Tosh was like that. Her voice electrified empowered, drove like a wireless tool.
You guys are getting out of here, now. Her tone is final. Get your asses out! You will never come back here again.
It came to this. A long whispered navigation through our non-options, huddled in the visiting room hoping it wasn’t being recorded.
You have to get out of here. You know it. Her voice went down instead of up. You will disappear. Goodbye good luck and good riddance. We knew she meant the situation, not us. We huddled and hugged. I don’t know how, but you are going to do it. I am willing. So, you know it will happen.
It started to happen. We did our best. Now, instead of visiting her in Tuiles County Jail again this weekend, we are stranded. Stranded on the Mexican side of the border in Nogales with no money, no gas, not a crumb of smuggled food left. It’s hot, hungry, scary as thirsty hell. No friend, no place to show up. Not even to park. No gas to go on. Nowhere to sleep after two bat flying nights and bleary eyed days without a stop on the oil dripped road. Except to pee re-oil.
We were six. All under seventeen. All running away from different foster homes in Salt Lake City. All crammed into the belly of the beast, taking turns driving. I am fifteen, but my twelve-year-old brother drives my turn. I just prayed and shook, shook and prayed. They drove the thousand miles to the freedom of the Mexican border.
We got across it too, with just a social security card.
Mexican delightful air feels free light, a breathable shout of joy. The morbid weight of being caught, taken back to testify again vanishes. I’m too tired to shout, so I skip a little, smiling with my whole body. When I look around, five others had the same relived triamph glow on their faces. The air in Mexico tastes good. But it is hungry air, going nowhere.
Gas should have run out near Flagstaff, by Estephania’s summer school mile-per-gallon calculations. That was hundreds of miles ago.
We hadn’t expected to eat. Who knew. This car hadn’t been pillaged yet. Estephania secretly bought this beast three days ago with school clothes money. We stole licence plates for it off a same looking abandoned, sorta, car. Then kidnapped our younger brothers. They searched my little brothers, did, and scored 50 cents from between the seats. So from nothing we went to having a whole kilo of fresh tortillas from a Tortilleria. The best tortillas I ever remember smelling tasting, slow chewing. The only thing left from the picnic basket was salt. We didn’t even dream of butter. Okay, we did, but salt was still perfect.
Pulling over out of town parking and sleeping on the ground for two days didn’t improve our mood. The boys found water. That improved our survival.
I found acorns in the leaves we laid on. If you can stand the bitter, and focus on gathering and cracking little handfuls, you don’t have to stay hungry, a germ at a time. But I was still so hungry from not wanting to do that and the bitter was worse than hunger. Fasting is at least worth something.
So, I am fasting. Pretending I am fasting. Way to bitter not to. Finding a way to survive in the wilderness had been on my bucket list. Check.
We will survive! We will make it back home to the kids.
But shit! We need a better plan.
None came. Every possible one failed depressing us more every time we talked.
Two edgy sweat-filled ravenous days drowning in knowing we couldn’t go forward jackhammered the resolve in our eyes. But it didn’t move the picture of resolve in Tosh’s eyes from our inner eyes.
That last night driving to the border knowing gas would run out any second was war. The invisible enemy guns aimed at us. Ambush any second. We would be caught and skinned. Being caught, just the thought, made my stomach fall into the bottomless pit where my heart was.
All it would take is one cop to look twice. Out of gas and no way to buy any was a ticket straight back to foster homes. We wouldn’t see Tosh either, then. After all Sgt. Vogtechy wouldn’t bother to drive six of us all day to see our sister once a week, again after this, would he? Now we ran. The hollow spirit creeps of murdered eye sparkle, sucked at my soul. Life would suck unimaginably worse than before if we were caught and taken back there again. We would be caught prison escapees. Cruel. Punishing. Looks.
Besides we would have failed. Failed. So, so much worse! The wrath of God was supposed to be worse, but wrath of my foster parents totally trips me.
I feared the betrayal in their eyes. In hers it wold be shooting aimed fire. Withering. I know it’s there. They won’t understand. Can’t explain it. Those looks I sense drive me mad. Mad!
Betrayal is in his eyes. That I dare not even imagine. I can’t be thinking of it now, it drives a tornado ice drill. So I don’t. His eyes, hurt more than hers in wherever something I don’t understand.
Nothing to do.
Drive to where the gas will take us.
It takes us to the Judicial checkpoint outside Nogales. They won’t let us by.
Vayanse! Get out of here. You can’t come through.
Nowhere to go. The relief from being out of the USA is tangible. None of us is willing to go one inch closer to that place by turning around and driving back.
You kids aren’t either Mexicans.
Show me your papers.
The car’s got no papers either?
Go back were you came from or we are going to have to confiscate your car. It’s not ever your car is it?
We looked at him shrugging with our eyes. Looked at each other. We know judiciales pick and choose what they confiscate. This old four door green dinosaur Ford wouldn’t make the cut. We are embarrassed driving it. Though just then, we were beyond all embarrassment. Unmoved, we just sit there. He just stood there. Crossed his arms. Fidgeted. Walked away. Came back.
You guys are not getting by. Please leave. Now.
We didn’t. He hurried off to check out new arrivals.
We are frozen. In limbo too exhausted to move. We sat there indefinitely.
Quitense! Get out of the way! Other people want to get through.
We pulled the car to the side. Nothing else came to mind. Nowhere to go. Stunned we sat staring straight ahead staying out of each others fried terrified thoughts.
I need help! We need help! Falling falling into the well, down down were my heart is in the pit. I give up, whatever this is. God You gotta handle this!
The dust doesn’t settle. We do, right out of the way, on the side of the road next to the through lanes. We parked and stayed.
We just stayed there.
Then a surreal crazy man in a judicial uniform burst out of the dust and sun and silence.
Vayanse! Vayanse ninos!
A frustrated Judicial was waving his arms shouting. Get out of here kids! Just get the hell out of here! This time, he was waving us forward.
We drove on.
No gas. No money. A few hundred miles through the desert to Caborca.