This weekend, we went camping, and I transported an alien. Not the good kind. A green, bug eyed creature would certainly have been something thrilling, a little scary and somewhat exciting. Ours was the illegal kind. Scary, disrupting and unsettling.
It was Andra’s first hunt, and Phil and Andra were out. Grace and I slept in. It was cool in the camper, and so when I woke up I started the coffee – the smell woke me up, and was relaxing. I was looking forward to a much needed break to relax on a camping trip with my family. I opened the door to let the warmer air outside in, and pulled open the shades. I was going to grab my book and enjoy the Arizona morning over my coffee. I was stirring the creamer into my coffee, when bam. A woman was in the doorway.
She was about 20. Dressed in many layers, with a backpack and a water in her hand. She started on a long, impassioned speech in Spanish to which I replied in shock “No Habla Espanol”. She continued. I kept telling her No. I kept telling her I didn’t understand. And yet, I DID understand. Not the details, but that she wanted to stay in our camper all day. NO. She wanted to stay under the camper. To avoid the helicopters that fly over the Southern Arizona desert looking for folks just like her in the day time. NO. I was trying to get her to go away before she woke Grace up, and I was still surprised and more than a little defensive that she would walk right up and start making demands on me when, I admit entirely self centered, I just wanted my coffee and a little peace. I gave her some pop tarts, and told her NO. Then, of course, Grace heard us and came out, worried. The girl wanted a phone, she wanted a car, she had been lost in the desert for days (but strangely still had ice in her water). She sat on my step and would not leave.
Now that Grace was awake, my dilemma was even greater. I have to say right now that I generally consider myself sympathetic and caring. But at that moment, I just wanted her to go away. She certainly didn’t look like she was in terrible distress, although of course anyone who had left their home to walk through the desert had to be in some distress. Here is the trouble.
a) She can’t stay with us.
b) She can’t stay UNDER us – we are 10 feet from the road, and the border patrol is moving on that road every half hour.
c) I started explaining I couldn’t take her anywhere because I was waiting for family to come back from hunting. THAT’S RIGHT, HUNTING. So if I point her in the direction of the nearest house, she is walking through HUNTING SEASON.
Damn it. I even gave her my impassioned speech, in English, of course, that I didn’t make the choice to put her in the desert with no phone, and no apparent idea of where she was going. She just kept saying Estados Unidos. Yea, I get that part, but WHERE? It’s an awfully big place.
You must, at this point, understand that the skies and roads are full of border patrol in this part of Arizona. There was a check point on either side of us. A game and fish information camp at the end of the dirt road. Hunting season. And 2 houses at a ranch nearby – the only thing that wasn’t me delivering her directly, kicking and screaming into the hands of immigration. In front of Grace.
I admit it. The crying and begging got to me. And the fear of permanently scarring Grace by seeing me either turn over this girl, or have immigration catch her with us before I could get her away from us.
And yet, she is still with us. Grace can’t sleep. I can’t enjoy the desert, because I am constantly scanning the horizon. We have talked about borders, and visas, and immigration and desperation. Heavy topics. I didn’t sleep, because I kept hearing voices, or car doors. Grace insisted we keep all the doors locked this morning until we left camp because she was worried.
It wasn’t the relaxing weekend I needed, or wanted, and even so, I still feel selfish and spoiled for admitting that. As I drove up to the house this afternoon, more than anything else, I was truly, and genuinely THANKFUL. For everything. For my life. For being born, and living right here where I belong.