Wind Plain

He held her foot in his hands. Her bones ached, but warmth spread up her arch as his thumb dug into the muscle where it had hurt for days, since wearing flip flops while crossing the border. Now both thumbs stroked while he shook his head, closed his eyes, and said her name. Danika.

The middle of a hot day, they rested on the plateau where it was easy to see through layers of haze blueing the mountains across the valley. Stones dug into their buttocks, backs. Sun washed their necks. Sweat fumed in their armpits, slippery with the odor of pine needles. A gallon jug lay next to them, almost empty. No one but them for miles around.

A silly idea to be here, the why of it a question hanging on a cloud that had already traveled over the desert, out to sea. A brother who always looked up to her: He insisted on coming too when she told their parents it was time to leave. The neighborhood boys had grown up to expect guns to make all the decisions.

This was not her life but the lives of migrants she’d read about in newspapers, seen on Youtube, Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter. Videos of girls south of the border no longer crying but speaking in monotone about knives to throats, money extracted, rape — what commentators called sexual assault but which really was very simple: the angry thrust of a penis into a vagina or anus. Rape: Why all this terrorizing of body parts? Why all this destruction of the sacred place that birthed new beings?

This child of a once civilized city hadn’t had a choice; she had to leave and her brother too. His name, Tim, said more about him than it should have. Tim was timid, a quiet, adoring soul. He sat, thin arms and torso, over a plate of pasta moving the shapes around to make a design he could admire. He gazed down at books for hours. He could play the piano. He listened rather than spoke. In the city of their parents boys like him were killed before reaching eighteen.

This was how they’d left: Before dawn, when all the guns had finally fallen asleep. They’d crept out, each carrying a valise stuffed with cash, clothing, a few coriander seeds their parents had shaken from the withered stalks in a window box. It had been hard to carry the bags on the avenue of their childhood, especially as they tried not to be seen. A shattered storefront, the old grocery a hole full of shelving now resembling pins and needles. A traffic light upside down and threatening to decapitate those wandering beneath it. A cat staring from a shadow ledge as if affirming that it was their turn to be turned out. But it should not have been anyone’s turn. Danika always thought there should have been more chairs in the game of musical chairs.

As with any game, all their planning came to nothing. They’d lost their bags in the big intersection at the end of the highway ramp where the sideshows happened — by the river where they might have been tied to stones and thrown in — where Danika and Tim evaded rape because they once knew the sister of the guy holding a sawed-off shotgun to Tim’s head while whispering something like, “You’re canned tuna, but I never saw you.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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What you really want to know is whether I’ve met a mountain lion. In fact, I have. Once, I walked along a residential street in an unnamed city….

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Crystal Jo

Crystal Jo

What you really want to know is whether I’ve met a mountain lion. In fact, I have. Once, I walked along a residential street in an unnamed city….

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