Chapter 56

We get to the police station, or immigration center, or whatever you call this place, and I’m paraded around a like a new car. “Guess who I have here? Don’t recognize him? He’s Pancho Villa.” They laugh and think he’s making a joke. “And get this; he works at Taco Bell.” I need to come up with some story that sounds better than the truth. Come to think of it, just about any story would do that.

A lady behind yet another glass window gives him a concerned look, ”Hey Frank, you having a bad day?”

“No, Clarice, really. This is what he says. Tell ‘em amigo.”

He takes a Handi Wipe and cleans my hands before taking my prints. According to police records I will be, in fact, Pancho Villa, but I will also be a Mexican who has been deported and tried to smuggle drugs into the United States. Recently. Yesterday, in fact.

“My name is Francisco Villa, but everybody calls me Frank.” Suddenly I’m lifted off the ground, faced with an intensely angry immigration officer.

“Calm down Frank. We don’t need any lawsuits,” the lady says from behind the glass.

“You wouldn’t say anything, would you, Clarice?”

“Kid, I’d suggest you watch your step. Frank here, is a might sensitive to people makin’ fun a him.”

I look down at his name badge and see the name, “Blanco.” Oh Shit. Frank Blanco—Francisco Blanco? What are the odds of him having the same name and nickname?

“You watch your lip kid, or you might find yourself lost out there in the desert, comprende?” I nod. “Now tell Clarice here what your real name is, or we’ll go for a nice elevator ride—you and me.”

Great, what do I do now? Tell them my real name and get my ass kicked, or lie to them.  “Francisco Villa is my name, and I’ll thank you for not making fun of me. People have been making fun of my name my whole life.” There, the indignant approach. Maybe he can relate to that.

I am picked up again and spun around hard against the wall. My head and back explode in pain. The lady behind the glass hit some kind of alarm. This can’t be good. “I lost my ID in a bar, and I’m trying to get home. Why is that so hard for people to—“  All the wind in my lungs rushes out, and two other guards burst into the room and pull Frank off of me.

“Calm down, Frank.”

“Yeah, what’s going on?”

“This punk is playing me!”

“Frank, you’re not in high school any more.”

“Yeah, cowboy up, big guy.” One of the guards walks over to me, “Hey kid, I’d suggest you watch what you say in here. You’re not in Mexico any more.”

“Yeah, there’s nobody here to protect you but us,” says the other guard.

“And we’re gonna be on Frank’s side if there’s any trouble. Comprende?”

Now they just stare at me while I gasp for air.

“Okay Frank, you’re even. Now just process this loser and let’s get him back to Mexico where he’ll be someone else’s problem.”

“Yeah, c’mon Frank.”

Great, they’re going to send me back to Mexico. Why does this keep happening to me?  I get a look at the two officer’s who came in and saved me. One officer has the name, Lee, on his nametag, and the pudgy, obviously desk-bound border guard is Bradford. They talk some basic Spanish to each other, just a few feet away from me. I hear Moron, and I look over at them.

“I thought you didn’t speak Spanish, Pancho?” Frank says, twisting my arm a little, while taking my fingerprints.

“What?” officer Lee says, “Pancho Villa doesn’t speak Spanish?” Bradford smiles. Frank is still pretty pissed. He’s messed up my fingerprints and has to start over.

“So, Frank,” Bradford continues, “you go out for a ride with your partner, and you come back with a non Spanish-speaking Pancho Villa, who works at Taco Bell, and is dressed up like he’s in an old Clint Eastwood movie?” Frank laughs.

“Next time, when you go out to the hills, don’t take the trail that cuts through the Twilight Zone,” adds officer Lee.

There’s so much laughter I can’t hear myself think. At least Frank is laughing now.

Frank finishes taking my prints and Lee empties my pockets, then frisks me, beginning with my hair. When he gets to my neck he finds my St. Christopher’s medal. He takes it off my head and places it on the table.  They study their findings, and give me a wry look, like now they know for sure I’m lying to them.

Bradford goes to get the camera ready, and Lee shows me where to stand.

“Put your back flat against the wall, Pancho . . . (Flash) Now turn to your right, oh, you’ve done this before.” Shit! I should have waited till he told me to turn.

“Okay, Pancho, let’s get you a room until we find out who you really are.“ Frank leads me out of the processing room and down a long corridor.

I know what the ID check is going to say: I’m, Pancho Villa, the illegal border-crossing, drug-running Mexican. That’s who I am now. I’m even starting to believe it myself.

They lead me to a cell with about twenty Mexicans in it. They all become energized and stare intently as the door opens, and I enter. This just keeps getting better and better . . . All the benches are taken, and a couple of guys are just standing around, nowhere for them to sit. I see that my old friend the stainless steel toilet area is vacant.


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