I crossed the river at sunset with fire red spangles of the day’s last light tangled up in my licorice black locks. I waded long-legged through the brackish shallows in the bend, where the waters gurgled like the gutters of Guatemala City at the height of the rainy season. The heels of my busted out sneakers sunk and puckered on the muddy banks of the U.S.A. Then I turned, a quick about face, unzipped my fly, pissed in the river—a rainbow arc—and lifted up my sweet voice in song, “Aquí estoy! ¡Besame América!”
Y sabes que? América heard me, the twisted bitch! I’m pissing in the river and this Migra motherfucker shines his flashlight on me. Must’ve been a real mind fuck for the poor bastard.
Cabron said, “What are you?”
I flashed him a mischievous grin and shook my monstrous, one-eyed snake at him.
"Soy quien soy, güey," says I.
Cabron drew his pistol, wagged it at me like an impotent cock. Then he pushed me into the back of a van and brought me to this lovely fucking place. Last time I came in through San Ysidro, sabes. Didn’t get far. Got caught and bused to Cilola County. They put me in a camp for men. Six months in a camp for fucking men!
This place here, it ain’t much different. Just another tent city of the damned, pitched in the deepest, darkest part of the American psyche. Barbed wire fences. Rows of dusty tents. Concrete floors for beds, everyone gets a pinche mylar blanket because it’s cold at night in McAllen, Texas. The only difference is there aren’t any men here, except the guards. Just us women.
I met one of them, a Mexican mother, I didn’t catch her name, but she had these sympathetic eyes and the kindest, motherly face I’d ever seen. I felt like I could say anything to her and I did.
“I was born a girl in the body of boy.”
“Claro,” said the Mexican mother.
Her love gave me wings. I felt my feet lifting off the cold ground. I was flying, high above the Lone Star state, but somehow still sitting there, talking to the Mexican mother.
“Father loved me like a son,” I said. “Until he found out what I was. Then he got it in his pig headed brain that he could change me. Me. This lovely girl that I am. He beat me. And Father Aldo at Iglesia Yurrita forgave him in the confessional every Sunday.”
“Y tu mama?” asked the Mexican mother.
“Mother—bless her ignorant soul—tried to change me, too, with Catholicism. She petitioned God, not realizing that He’s the one who’d made me this way.”
“Y tu pueblo?” she asked.
“Pues pura burla,” says I. “One day, though, the ridicule turned violent.”
Hate clipped my wings. I felt my body spiraling dizzily downward. A free fall without a safety net, from a great and loveless height.
My tears flowed and flowed like the gutters of Guatemala City at the height of the rainy season, like the Genesis flood.
“A mi me encantan los helados,” says I. “One day after work—I was a shampoo girl at Little Lupe Loo’s hair salon—I bought a coconut ice cream from Helados Don Marco Polo and sat in La Plaza de la Constitución to enjoy it. Just a lovely, late afternoon in Guatemala City. Mothers were strolling babies. Patojos were playing fútbol. Young lovers were kissing by the water fountain. Old men were reading Prensa Libre. Anyhow, it started getting late, so I got up to go. I didn’t even notice the van parked in front of the Catedral Metropolitana—”
A guard passed, doing nightly rounds, and flashed his light on the Mexican mother and me.
“Buenas, chulo,” says I, in this butch voice. “You have one cigarette for Ilda?”
I blew the bitch a fat kiss. The guard startled and retreated. The Mexican mother snickered.
Where was I?” says I. “Oh, yes. There were three of them in pig masks. Maybe they had ordinary men faces, but as I recall they were wearing pig masks.”
I pinned up my Mayan nose with my thumb, made a pig snout out of it, and oinked.
“The first pig pistol whipped me—see here, this scar on my jaw. The second pig dragged me by my lovely hair into the back of the van, gagged my mouth and bound my hands and feet. The third pig drove the van, all around Guatemala City—a spiraling, sickening, stop-and-go motion. I remember the stink of man sweat and the smell of cusha on their breaths as they took turns. First one, then the other. Again and again and again. When they were done with me they dumped me in La Zona Una, en La Linea, right outside of a brothel.”
The Mexican mother gave me this look like, How the fuck are you still alive? Says I, with a look, "The war ain’t lost. I’m still fighting—”
“And so you came to the United States?” said the Mexican mother.
“Yes,” says I. “And here I am still.”
Such sympathetic eyes she had, but sadness in them, too. I could see that. “Y tu, mamita?” says I. “Que haces por aqui?”
“Igual que ti,” said the Mexican mother. “Buscando vida digna.”
“Platicame,” says I.
“I can’t,” she said.
“Why not?” says I. “Don’t you know who I am? I am Saint Ilda Quitapena. I have been sent here to heal broken hearts and proclaim liberty to the captives of this land.”
“Bueno pues,” she said. “We come from Unión Juárez, Chiapas.”
“We?” says I.
“Me and my baby daughter, Rosita,” she said.
“Just you two?” says I.
“Yes, and the Holy Ghost makes three. We crossed the river yesterday, into Brownsville. We were making our way to Odessa—”
“Pero luego la Migra …”
“That’s right. We’d just stepped on this side of the river when they swooped in like hawks.”
“Lástima mamita,” says I. The Mexican mother’s rebozo was empty. “¿Y Rosita?” says I.
“Pues, no se,” said the Mexican mother.
“¿Como que no sabes?” says I.
“La Migra took her.”
I had heard the stories, but thought they were just stories. They were taking babies in the North.
“I don’t know why,” she said. “The men took Rosita and gave me this. ¿Que dice?”
She drew a pink carbon copy sheet from the inside of her rebozo. It was written in English. I didn’t understand a word of it, but knew what it meant.
“What’s it say?” asked the Mexican mother.
It said, ‘Fathers love their sons. Mothers love their daughters. But nobody loves us. No country. No government. No church. No, nobody loves us—”
I stared at the pink sheet in her trembling hands. Her baby was gone and all I could do was cry. My tears rained onto the pink sheet, smuding the ink. My tears flowed and flowed like the gutters of Guatemala City at the height of the rainy season, like the Genesis flood.
Nobody loves us.
I could not stop crying. There was so much pain there between us. I was trying to cry away the pain for us, as if I actually could.
Alberto Ramirez is a Los Angeles based writer and author. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in English literature. His short stories have appeared in Westwind Journal of the Arts, Angel City Review, LossLit UK Magazine, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Somos En Escrito: The Latino Literary Online Magazine, Stain'd Magazine, and Pulse 29. His novel, Everything That Could Not Happen Will Happen Now (Floricanto & Berkeley Presses 2016), was selected by Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club summer reading list 2017.