“I can’t take another step,” said José.
“You can do it!” exclaimed Rosita.
“I can’t!” proclaimed José.
“The rest of your life is before your eyes in America. Now get up and brush yourself off because the land of plenty is just ahead,” Rosita said with enthusiasm.
José and Rosita haven’t had a drink of water in two days. There has been no food. They have walked for miles through the desert heat and slept under the stars with fears of snake and scorpion bites. They have the dream of America driving them to the border. They know if they can just get there, that their entire life will be better. This is the dream of America being sold around the world.
“FREEZE!” shouted a man in a uniform, holding an automatic weapon.
Startled, yet exhausted, José collapses. He’s unconscious. His best friend Rosita drops to her knees to try and wake José.
“Help me, please,” pleads Rosita. “Please!”
The soldier wants to help the two children that have reached the American border with no family or other adults for support, but he is torn between duty and humanity.
Along the border, there is a battle to protect a line in the sand. Cross that line and you may be shot! American militias have taken arms to protect their land, their nation, and their sovereignty. Their representatives in Washington have failed them.
“I’ll get you some water,” says the soldier.
“Is he going to be okay,” Rosita asks without a response.
The soldier hands Rosita two bottles of water and she tries to get José cooled off with one bottle and unselfishly reserves the second bottle if he awakes, not tending to her own dehydration.
“I think he’s dying,” screams Rosita.
“We have two more kids that have made it,” said the soldier into a handheld radio.
“When will this ever end?” was the response on the radio.
“What should I do?” the soldier replied.
A bus appears in a cloud of dust. It’s full of unbathed, crying children. Their parents told them that this would be the beginning of their new life in America.
“José, can you see!” Rosita said to José when she saw the bus.
“We are in America!” Rosita shouted unable to shed a tear of joy.
The driver steps off the bus, wipes his head with a sweat-soaked rag, and calls to Rosita to get on the bus. Refusing to leave José, she grasps his hand even tighter.
“José, wake up!” she whispers in his ear.
There is no response.
“Please José!” Rosita cries as she tries to get water in his mouth from the second bottle of water.
There is still no response.
The border soldier walks to the two children, choking back his emotions as not to be seen by the bus driver.
“Please get on the bus,” the soldier says to Rosita.
“I can’t leave José,” she continued to cry dry tears.
“I will take care of him,” says the solider. “Please get on the bus.”
Hesitantly, Rosita rises from José’s side and released her grip from her friend’s hand. Just a few more barefooted steps to the bus and she could rest her bloodied and blistered feet. Her pain was in her heart and not in her feet as she looked back to where José lay lifeless.
“Come on kid,” said the soldier to José. “Wake up.”
There was no response.
“I need to keep moving,” said the bus driver.
“I’ll take care of him,” replied the soldier.
As the driver settled into his seat and closed the door, Rosita called out – “What about José?”
The driver put the bus into gear and started to pull away when Rosita got her last view of José, as the soldier placed his ball cap over his face. José was gone.
There is a dilemma at the border, in Washington, and in our hearts. We need to protect our nation, but we need a human spirit that can rise above the politics. We were humans before there were borders.
Writer and photographer.