My dad’s stopped talking about coming from Mexico a long time ago. Probably around the time we moved from the little house we used to live in with the brown front lawn and BP polluted air to the house we have now with its sprawling back yard and pool and swing set I haven’t used in years. Now my sister jokes and says he doesn’t remember it anymore because his back has finally dried off. My dad laughs when she says that too but I don’t really think it’s funny. I don’t think that sacrifice he made when he was just a teenager will ever be something he can forget because it’s not something that even I can forget.
I remember my dad telling me he came to the States when he was eighteen and made his way up to Chicago. I would sit on his lap or on the floor by his feet to listen to him. He would only talk when his guard was down. After a long day at the mill, still in his blues and melted into the couch or after a rum and coke while he lounged in the tiny backyard.
He never told me why he chose Chicago, just that the Coyotes said it was the place to be. He doesn’t really answer my questions when I ask about what it was like for him to make that journey and how he did it. Back then he said I was too young and now he just brushes it off or changes the subject. But I remember asking him once how he knew what the Coyotes were saying to him, they were only animals. He let out a quiet chuckle, ruffling my curly mop before he told me Coyotes were the people who helped him cross the border, who would stash clothes in bushes for him and give him food and shelter, who made sure he didn’t get caught. I asked if they were his friends but he told me he never even knew their names. I don’t know if he was telling me the truth. Back then I did but I know more now. I watch the news and I’ve heard some horrible things. I wish I could ask him now and I wish I could get a real answer.
I remember him telling me his first job was at as restaurant when he finally made it to Chicago. He was a cook in a Mexican restaurant he never told me the name of. He said he got an apartment with two other Mexican immigrants, a guy he worked with and his cousin. They were all told that Chicago was the place to be too. I don’t think I ever asked what happened after that but I know he met my mom at a bar in South Chicago when he was 21 and married her when he was 22. My family jokes that he only married my mom so it would be easier for him to get his papers but I don’t really find that joke funny either.
(A part of ongoing work.)
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