The Plight of the Immigrant

She’s not from here. Where she’s from isn’t so far away, but it felt far. It felt far when the scathing heat of a desert sun caramelized her skin, burning at the tender flesh that sizzled beneath the touch of light. It felt far when her legs threatened to collapse like trees in a forest, crying timber as they trembled upon swollen feet. It felt far when her dry and thirsty throat, coated with the airborne sawdust of the sandy dunes, began to crack like mirrored glass. It felt far when she ran, falling time and time again, the voices of angry men and hungry dogs biting at her calloused heels. It felt far.
And now, she is here. She’s made it. And yet, she is alone. She surrounds herself with her children because they are the only ones who understand her plight and her fear. Though they do not feel it themselves, they feel what it does to her.
The supermarkets overwhelm her; the bright lights, the many aisles. The written language she can barely speak displayed above her head in perfect rectangular patterns of the foreign. She has learned the words “I’m sorry,” to placate the stiff, impatient, stark white faces that turn up in disgust the moment she turns her cart into the produce section or begins speaking or shows her face in this sea of white.
She is alone. All alone she cannot trust a soul and she is scared. No, she is terrified.
She has no friends excepting her darling daughter who is learning English and the American culture and she begins to feel as if the entire world has left her behind. Forgotten she existed. Because no one asks. And so she thinks that no one cares.
This world is too busy for her. It is too loud and overwhelming and too full of people trying to send her away despite the fact that she has nowhere else to go.
Back home? What waits for her there?
She treads lightly so as not to offend. She counts out dollars, laboriously; hands them to the 16 year old cashier who tells her it isn’t enough and slides her a sideways glance, assuming all the worst in the shifting of his eyes.
He asks if she wants paper or plastic and she looks up, the beads of sweat forming on her brow she didn’t think she had to speak for this. The colors whir and her vision begins to speckle and then fade and his eyes roll back into his head in a sarcastic display of possession. She clutches the rosary she wears upon her neck.
Plastic, her daughter says. And she looks down in relief and places a distracted, trembling hand upon her head and he nods once but doesn’t smile and she misses the whiteness of teeth, but not of skin.
She aches for her homeland. For the comfort of that which she knows, of the warmth of the sun that bakes the clay, the smell of freshly fallen rain upon the silted earth, the embrace of her mother’s arms around her neck.
No one smiles at her here. No one speaks to her, no one sees her, no one acknowledges the fact that she is breathing beside them. Because we see her as a number, she fades into nonexistence. We have made her a statistic, and so she has become invisible.
She is alone. A traveler in a world she cannot fathom, cannot begin to understand. Her tears salt the pillow every night; it’s foreign scent assaults her nose, this foreign land assaults her mind, these foreigners assault her heart.
She yearns for home, because she cannot make one here. Our vacancy sign is not lit up, our doors are not open, our hearts are firmly sealed. No room at the inn, we say, and so she is cast aside into an eternity of searching for that which she should never have had to search for in the first place.

13 thoughts on “The Plight of the Immigrant

  1. “Plastic, her daughter says.” This hit me. This small moment, when the child helps the parent. Being among strangers and not being able to understand the simplest of routines–to have a child intervene and rescue her must heighten the terror, the utter aloneness, the almost complete loss of individual identity.

    Your writing here helps me think differently, and more seriously, about the current news. Usually I read, look at pictures, then pass on to the next item, thinking what can I do about that awful mess. But being empathetic is a start. A very important one. Thanks for reminding me that refugees and immigrants are not a group to be discussed and argued about, but that they are unique persons, each one special and (depending on how you interpret the term) sacred.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, so special and important. Thank you for your words. Honestly, this all just came crashing in on my head a few weeks ago, when talking with an immigrant wife of a friend of mine. And I just felt so sad.
      Yes, empathy is everything. Smiling st one another, offering encouragement. So much love in little gestures.
      Thank you for your words.

      Like

  2. Pingback: The Plight of the Immigrant – #TRAVEL TO INSPIRE

  3. Moving piece. A big two thumbs up. What gets me about all this wall, anti-immigration business is that most of us hail from illegal immigrants. The indigenous Americans sure didn’t invite us or give us green cards. Only the African American came here by force.

    Liked by 1 person

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