Chapter 45

I can see the ocean way before I can smell it or hear the rhythmic whisper of the waves. As I get closer, sea gulls twirl and glide in the bright blue sky, their echoed voices scraping the air before fading out, farther down the beach.

When I get closer, I see a stadium and a tall white statue. Beyond the statue, is the bright blue sea. I get a little closer, and I see some people wading in the shallow water, jumping over or running from the dregs of dying waves as the water stretches the last few yards of its life. Others are on the beach in small groups, and of course, there’s the kid building a fort in the sand. Every beach has at least one of those kids.

The fence, extends down towards the water in a thin, straight black line, and just as Cheech said, the waves struggle to reach it.

Stopping on a cement bluff that looks out over the beach, I see over the fence and the wild sand dunes on the other side of it, with long, scraggly tufts of weeds that eventually blend in with a small forest of ragged plant life. It looks like nature goes on, unmolested, for miles.

There isn’t a border guard in sight. This is going to be easy. Finally, this odyssey is going to end and my life will return to its normal dreary routine. I can’t wait to be an American again.

Sliding down the sand dune towards the breaking water and the edge of the fence, I notice something odd.  There is an old lady cutting cake up against the fence.  She is with what looks to be her middle aged daughter and a couple of small kids, Then the mom of the kids passes a piece of cake on a paper plate, through the fence, and when she pulls back her hand, the piece of cake has vanished.

I keep walking and trying to get to an angle where I can see through the fence without tripping. The fence is made out of tall steel beams or pipes that stick into the sand and climb about twenty feet into the sky. There isn’t much room between the vertical beams, but just enough to pass a piece of cake.

Looking through the fence, there is a man on the other side, eating the cake. The Grandma is still cutting more pieces, which, now that I’m closer, I see has candles on it. Do people come here for birthday parties? I guess it beats having to sneak back in when the party is over. There’s a young baby in the arms of the younger woman. The man stares intently at it, as he eats his cake. How old is that baby? Is that his? How long has that guy been gone? Wow. That’s somebody’s life right there.

Nobody seems to notice when I walk straight down to the water, and around the end of the fence. I time it so the water doesn’t splash me or go into my boots. I wonder why that guy doesn’t just go around the fence for the birthday party and then back again when the party is over. Mexicans can be so stupid . . . I mean some . . . most . . . some.

I snap out of my little judgement-fest and I really feel like singing as I start my walk north to San Diego. From there I’ll call my mom and wait for her to come pick me up, or maybe hitch a ride to Arizona. It’s really not that far from here, and I did just hitchhike a few hundred miles already.

What a glorious day. It started out pretty crappy, but it’s getting better every minute. The sun is high in a cloudless blue sky. Sandpipers run up and down the beach poking holes in the wet sand with their beaks.

In the distance, some people are riding horses in a line, and they’re coming my way. I know how to ride a horse now. That looks kinda fun. I should bring Mom down here and do that some day.

A little further in the distance, a guy on a quad zips down the beach. That looks like fun too. I wonder where you rent those?

This border thing is way too loose. Just anyone can get in here. Why doesn’t everyone sneak in this way?

The quad doesn’t look like a rental. It just goes down the flat part of the beach and avoids the dunes altogether. I thought quads were all about the dunes. Maybe he’s going for speed. That’d be funny if he’s a commuter; living in America and working in Mexico. I bet if he timed it right, that quad could go around the fence—no problem.

Wait a minute! That rider’s wearing a tan uniform and he’s coming straight for me. Oh shit. A cop? Really? How did he see me? There’s got to be some place . . . maybe I can get lost in those dunes. No that’s just low scrub and sand, besides, it’s already too late to run.

“Okay amigo, turn right back around. You need to head back to where you came from.”

Shit! He stops right next to me and gets off the quad.

“This is where I came from.”

“Don’t get smart with me Jose, just turn right back around and get back home.”

“But I AM home. “

“I don’t really care. This is not an official US entry point. You need to go back and enter the country where your Identity can be verified and your status can be confirmed.”

