When All You Could Do Is Flee…A Story Of Two Women

The story of two women, from polar opposite ends of a social issue spectrum, trying to build their lives with what they have.

The story of two women, from polar opposite ends of a social issue spectrum, trying to build their lives with what they have.

“Radio in for medical help”, Margaret instructed her fellow agent, as she did the perimeter to rein in the crowd, while on horseback.

After dark, the rules change. And even with agents on stealth mode, the crowd had already spent considerable time playing hide and seek.

Diego understood why Margaret had told him so. He too had spotted the frail woman, who looked like she was holding her breath, so the baby could stay inside her for some more time. Except for the clothes on her, a dingy bag with some snacks, and a half-filled water can, she didn’t seem to have anything else. Nor did she appear to be accompanied by someone else. She was here on her own.

“What are you still waiting for?!” Margaret was annoyed.

“If that woman had any sense, she would have turned herself to the immigration authorities at the port of entry. And not tried to cross the fence here”, Diego sounded unfazed.

The badge they wore insisted that they serve the country with courage and compassion. Diego had taken only the courage to heart, not the latter. It didn’t matter to him whether he intercepted a drug trafficker or a helpless alien. They were all criminals to him.

“Even in her condition, do you think she would have gotten asylum in a day?” Margaret retorted. They both knew that, what awaited this poor woman at the port of entry was only a giant cement room with holding cells, not medical attention.

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It had been a week ago, but the sight of the fourteen year old, who broke her vertebrae from the fall was still vivid in Margaret’s mind. And she wasn’t going to let another mishap in her watch again.

Feels like an eternity, but it was only five months ago, when Gabriela was standing under the shade of the canopy of trees at the Morazán Plaza.

“Now, that’s a horse, and the man on top of it is Francisco Morazán. I don’t think you’ll learn about him at school, but I’ll tell you who he is, when you’re old enough to understand!”

Gabriela laid her hands on her stomach, feeling the bump, which will show in a couple of weeks’ time.

She looked at the beehive of street vendors, living another day of survival, selling lottery tickets, cigarettes, beverages, ice-cream, candy and cookies. As for the homesick Americans, either vacationing at Tegucigalpa to explore Honduras, or traveling to find their life’s purpose, the fast food chains were a godsend. Though the sight of private security guards armed with shotguns unsettled them, they tried to discourage the beggars with a firm “No molesta!”.

She felt as if the Cathedral beckoned her to walk in. Mass was already over, so there weren’t many people inside. The gilded altar glittered as the sunlight streamed into the apse. With a heavy sigh, she looked at St. Michael, the Archangel, and the city’s patron saint.

“Maybe you have your reasons, but I don’t understand why we’ve been cursed forever. Why are you hurting me more, when all I have in life is only poverty and violence? You should know that I can’t bring another new life to this place. Would it be too much to ask for, if we request you to be by our side? Shouldn’t you already know that we need you now more than ever?”

Tears streamed her cheeks, as she bent to look at her belly.

“Baby, we’ve buried your father. He’s not here anymore to take care of us. It’s just the two of us from now on.” 

Fearing that she would break down if she stayed even a bit longer, she rushed out. The sight of the shoe-shiners bench, in stark contrast to the cathedral’s rich gold and silver altar, avowed her as to why she needs to take this arduous journey. It would take months for her to reach the border, not knowing what the future held in store.

“Baby, take a good look. This is our home. No matter where you’ll be born or how far we go, this will always be our home. Maybe we’ll never come back, but don’t you ever forget this is where we are from.”

Around the same time when Gabriela had planned to join the caravan heading towards the United States, Margaret was busy training new recruits for the horse patrol unit at the San Diego border.

The summer sun was known to show no mercy and she was bone tired by the time she brought the mustang to a trot, whereas Hidalgo wasn’t breaking a sweat. Thirteen long years as a border patrol agent and five years with Hidalgo, Margaret considered the stallion, more family than a front line asset to ride on. Being a prey animal, his self-preservation instincts had kept her safe from the rock throwers on the other side of the border fence.

Together they headed to the barn. Only miles away from the Rio Grande River, this structure earlier used to be an abandoned warehouse, serving as a convenient hideout for illegal immigrants. Margaret was part of the team, which converted it to a barn, building stables and saddle racks for these wild beasts, who were now an integral part of the border protection team.

 “Hido, you know who’s coming home tonight?!” she patted him, and he nodded with excitement.

“Yep! Today is Becky’s last day at the rehab. Finally, no more drugs!”

Hido had an uncanny ability to sense her feelings, and he figured her hopelessness, despite the feigned enthusiasm in her voice. He licked her face gently and his wisdom humbled her.

Brushing out the tangles and combing his mane, she whispered, “Wish my daughter was as surefooted as you are, Hido!”

The woes of being a single mother had taken its toll on Margaret, and Becky hasn’t made it easy either. Bad friendship had influenced her into addiction and since then, even with multiple attempts at rehab, there had been no recourse.

“Wish I could apprehend the drugs, the same way I apprehend these illegals. For all I care, these countries could keep their destitute and their drugs for themselves”, she couldn’t hide her contempt, and hoped that that the animal wouldn’t read too much into it.

They said it was a boy. They said he was a premature baby. They said he needed to be incubated. They said he was a US citizen. And they moved us to the nearest hospital.

All this felt like a hazy memory when she held the baby in her hands for the first time.

“Alejandro! That’s what your father wanted to name you if you happened to be a boy. I’ll soon tell you about him, our home, and the guardian angel who saved us. If not for her, we both wouldn’t be alive today.”

The baby cooed, responding to the sound of his mother.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to meet her again. Even if we did, I doubt we’ll ever become friends. She’ll not be at your birthday parties, but she’ll be the sister I never had. One woman to another, one mother looking after another.”

Editor’s note: This story had been shortlisted for the Muse of the Month May 2019, but was not one of the final winners.

Image Source: Pexels

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Sangeetha Jaganathan

Am a tad bit of many things - Blogger, Writer, Traveler and at times an IT Manager! read more...

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