Advertisement

LOURDES

LOURDES
LOURDES

Lourdes, 35, has come to love North Carolina. People are polite. There are plenty of jobs for immigrants, and it seems to be safe. She can leave her car unlocked, as well as her house.

A gray album holds treasures: pictures of Belky, her daughter back home. At 7, Belky wears a white First Communion dress; at 9, a yellow cheerleader's skirt; at 15, for her

Advertisement

quinceañera

, a pink taffeta dress and white satin shoes. There are pictures of Enrique too: at 8 in a tank top, with four piglets at his feet; at 13 in the photograph at Belky's

quinceañera

, the serious-looking little brother.

Lourdes has not slept. All night, since Enrique's last call from a pay phone across the Rio Grande, she has been having visions of him dead, floating on the river, his body wet and swollen. She told her boyfriend, "My greatest fear is to never see him again."

Now a female smuggler is on the phone. The woman says: We have your son in Texas, but $1,200 is not enough. $1,700.

Lourdes grows suspicious. Maybe Enrique is dead, and the smugglers are trying to cash in. "Put him on the line."

He is out shopping for food, the smuggler says.

Lourdes will not be put off.

He is asleep, the smuggler says.

How can he be both? Lourdes demands to talk to him.

Finally, the smuggler gives the phone to Enrique.

"¿Sos tu?"

his mother asks anxiously. "Is it you?"

"Si, Mami,

it's me."

Still, his mother is not sure. She does not recognize his voice. She has heard it only half a dozen times in 11 years.

"¿Sos tu?"

she asks again. Then twice more. She grasps for something, anything, that she can ask this boy--a question that no one but Enrique can answer. She remembers what he told her about his shoes when he called on the pay phone.

"What kind of shoes do you have on?" she asks.

"Two left shoes," Enrique says.

Fear drains from his mother like a wave back into the sea. It

is

Enrique. She feels a moment of pure happiness.

     [ Return to Top ] NEXT: WAITING
Advertisement
Advertisement