Saturday, January 28, 2012

Malasuerte en Georgia

"¿Cómo estás?" I asked kinder Wendy.  "Bien, because I skipped bath last night".
"¿Cómo estás?" I asked kinder Kendrick.  "Mal, because my dad wouldn't let me wear my same pants again today".

"He plans to come back in two weeks" Cristian's family informed me.  We took them out to dinner, trying to regroup, console them, somehow let them know that we were in this with them, as much as we can be.   My brother in-law picked them up; their luck is so bad that we don't want to ask them to drive anywhere.  Only the women are left of this family, except for the youngest child, the U.S. citizen.  The men are in Mexico, one voluntarily, the other, not.  The women are paying and working.  His mother.   His sister in a wheel chair, the girlfriend, pregnant with his child.  The little sister.  Working to pay coyotes, polleros, whatever you want to call the pendejos who charge a fortune to run them across the Río Grande and put them in an eighteen wheeler to a large city in the southwest and drop them, left to their own devices in navigating the many checkpoints between there and home.  And home is here. 

It was early.  Really early for a Saturday.  I was sitting in a a super seventies style roller skating rink, watching my lovely niece suit up for her roller derby practice.  I made her tell me the directions from her phone, mainly because I rarely drive and because I have no earthly idea where the fuck Lilburn is in regard to the outer reaches of the suburbs outside of the city.   We made it.  There were some parents there.  Some like me, who parked it in an orange, Formica booth and pulled out a book and their phone and others, that socialized.  Near me, unfortunately. 

"She is falling even worse than last week. I tell you, I'm done.  All she does is complain".
"It takes her twenty minutes to suit up!  I tell her, 'you're pissing your practice time away' but she still takes forever".
A child came up.  "Go away," her dad told her, "I'm socializing with my friends. You socialize with yours".
"My elbow pads are too loose.  Will you help me?"
"There is a lady that will help you with that.  Her, over there. You're too skinny.  You need to put some meat on your bones".  The child rolled away.
"My shoes hurt.  My feet hurt.  They're not tough, all they do is whine!" another mom exclaimed.
 
They tried to talk to me a couple of times during the two and half hours that I was there.  They didn't get it that I wasn't insecure or worried about not knowing anyone there.  I didn't want to know anyone there. I watched Emma giggle and laugh with her friends.  And skate on one foot like a swan.  And then I stared at my phone.  Or my book. 

I laid in the claw foot tub in my new house, staring up at the American Horror Story-style ceiling lighting.  I can lay down all the way in that tub and the water rises up almost to my chin.  I pretend I am somewhere else, in some other time.  I do that in my princess house.  Our house.

"We are saving his Christmas presents," his sister told me.  "we aren't having Christmas until he comes home".  The mood was actually jovial.  I was relieved.  I watched my brother in-law load four illegal immigrants and a little U.S. citizen into his car.  He was laughing and joking, somehow communicating though he doesn't speak a word of Spanish.  The illegal immigrant wagon pulled away with folks sitting on each others' laps. I had a renewed admiration and appreciation for the strangely nonplussed and helpful person that my brother in-law is.

The moon was hanging really low.  It was lit from below, a crescent, yet the top almost looked like an eclipse.  I hoped for them.  I hoped really hard. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Which Day?

"Cristian is going to be deported on Thursday" the text message read.  I started emailing.  I had been reluctant to start petitions, feeling jaded by the whole activist array of weapons:  Marches.  Phone calls to politicians.  Online petitions.  The only thing that ever seemed to work was legal action and we had tried that.  I got the petition started and spoke to his family on the phone.  I found myself feeling excited.  Would it work?

I kept checking the online petition between every class.  In less that twenty-four hours, he had over two hundred signatures, many with comments.  "Unbelievably cruel" one read.  "We need more people like Cristian in the United States" another wrote.

As I finished helping get the kids out of the school, I saw a father waiting for me with a little boy that had gotten in trouble in my class the other day.  I like this kid.  He's new to our school.  He gets squirrely now and then and needs a little tune up from his parents, but I still like him.   I had sent a note home once before, but this was the first time I had met either of them in person.  His father listened carefully as I explained what happened and how I knew that Andy could do better.  I spoke directly to the child and told him I could help him do better, he just needed to let me know how.  Different seat?  Different table partners?  The father spoke very little, but had an stressed, almost hyper look in his eyes.  I could tell he was concerned.

"Who was Rosa Parks?" our guest speaker asked the kids.  She had been at the March on Washington and was somehow teaching a class of around four hundred kids and about one hundred adults without batting an eye.  Or having to tell them to be quiet.
"She stood up" the first kid answered.
"That's right.." she said.
'So that we could sit down'  I thought.
"I wouldn't want to be on that bus," a kindergartner added,  "I would want to be with Randy" he continued, referring to the only African-American student in his class. 

I returned to my classroom, anxious to check on Cristian's petition again.  As I walked down the hall, I saw the father I had just spoken to, inches from his son's face.  His voice was raised, you could hear it above the roar of kids leaving the school.  I saw his hand rising up to the side of Andy's head.  'NO MORE CALLS TO PARENTS' flashed through my mind, as I averted my eyes.

I walked home.  I heard the chime of a new text message and checked my phone.  "No need for a press conference," it read, "Cristian just called his mother from Mexico.  He was deported this afternoon"

"How did it go when you got home?" I asked Andy, "Your dad looked mad".
"Yeah, he pulled my hair all the way home.  That was the punishment".
"How long is the drive?"
"About twenty minutes.  I live at 8750 Concord Drive.  If you go to Google Earth, you can see a picture of our house.  My mom's blue car is outside".

