Chapter 61

I get to the border crossing again and this time I feel pretty confident. This looks like my real social security card, these are my real social security numbers, and this is how my name is on the original. All they have to do is look up the numbers in their database and I’m home free. I can even deny that the Francisco Villa wanted for entering the United States illegally is me. I’m not illegal. This Francisco Villa is an American citizen. Oh, but what if they check my fingerprints? And they took my picture too.

I stand in line with a few hundred other people and it takes hours to get to the front. There are a lot of women here, some with children. The men look tired but content, or confident perhaps.

My energy has already been exhausted. The concrete floor has been hammering the bottoms of my feet for hours and the small of my back is killing me from standing for so long. It’s hot, there’s no breeze in here and I can smell the people around me. There is a strong perfume in front of me, a soap smell to my left, and a pine-like scent behind me. I don’t see any of those tree shaped air fresheners hanging anywhere. Perhaps it’s that guy’s deodorant. I try my hardest not to smell the stale beer smell on the old man’s breath to my right. Every time I catch a whiff of it, I feel queasy.

I try to focus on the people in front of me. The woman with the strong perfume and her little girl, both in blue dresses. They look very much alike. I wonder what they are doing? Are they going shopping? Visiting relatives?

All these people have business in the United States and they’re doing it legally. It doesn’t look impossible to me. How did all of these people get their IDs? Why would people pay hundreds of dollars for fake papers that may not even work, when the real papers cost so much less?

Behind the counter at the front of the line, I see several police officers checking IDs and asking questions. I strain to hear some of their conversations so I can be prepared when it’s my turn.

The doorway to get through to the United States is straight through their little guard kiosks. The guard takes your ID and holds it up to the light and looks at it, then back at you, then they hand you back your ID and off you go, right into the United States.  Anyone not passing his or her ID test gets escorted into a hallway to the right, and then to who knows where. Actually, I have a pretty good idea where they go. I bet I’ve even been there. Just the thought that I have this knowledge sends out a whisper to the dark shadow that always hangs over me, inviting it in again.

The people who go to the right are usually upset. They never smile. I can’t blame ‘em. They’ve spent a lot of money trying to get across the border and it was for nothing. The people with real ID probably paid a few hundred dollars. It’s a no-brainer really. Wait a little longer and save tons of money—and don’t get arrested. Duh! Of course, if what Cheech said is true about taking fifteen years to get your visa, people might just try anything if it will get them into the US a little faster. Every day at work I see more than a few Americans who complain if their lunch takes five minutes to be made.

Now anger has joined depression and we seem to be having a little party here in the middle of shitsville. I need to shake this off. I have to be upbeat and act like I’m sure I’ll get home, and I do this all the time.

This looks pretty easy. Walk up, hand her your ID, she holds it up, looks at it, gives it back, and away you go.

It’s my turn. “Hi.” I smile and hand her my ID. She looks at it and then back at me, then back at the ID, then back at me. This is taking too long. I have a bad feeling about . . .

“Can I see your photo ID?”

Oh, God! “No, I lost it in Mexico.”

“Is this a joke? You lost your photo ID, but managed to keep your social security card?”

I didn’t think about that. Crap! She looks at my ID again, then smiles.

“You don’t think we know who Pancho Villa is?”

“It’s really my name; look it up. Run the numbers.”

“Run the numbers? Are you telling me that somewhere in our computers there’s an American citizen named Pancho Villa?”

“Yep, go ahead and check.”

“No photo ID?”

“No, I lost my high school student body card.”

“I’ll bet you did. Come this way, Mr. Villa.”

She turned right. I don’t want to go that way, that’s the sad way. What are we going to do now? This is so not happening. How could this not have worked?

She hands my ID to an officer. “Careful, he may be dangerous.”

He looks at my ID to see what she’s talking about. “No shit? I’ll bet he’s still wanted in Texas.”

This is never going to end. All my life I‘ve been getting this. That’s why I tell everyone my name is Frank Veela. It’s so much easier.

We get to a small room with a table, a fingerprinting thing that takes a picture of your fingerprint instead of using ink, and a doorway without a door.

The doorway opens up to a hallway and there are lots and lots of different IDs stapled to the walls. Those are probably fake IDs. Some of those look real. I wonder what’s wrong with them?

A small, pale, red-headed step-child of a border guard comes in, “Gee Mr. Villa, I can see from your pictures that you’ve lost a lot of weight.” Are all these guys closet comedians? “But if you don’t mind me saying so, it appears that some of it is starting to sneak back on.”

Ugh! my clothes. I know they’re tight. I didn’t figure on, now wait a minute, what was I figuring on? What if I’d have made it into the US? What then? I’d have been walking around like Bruce Banner after an anger management class?

“Stand over there Mr. Smart-Ass.” He hands me my new social security card, “This ID is fake, and it’s painfully obvious it was made just a few minutes ago.”

