Even when you were disappointed in me, your eyes never showed anger. These were angry, desperate eyes that looked as though they could never forgive.
For a long time I hoped that you would try to find me, but after all this time I know that no one is coming for me. I am living far away in the United States. I don’t even know where, as they keep us in a dark room, deep inside an old house. I can smell the mold and the dust. It is damp and chilly as I lay down on my bed without a blanket or pillow. Sometimes I shiver so much that I feel like I might die in my sleep.
But that would make me a very lucky girl, and I am not lucky. The door to the basement opens in the early morning, and the light blinds us. It is time for us to go to work. There are five of us girls. We live in the dark and our eyes don’t adjust quickly. We are guided up the stairs, dragged across the yard and shoved into a white van.
I work seven days a week from 6 in the morning until after Midnight. I am a maid for a boarding house where a dozen men live. I bring them their breakfast, make their beds and do whatever else they want me to do. At first I cried out for you and Mamá, but the men laughed or threatened to hit me if I didn’t shut up. So I don’t say much anymore.
Some of the men are better to me than others, but I never feel good about myself when I’m done for the day. When the van arrives to take me back to the old house, I’m very tired. It is cold and dark, and so is my heart.
Love to you always, Malena.