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Posted on Nov 14, 2006 at 07:33 AM

A MOJADO?S VOYAGE By Rosa Palma Tears fill my eyes, not because of the dust in the abandoned warehouse or the aches of my tired body after walking three days with their nights, but because of the memories that invade my mind. Memories of so long ago, yet at this moment so clear that I can hardly distinguish which is my reality, the pain of my body or the pain of my thoughts. Just as every night, I walked into the kitchen and took my place at the table. I had barely come in from finishing my labors, labors that are expected of a man my age in the rancho where I was raised. Walking into the warm kitchen after being out in the cold wind was wonderful. I rubbed my coarse hands together in an effort to get a little bit of warmth into them, and then I saw my mother standing in front of the stove. She turned and smiled and asked me ?Ya termino todo su trabajo? ?, I nodded yes, and heard her whisper ?Ya era tiempo?. I laughed, and then told her I had heard her. I was tired but in a good mood as I savored the warmth and the aromas coming from my mothers stove. There were many aromas that I could recognize, the smell of my mothers? meal mixed with the tangy smell of mesquite wood that burned in her stove, that stove that daily warmed our meals and our home. There was also a smell that I distinguished but hoped that I was mistaken in suspecting what that certain aroma was. My mother set a plate in front of me and a container of warm tortillas de maiz, and my cafesito con leche next to it. I viewed my plate with suspicion and dipped a tortilla into it. As I raised the food to my mouth, I realized that my earlier notion was correct. My mothers? meal contained onion. I was starved yet could not eat any more and pushed the plate away. In doing this, I realized that my mother was watching, and I saw the hurt look on her face and just shrugged, ?You know I don?t like onion?. I then stood and left the room without looking back. My attitude at the time was accepted because I was the consentido. I was the favored due to the fact that I was the only male in the family at the time. My father had almost always been away, working as a ranch hand in Deming, N.M. in the United States. I was the one that had taken on his role; I took care of everything and everyone. I was the one that ruled at the time; I was my household?s jefe, and in my immature ways I had let this go to my head. My memories seem so real, yet the irony of my present situation hits me full force. I, who never tolerated meals with a hint of onion, I that before would push away any meal because of it containing this ingredient. I, that was so arrogant, now find myself in this abandoned warehouse with nothing but four forgotten onions to satisfy my hunger and thirst. I know that to survive I must eat what God has placed before me, but I wonder why has God placed me into this situation. I raise the biggest of the four bulbs to my mouth and take my first bite. I am surprised at how fresh and sweet the onion feels in my mouth. Memories come again as I remember my mother saying ?Todo con hambre es bueno?, I now realize how true this is, everything is good with hunger. I feel my eyes mist over; I don?t know if it is because of the strong pungent odor that is rising from the onion or because of the realization of my prior arrogance and how I hurt my Madrecita with my attitudes. I wipe my eyes and finish the onions that remain, I soon feel as if I would burst. After days of going without anything to eat, my stomach had gotten used to being empty and is feeling the effect of having something in it at last. With my feeling of fulfillment also came a feeling of weariness. I can hardly keep my eyes from shutting. I feel my body shaking with exhaustion. I try to stand but my legs have finally given out and my blister covered feet cannot hold my weight any longer, so I remain sitting just as I had been while I devoured the onions. In my inability to stand, I let my eyes wander instead. I see every corner of the abandoned warehouse. The warehouse seems so big, so empty, so cold and lonely. I wondered what purpose it had served. Was it a place to store onions, just as the ones I had eaten, would it be filled with some other product or would it be empty until the next onion season? Who had been there before, were they Mexicans such as myself, would they be back soon? So many questions filled my mind. I did not know the answer to any of my questions, yet images rambled on in my brain. I could almost hear the banter of the people I envisioned; I could hear the murmur of their voices. ?Andele mis amigos, apurense, no se hagan, a darle duro al jale!? I could hear the impatience of these voices, sharing among them the urge to continue working. I could clearly see what they looked like. Men of dark skin and darker eyes, slim yet strong body frames with weathered hands and faces. They were dressed in a similar fashion, working clothes, worn out jeans; rugged mud encased working