It must be terrible for you. Sick, lost, in a city oceans from home. Not that home was so great. Watching people you could never call family, even though they were all you knew, die around you.
You sat on the floor in the belly of the ship and dreamed of promises of a better life, of your son and his future siblings playing in the green grass of the backyard they sell on TV and in magazines, filled with toys and swing sets some poor trees’ life was taken to make. You dream of your wife watching over them from the patio. And of your mother living her remaining years reading to her grandchildren and mourning the death of her husband in this peaceful sanctuary. All you ask is that these dreams, these promises, will become reality.
As the trip lasted for seconds, minutes, hours, eternity, you wondered what you had been thinking. That little trickle of doubt that seeped into your heart and mind with every man that coughed or sneezed, every breath you took of the horrible air rich with the odor of ripe, unbathed bodies, urine, and defecation. The dream was all that was on your mind. Always the dream.
You tried hard not to look at the others, at the hopeless men and women. Children whose onion complexion was so caked with dirt and oil one would think they were born that way. Small, black eyes staring from behind a perpetual shadow. You didn’t want to see their depressing smiles or comforting frowns. No need to share in their pain; nor for them to share in yours. Pain was all you had, after all, and how can the poor support the poor.
They pulled you from the bowel, forcing the ship to throw you up like poison. You got one good look at the silver moon before being stuffed into the back of a giant piece of metal on wheels they called a moving van. You were in the dark again with everyone else. They made you live in a building no different from the rotting block of wood you had just left except this one had windows that had been covered with boards. The ones back home had no covering and were the playground of many a suicidal. You could only see the sky through cracks and holes in the walls and planks.
Your head hurt like it was caught in a medieval vice. You thought you might throw up from the hunger. All you needed was some water. Some hope. Glad you left you family back home so they wouldn’t have to go through what you’re going through, you desperately wished they were with you so you wouldn’t be alone. You sneezed and coughed from the mold and heaven-only-knew what else. You couldn’t move for all of the other people around you. Most of them weren’t going to make it. And what would become of their bodies when they expired? As you looked around, you knew. You were all brought here for the same reason. You were disposable. You suffered. By God, you suffered. But nothing came easy. Did it?
You felt you were miles from that green toy-filled backyard, but too close to quit. You had to focus. Without the dream there was nothing.
Suddenly that dream became twisted in a nightmare. The promise overshadowed by red and blue flashing lights, English tongues, and white faces. You didn’t understand their words, but you understood their eyes. “Get out. You don’t belong here.” What could you do? Plead with them. Beg them. In your native tongue beg them to let you stay. Forsake your honor for the sake of the dream. Say to them, “My wife. My son.” Scream it from the soul in your heart. Make God in heaven hear.
Your passion wasted, the meaning lost in words too different from their own, you understood then what it was to be a foreigner.
You didn’t mean to do it; it was an accident. You didn’t even know how to use a gun though surely you knew what one was. But you knew one thing, when the big man with pale skin and blue eyes sunken so far into his head the skin looked to sag around them, removed the shiny, black metallic pistol from its holster, he wasn’t going to use it on himself. No, it was meant for you, the rebellious one. You the crazed one who, in their mind, had the nerve to curse them on their land in your language. All you knew was when you heard that noise and saw that flash then saw him go down on his knees with his eyes about to pop out of his head, you couldn’t have been the one to pull that trigger. It just couldn’t have been you.
You had to run. You had to. Nevermind the pain in your stomach. It would pass. Nevermind the feeling of your insides wanting to erupt through your mouth, it would pass. Nevermind the pain in your head extending from your eyes that made even the light of a candle a mace against your skull, or your limbs limp and skinny from lack of food or the pain in your jaw as the disease began its slow descent into you gums. Only mind the dream. Everything else would pass.
Oh, how the sun hurts. Like a cannon to the head, it hurts. Why did the sky have to be so clear today? You’re sick. You’re lost in a city oceans from home. What are you gong to do? They’re looking for you and you can’t run from them forever. It’s their land. They know everything about their land. You can’t hide. You can barely run. You can see even less with the sun gouging your eyes out, pounding on your head like that gun pounded on your uncle’s when he stuck it in his mouth. How slow we move when we must cradle our stomachs and our heads. What are you going to do? Think about the dream. But what are you going to do? Just think about the dream. The dream holds a solution. It has to. Men don’t dream dreams as these for no reason. You’re going to do something.
You look behind you. There’s no one there, so it must be safe. You lean on a red brick building in an alley. This place is no different from the boat or the slab you know as home: filthy, dirty, garbage and sickness everywhere. Nope, no different. You lay your head back against the wall and take a breath. You didn’t know the air was the same wherever you go.
You try to think against the pain, but all you want to do is bash your head into the building until you hit the core of the problem, the center of your bane, and destroy it. But you know what that will lead to. No, you can’t do that. You must resist that temptation.
It is terrible for you. As you feel your body slowly slide down the building and a tear rise in your eyes. You fall to your knees and cough as the bile moves to choke its starving host, then swallow dry, distasteful saliva to keep it down. Your hands, wrists, and arms can no longer hold you and cave under your weight, slamming your heavy head to the greasy, rotting concrete. Your head weighs a ton and crashes like wrecking ball. You swear you heard your back tooth crack; yet you don’t really feel the pain like you think you should. You swear you taste blood. Good. Blood is thicker than saliva and will work better to keep your guts down. You can’t see anything anyway so you close your eyes.
Ah, finally you can think clearly. You picture the face of your only child smiling and laughing on the green grass and it occurs to you, you hadn’t seen green grass since you’d been here. You’d been lied to. There is no green grass.
*From Color in the Dark. Get the whole book here.***