"We shall over come....we shall over come, ONE day...." the kids sang in our morning meeting, lead by the fabulous Ms. Warner.  I was hung over and I bet it showed.  I could feel the lump in my throat rising the more the kids sang.  I pictured the little face of Cristian's sister, nearly pressed to the windshield, as they followed me in their beat up compact car to the lawyer a month ago.  Five hundred signatures, forty-eight hours later.  They didn't know what had happened, that it was over.  I thought of Andy's overly obedient behavior in class after his talking to by his father.  

"Deep in my heart,  I do believe......we shall overcome, one day".

Friday, January 13, 2012

Girls at Parties

I heard James Earl Jones, walking and talking in my house.  I was in bed on a Saturday morning, in a no work, too much beer slumber.  He was telling Alec how to make the phone work.  It turned out to be a guy from the phone company.   A really helpful guy, who was talking to Al like he was his son and determined to educate him on the ins and outs of landlines. 

Elizabeth pulled the corner of her shirt off of her shoulder.  So did Erin.  "I'm a girl at a party" Elizabeth stated, while waiting in line for their teachers to pick them up from Spanish class.  "So am I" a little first grade boy added, pulling his shirt over to bare his shoulder.  A different effect, but apparently they were all fancy party people.

The lights were flashing in front of my eyes again.  I knew that soon I would not be able to see.  I closed the blinds in my classroom, turning away from the light.  I took an aspirin and sat down, trying to take deep breathes, make it not happen.  The blood drinking class came in.  The assholes.  In minutes, I couldn't see at all.  I taught anyway, with one eye open.  This had happened while we were together before.  Actually, it has been happening a lot lately.  I plead on their mercy a couple of times, asking if anyone knew what an optical migraine was.  Some knew.  But they have little mercy, this group. 

I passed one of their teachers in the hall.
"God, I was seeing stars this morning while I was teaching your kids" I told her, "I keep getting migraines when they come in".   

"I have a rash that starts on my neck and extends down my back" she responded.
"It goes away on the weekends and returns on Monday mornings.  Melissa has been losing hair." she continued, referring to her co-teacher.

We have a three day weekend.  All rashes, migraines and hair loss should be on hold.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Miles To Go

The boxes surrounded me.  We were leaving the long, skinny house.  It made me sad.  I have always moved a lot, but this was ridiculous.

They pulled up outside of my house.  I wanted to give them a ride, I was willing, because the minute they get pulled over they get deported.  A family friend brought them over.  One with papers.  I wanted to see the lawyer; he helped Alejandro get free.  I was determined that Cristian needed representation, that things needed to be explored.  I was thrilled when his mom and sister pulled up. I thought I might have to go alone.  I'm glad that they said fuck that, we want answers and were willing to sit down with this guy.

I was getting excited about the new house.  The papers were scanned.  Things were in boxes.  It was over, right?  Just let us go over there.

I watched them in my rear view mirror.  I could see his sister's face, small and short, in the passenger's seat, as if she was pressed up against the windshield.  She is in a wheel chair.  Spina bifida.  It's how she rides. 

"Hey, tell me if he has a deportation order in his file?" the lawyer asked the ICE agent.  He hung up the phone.

"Cristian accepted involuntary deportation the last time.  He will be transferred to downtown ICE tomorrow.  It's a holding tank, then he will be sent to Stewart.  There is zero percent chance he will get out of this".

"Exactly, how much chance?" José, the family friend, asked in accented English.

"Zero" the lawyer responded.  "I am going to beg for him tomorrow, tell them he has been in the United States since he was a little kid and does not know Mexico.  That he graduated from an American high school.  That he has never done anything wrong, that his record is clean.   I am going to plead for mercy, but ICE isn't known for mercy....".

Giselle looked at him from her wheelchair, face piercings and all.  "Tengo una pregunta..." she began.

"How can I get myself legal?"

"You don't have papers either?"  the lawyer asked.  She and her mother both shook their heads. 

"Someone would have to marry me, right?"  she asked.

"Yes" he responded, "it's complicated".

We walked out.  They were stone faced.  We pushed the button on the elevator.  And then they crumpled and cried. 

I drove home.  And Alec and I signed our lives away on the papers.  "Does it feel funny?" one of the realtors or lawyers asked us.  "No.  It just hasn't sunk in.  It's like another lease". 

My princess house.  It is like a little castle, so pretty, so perfect.  So removed from every sense of reality.

And Cristian, sitting in jail, waiting to get deported again.  "He shouldn't come back" the lawyer told us, "es grandote.  The could put him in the federal pen for five years if he gets caught again".  

I drove through town.  Outside of the pizza place, a white guy held a scary looking ladder.  A brown man stood on top, fixing some facet of the roof.

I went to work.  The holidays were over.  We had a workday and I was determined to get things done, all the things that had been neglected during the house-buy situation.  I heard some noises outside and finally opened the shades on my classroom windows.  A white man stood outside, wearing a helmet, a huge winter coat and work gloves.  It had gotten pretty chilly.  Actually, downright fucking freezing.  Two Mexican guys stood out there, wearing pull over sweatshirts, hoods up, and no gloves.  One had a chainsaw.  The other had a rope.  They hacked and pulled the base of the old oak tree down, while everyone in good gear stood with arms crossed, watching.  

And I screamed and raged and swore out the window and nothing changed at all.

Nothing.