In the Northwestern part of the Sonoran Desert, almost reaching the Southwest side of the border between Mexico and the United States, there was Jose. Laid down on the dirt. Barely alive, lightheaded from dehydration. Still, capable of distinguishing the standing tall American flag, flying over the land of the free.
Adapted to the discomfort of his sunburned skin, but agonizing from the pain of the blisters on his feet, Jose was imploring for strength to continue walking. But, the fever along with the moist hot air did not allow him. He had walked for almost ten days. Lost in the Sonoran Desert, tendered from the fear combined with the intense hunger and thirst.
Unable to control the soreness on his feet, Jose made a failed attempt to take off his damaged shoes. The two black tennis shoes. Juana’s last present before his departure from Honduras.
A painful shaft crossed over his chest. The idea of not seeing Juana again.
He wished he could see her one last time. He wished he could touch her one last time. He wished he could kiss her one last time.
Jose forced his mind to travel back in time, to the moment he met Juana.
Juana, wearing that beautiful white dress. With a red tulip over her right ear, holding back her winsome black hair. Charmingly walking in downtown Puerto Cortez, while the sun enhanced her brown eyes and the breeze revealed her figure, hidden underneath the white dress.
He walked towards her. Trying to be spontaneous, he awkwardly complemented the red tulip on her hair. She smiled. In that instant, Jose knew she was the one.
The sound of a rattlesnake brought Jose back to the unpleasant present. The sun was hiding, the temperature had drastically dropped down. Not sure about the future, Jose ignored the presence of the rattlesnake and continued navigating the daydream.
He went back to the moment he asked Juana to be his wife.
Jose was sick. He had gotten sick from a poisonous fruit he ate earlier in the month. He was extremely weak, and could not pay for an appointment with a doctor. Juana remained by his side, taking the best care of him. She cooked for him. She read to him. She even prepared him the homemade remedies that her mother had prepared her when she was a sick child. Nothing worked.
Desperate for his recovery, Juana knitted hundreds of socks and scarfs, while endlessly pinching her fingers with the needles. She went out to the streets of Puerto Cortez and convinced hundreds to buy her socks and scarfs, despite the warm and humid weather of the town. In a matter of three days, Juana arranged a doctor’s visit for Jose. Jose recovered that same day.
Right after Jose was able to walk out of the bed again, he went to visit his mother’s grave. He knelt down and asked his mother’s spirit to permit him use her wedding ring. He wanted to ask Juana to marry him.
He walked back to the house, with the ring inside his pocket. He entered the house and found Juana in pajamas, preparing him rice and chicken. She looked beautiful, she looked perfect.
“Juana, I have something to ask you.” Said Jose.
“Yes, I will marry you.” Said Juana.
Jose, confused but overjoyed, used his hands to wipe the tears off his face. He took his mother’s ring out his pocket and placed it on Juana’s pinched, wounded finger.
The amount of tears coming out of Jose’s eyes led him back to the Sonoran Desert.
It was already nighttime. Cold and windy. Jose reached into his backpack to take out a blanket. A gray blanket that Juana had knitted for him.
He put the blanket over his body. He could still sense the aroma of Juana.
The combination of the soft, warm feeling of the blanket and the glimpse of Juana’s scent guided him back to the moment he told Juana that he wanted to leave Honduras, in the pursuit of the American dream.
Juana and Jose were inside their bed, almost ready to fall asleep. It was a difficult day for Jose. He had been fired from work. He did not tell Juana. He did not want her to be worried, as she was pregnant with their first child.
Jose recalled a conversation he had with a friend earlier in the week. The friend had talked to him about a coyote. A coyote who charged his friend ten thousand dollars to take him to the United States.
Juana noticed the unusual, quiet attitude of Jose. She questioned him about it. Jose lied. She interrogated him until he confessed. He told her about the conversation with his friend. She laugh until she realized that Jose had already made a decision. He was leaving her. He was abandoning her for the sake of a myth. For the sake of the American dream.
Jose tried to comfort Juana by telling her that he would return with enough money to open their own business in Puerto Cortez. He promised to buy her a new, prettier house. He even promised to bring her back a knit machine, so she would not pinch her fingers with the needles.
No matter what Jose told her, no matter what he promised her, Juana did not believe him. She knew she would not see him ever again. She continue to cry.
In less than one week, Jose mortgaged their house. He also took a loan from a bank and borrowed money from family members and friends. He collected a total of twelve thousand dollars. Ten for the coyote. The rest for his expenses until he would find employment in the United States.
A harsh kick on his stomach woke him up from his memories. Two young men, with tattoos on their faces and knives on their hands were standing right next to him. Jose instantly squeezed the backpack into his chest. He begged the two men not to harm him.
The two men remained quiet. One pulled up his shirt and displayed a gun to Jose.
Upon realizing that he had no other choice, Jose stood up and then lifted both of his arms. Both of his legs were still shaking. The backpack violently fell into the dirt. The man who had displayed the gun picked up the backpack. The other one threw a plastic bottle of water to Jose. The two men looked at each other and left.
Jose fell down to his knees and stared at both men. The two young men walking away from him with the only money he had after the coyote abandoned him in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. The two young men walking away from him but towards the standing tall American flag, still flying over the land of the free.
He drank the entire bottle of water. He laughed about the irony of life. Then, he screamed.
“Take me with you to the United States!”