Chapter 63

We travel on the freeway for at least an hour, then on a dirt road for another hour. We stop at some kind of checkpoint, and the driver gives some guys with rifles and machine guns money so we can pass. We continue on this dirt road for another half an hour, when finally, the van stops, doors open and we all pile out.

I just can’t believe my luck, but then, I should’ve guessed. Nobody wants to travel with the gringo; I might be immigration. I have to promise to wait half an hour before following them.

There are no women or children in this group, just a bunch of men looking for work. Some with families back home in Mexico. Some just starting out in life. I can easily tell the difference, even though I only understand about every hundredth word.

The younger ones are excited about the new life they are going to lead. Their eyes light up as they speak in excited tones about the future they are going to have. The older ones are sad for leaving their families behind. They listen patiently to the younger ones and smile politely every now and then. Sometimes they steal glances with other family men, sharing an unspoken knowledge—an inside joke no one is laughing at. These guys have heard the stories before. They’ve lived it. Perhaps they too told the same stories.

They leave me in front of a gate leading to the United States, and it’s not only unlocked, but I could easily just hop over it, even if it were. What is the point of even having a gate from one country to another? That can’t be legal for either country, yet here it is. It’s made of steel tubes, has hinges on one side, and a place where you can lock it if you wanted to on the other. It swings open and shut, and right now, it is open. There is no lock.

Why is there a gate here, and who was it made for? An American going into Mexico? A Mexican going into the US? Hey, maybe it was an American trying to get back into the United States because the BORDER WAS CLOSED!

And why is the border here? The terrain looks the same on both sides—it’s just desert. Why isn’t the border a mile north of here? Or a mile to the south? What is it about this imaginary line right here, in this exact spot, that made two countries want to begin and end their territory right here? It’s not like there’s a river, or canyon, or mountains separating one country from the other. The border’s in the middle of a fricking desert. I mean, how did that conversation go?

“I think we should put the border over here.”

“You’re loco, that’s prime desert right there essay. We should put the boundary up here.”

“No, no, no, no. You’re not pulling a fast one on us. We’re too smart for that. This here’s our worthless desert. Someday, sand and scrub brush is going to be worth a lot of money, and we want our share; lets put the border in the middle, lets saaaay . . . here.”

“Stupid gringo, you think I’m going to go home and tell my people I gave you guys valuable dry, uninhabitable desert land for nothing? Put it over there.”

“No here.”

“No there.”

“No here.”

“You’re loco.”

“Your dumb.”

“Perro.”

“I don’t even know what that means. Look, you got lots of desert down there and we don’t have hardly any.”

“Oh no? What do you call Death Valley—farm land? That’s some world-class desert you got there.”

“You have a point.”

“I do? I mean—I know. Tell you what, lets just put the border right here.”

“Okay, I’m tired. Lets celebrate. The beers on me.”

“Gracias. The tequila’s on me.”

“Hey you hungry?”

“I could eat.”

“We got some great Barbecue over here in Texas.”

“I was thinking more like Chicken Mole with rice and beans.”

“Hey, since were in the compromising attitude, let’s create something with both.”

“What would that be like?”

“I don’t know, but we could call it Tex-Mex.”

“You mean, Mex-Tex.”

“No, Tex-Mex sounds more natural.”

“Natural to who?”

Yep.  I bet that’s just the way it happened too.

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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