How the hell can he know that?

”Somebody dragged this through the dirt just to make it look old. Look, see there? See where the ink has dirt in it?”

Oh shit! I do now. There are a few specs of dirt embedded in the black numbers.“ Look, just run the numbers—you’ll see, I’m an American.”

“What kind of idiot you take me for? I do this for a living. Now I have to give you credit on your English, but frankly, my gardener speaks it better than you.”

“What’s wrong with my English?” Man, what I would love to say if I wasn’t afraid of getting in a lot more trouble. “Look, officer, just run my—“

“What American citizen needs a fake ID to get into his own country? Can you tell me that? That’s just crazy. And—oh this is the best part—Pancho Villa?  You must have really pissed off the guy who made this for you, that’s all I gotta say.”

“But it’s the truth!”

“That’s good. A fake ID is the truth. I’m keeping this one; it’s going on my wall of shame.”

“Please check my ID, officer. I’m sure it will explain everything . . .“

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m gonna find out who you are all right. Give me your right hand please.”

Damn! She’s going to find the wrong me, then I’ll be arrested. I should have just stayed in Mexico and learned to speak Spanish—or perfected my English.

She finishes taking my prints, and pulls out a pair of handcuffs. One end gets hooked in the side of the table, and the other gets latched around my left wrist.

“I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere okay?”

Making fun of people is obviously the only entertainment these people get. What am I going to do? I should get a phone call. I’ll call Mom. She’ll know what to do.

After a few tense minutes, the guard returns. “Well, well, well, I’m mistaken. I think I owe you an apology.”

She’s holding a piece of paper, but not letting me see what’s on it.

“Your name really is Pancho—my bad,”

Did she find my real identity?

“But that whole trying to get into the US three times in as many days routine? What’s so important you gotta risk years of jail for?”

Nope. She’s clueless. Do these people even know how to use a computer? “Look, I’m going to lose my job if I don’t get home today—“

“Oh, so that’s it. Well then, you shouldn’t have gone home for vacation then should you? Please empty your pockets into this tray.”

Damn! This is it. There will be no explaining the contents of my pockets. I put the plastic bag with the addresses, photo, and what little money I have into the grey bus tub she put on the table. She picks up a slip of paper and reads what’s on it.

“Who are these people? You don’t look like Cartel. No tattoos.”

“Family.” This just proves her right.

“Yep, kind of an old picture though. Wow, who would have thought John Travolta knew Pancho Villa?”

“That’s my uncle.”

“Your uncle is John Travolta? You really got some nerve kid. You shoulda just stayed with them instead of trying to sneak back across the border. Things have changed, amigo. It’s a lot tougher these days.”

“Really?”

“Yep, 911 changed the game.”

“Thank God! I was beginning to think I was just extraordinarily unlucky.”

“Oh, you’re plenty that too.”

“Shit!” Oops, I said that out loud.

“Please place your boots in the tub too. I’ll go get you something a little roomier and in a brighter color.” She leaves me handcuffed to the table. How do I take my boots off like this?

I unbutton my shirt and pants since they’re coming off soon anyway, but I still can’t reach my boots very well. I tug at them with my feet, and right hand, and manage to get the last one off, right when the officer gets back. “Here you go.”

He tosses me an orange jumpsuit and some old, moldy flip-flops.

Oh my god, I’m going to have to put those on my bare feet? “If I get a disease from these you will be hearing from my . . .” mother.

He unlocks the handcuff from the table. “Anything else you want to put in here?” He’s looking at my chest. I take the St. Christopher’s medal off and place it in the tub.

“That’s it.”

He grabs the grey plastic tub, puts the boots in it and walks me down the hallway like a dog on a leash. I can feel the looks from the other officers, like silent, angry disapprovals. The sarcastic little Leprechaun hands the tub with all my stuff and the computer printout of my fingerprint results in it, to a worker behind a counter. Then we keep on walking.

“You know you’re in a world of shit here Pancho. They had to have told you the consequences for trying to enter the US when they released you yesterday.”

What can I say? She has printed proof from a reliable database that I am Pancho Villa, the notorious, serial border crasher.

A guard buzzes a door open. “Change out of your clothes, and put the orange jumpsuit on. Leave your clothes on the bench.”

I’m put into a small room and the door closes behind me. For the moment I’m in my own private little cell. It feels good to get out of those tight clothes. If it weren’t for the word, immigration, in big black letters on the back, I’d ask if we could trade.

I look around the place. It’s not too bad. At least I get to sit on a bench this time. I think I’ll give this one three stars in my International Travelers Guide to Jails.

I’m finally told to leave through the door on the other side of the cell. It leads to another small room. There is no knob on the other side. I hear a buzzer and the door unlocks. I push my way into another cell. Great! Lots of company. I immediately go sit by the toilet.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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