“But I—“

“Nessecitos en espanol amigo?

That did it. If there was anyone on this planet I ever wanted to hit, it’s this asshole. I just want to explain my situation, but I can tell that behind those standard-issue, wire-rimmed, highway patrol sunglasses, there isn’t a person—just a uniform. He’s all border patrol. There is no reasoning, there are only rules.

I turn and walk back towards the fence. I can’t believe I’m having so much trouble getting home. How can they make me go to Mexico? I’ve never heard of this before. Shouldn’t Mexico deport me once I get there for not being a citizen? Hey, maybe that’s how I can get home. I’ll get deported. It is how I got here. Wow! Round-trip deportation—what a concept.

I stare at the sand beneath my feet. I’m in America right now, but I can’t stay. I’m actually being forced out of my country, and into a country that I’m not a citizen of.  I pick up a handful of moist sand, and glare at the border guard as he gets back on his quad. If I can’t get into America, I’m going to take a piece of America with me.

When I get to the border fence, I look over my shoulder one last time. He’s still there, watching me, making sure I don’t get lost. As I go around the fence I hear applause. Some of the locals have gathered around the fence, watching the show. The fence. What a joke. In places it looks like giant black toothpicks sticking out of the sand.

A couple of little kids are jumping back and forth through the fence, being in one country one moment, another in the next. I think they’re mocking me. Great, six year olds making fun of me; that just makes my day. Looks like he’s going for a world record too. Back and forth, back and forth, smiling at me the whole time. And, of course, this doesn’t bother the border patrol guy at all.

What if I don’t get back home tonight? What will Mom think? Can she do anything to help? There has got to be a way for me to get home. I’m due back at work today, and if I don’t show up, Darren will—wait a minute. Darren was! He was at a meeting with Robb—while I’m in Mexico. I’ve only been gone a few days. What could be so important they need a meeting without me? I need to get home now. There has got to be a way.

Several people are standing on the other side of the fence, talking to a small group on this side. If I could just mingle with them, then return with the group on the other side . . . No, that guard is still sitting there on his quad. Why doesn’t he just go back to where he came from?

Looking at the American sand in my right hand, I pick up some of the same kind of hard, wet sand with my left. They look the same. I bet I could go up to anyone on the beach and ask them which was American and which was Mexican, and nobody would get it right. Well, maybe fifty percent of them would; that wouldn’t prove anything. I drop the American sand on the ground and look at it for a second. I bend over and draw a line around where the American sand landed. Technically, is this America? If I were to call Mom on a cell phone from right here, would I have to dial a one first? I stomp on the American sand and then look at my footprint. I look at the border fence just a few yards away. It’s not the sand that’s important; it’s where you draw the line.

I sit down and take off my boots, stuff my socks inside, then roll the bottom of my pants up to my knees to keep them dry. With the boots in my hands, I walk along the water and look at the buildings along the beach. Most of them are brightly colored old shops. They’re old and ratty, and most of them need some major repairs. In the US this property would be worth millions, and the businesses and homes would be immaculate. It’s definitely a different world down here.

Just up the beach, there is a yellow inflatable raft lying in the sand. Across the street are some three-story buildings, which are probably apartments. The raft looks okay, but I don’t see any oars. I casually walk over to the street and try to look inside the apartments to see if there’s any activity.

Nobody seems to be interested in me, or this raft. I notice the beach is not crowded, compared to American beaches, and the nearest kids are about a hundred yards farther down the beach. They look pretty occupied playing some kind of game and don’t look too concerned about me being near this raft.

This is stealing—and I’m feeling guilty for even having these thoughts—but I gotta get home.  The water doesn’t look too rough from here. It looks like three lines of breaking surf and the first one I’ll probably just wade past. This should be easy.

Picking up one end of the raft and flipping it over uncovers a yellow plastic paddle with a blue handle. Awesome!  I toss it and my dad’s old boots inside the raft, and drag it casually, but quickly, down to the water.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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