boots, long sleeve shirts and some maybe a t-shirt, light jackets or sweaters to cover from the early morning chill and also cachuchas or sombreros to protect their head later from the intense afternoon sun. It is strange but I feel as if their eyes turn to look at me, I see compassion in their look. They understand what I am going thru, yet cannot help me. With their look, they tell me everything will be all right but I will have to help myself. It surprises me with what clarity I can envision these people that I never knew and will probably never know even if they exist. Yet they are real to me. I can almost reach out and touch them, maybe lend a helping hand to their work. I sadly realize that what I am seeing is impossible and it scares me to realize in what state my mind is. I guess I am close to being delusional; maybe it is just the need to end my solitude and be around civilization that makes me see these visions. Whatever it is I just pray that it is just a sign from God to show me that everything will be all right. It is now late in the afternoon, and I recall that it was mid morning when in my flee from the Migra, I had arrived at this warehouse. I wondered where my time has gone. I choose to believe that in my wariness I had fallen asleep and now I am awake. In choosing to believe this, a distressing sensation enters my mind. Bits and pieces of recent memories arise. I start to wonder had my visions been dreams? Had my body and brain been so weak that I invented these visions? I will never know, but for now in order to maintain my sanity I must enclose these visions in a far away place inside myself, where only when in need I may retrieve the looks of compassion given to me by people unknown to me. I walk outside of the warehouse and feel a little shaky, but know that nighttime is soon to come and that this is the best time to continue my voyage. This voyage that has been forced on me. Enforced by people to whom I have done no harm, yet they treat me as an intruder. They make me run from them enforcing their power. I ask them for nothing but they take all I have. They take my dignity, they also take my respect. They leave me as a homeless vagabond, with nothing more than what I have on my tired body. My callused hands are proof that I dedicate myself only to work hard so that I may take my turn in providing for my family, but they don?t see that. They turn me into a hungered outlaw, on the run from the Migra. In my voyage, I have been walking for three days and three nights. In these three days, my first meal has been the one of onion bulbs because there was nowhere else to go to receive a meal. The towns that I have come across have been full of dark shadows, as I have been forced to cross them at night so I may avoid being turned in and sent back to Mexico. I have learned that few are willing to give a meal and fewer offer help to one that is running. My onion meal was my first and will be my last until God knows when. With the little nourishment that I have gained from my meal, I continue on my way. I look back at the abandoned warehouse that looks as if it were a shining temple, as it glows with the last golden rays of the sunset. I thank God for putting it in my path, for without it who is to know where I would be now. At this warehouse, I received strength, not only for my body, but also for my spirit. Because of this warehouse, I am able to continue my voyage with a gained knowledge. A knowledge that has come to me in my visions and memories. The last rays of sun have entered the horizon and now it is rapidly growing darker. A cold breeze starts up. I try to walk faster so that I can keep warm and feel its chill a little less. I miss the jacket that I had lost a couple days prior, but my pace keeps me warm. Even with the rest I had taken my feet are tired and hurting already, but still I continue. Memories start again as I try to keep my mind occupied and not think of my pain. I remember the farm where I was working, and the confusion I felt when my compa?eros and I were told that the Migra was on its way. We were in the fields picking cotton when the rumor started that someone had seen the Migra?s vans at our Patron?s home. When we learned that this was true everyone became frightened and tried to escape. Everyone ran everywhere but escape was far from most of us. I ran but had one of the Migra?s men behind me, I thanked God for all the hard work that I had grown up doing, it had made my step fast and my lungs strong. The man that was following me was fast but I was faster. He chased me and was able to grab a hold of my jean jacket, but I pulled my arms free and he stayed with it. I heard him yelling at me, but I would not stop. I did not know if he still followed me, but I could not stop to look back all I could do was continue running. I ran, and ran until I collapsed. I could not breathe and I was weak. I lay there until I was able to sit again. I think the Migra was too busy with everyone at the farm be

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