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The Unexpected Encounter, Maria Ramirez

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

My heart was pounding, not from fear like in these present times, but with excitement. No companion necessary, I had no worry of being hijacked by the cartel. The only delay, a quick stop, the driver opened the door and a line of thirsty, desperate migrants walked into the bus and quickly sat on the empty seats. My heart raced, not knowing what was going on. I stretched my neck and stared toward the driver, the other passengers behind me, and in front of me. No one said a word, they acted as if nothing was happening, they just stared at each other. I saw the migrants sitting in silence. There seemed to be a silent understanding between the driver and these new passengers. Suddenly, one of them sat next to me.

It was a young boy. I stared at him for a second, then looked around again. The driver got back on the road as if this was a normal pickup. My eyes shift from the driver to the boy next to me. He clung to the front seat, leaning forward, scanning the dry mesquite-covered landscape, cactus with their sharp thorns standing like immigration agents, officials he needed to elude and zigzag through and slip between. I turned toward him. He pretended not to see my stare. After a few miles, he gripped his water jug. The tip of his worn shoes pressed against the floor as he began to raise himself when he saw his companions standing, working their way to the aisle. He waited for a space to get into the line. My heart pounded as I realized what was happening. I quickly slipped my shaky hand into my backpack, searching for my money pouch. I struggled to open it. The boy and I locked eyes as he turned toward me. I see despair and he saw sadness. Before I signaled him to wait, his back was out of reach as I tried to tap him. The pesos in my hand remained there. My mouth opened to call to him, yet quicker than when he got on, he was off, running with the others into the dry, hot sun, as his jug and worn backpack became a blur in the distance. He is in pursuit of crossing the Rio Grande in hope of reaching America, a better life, the American dream. I stand and gaze at the line of people like desert lizards dissolve in the dust as they scurry on. I plop myself back on my seat, crushed, wondering, hoping they make it, like my mother and older brothers had made it when they too waded through the Rio Grande to join my father. To this day, I help migrants. I feel a need to stretch out my hand before they too disappear in the sea of green as they harvest our crops. I think of my Papá and hope someone stretched out their hand to help him when he too struggled underneath the elements with his wife and children until a piece of paper helped them emerge from under the shadows.

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