THE LAND NEVER HINDERS
Juana Rosada Maratin, with a suddenly cry, woke up. After a few minutes she calmed down again slightly.
She felt floating when she sat up on the edge of the bed and she seemed lost within her own tormenting thoughts.
She stood and went to the farthest corner of the room. She switched on the light bulb that threatened to flick out. Her female features, against the light from the open window, took a horrible, death-like pallor. It was that nightmares of broken heads and bloodied bodies and torn up earth full of crowding ants that seemed to follow her, imagining herself in the dream being struck repeatedly by curse hands.
Still frightened, she spun around on her heels and remained for several minutes without knowing what to do. When at last she sat back down on the edge of the bed, gazing at the room, sunken in that sticky twilight those haunting eyes, the woman shuddered; this time it was with revulsion.
But on settling her gaze upon her child sleeping in a corner and on her husband snoring to her left side, Juana Rosada breathed freely. What a strange nightmare! She silently cursed herself by taking up her hair with a barrette.
She got up again with a different thought and walked to the window and looked out.
The chill breeze of San Francisco's bay made her hug herself instantly. She withdrew from the window, breathing deeply, seeking the room's scare air into her lungs.
She thought of going once again to the window and to breathe more easily. But she dismissed the idea glancing to the right, fearful of waking the tot.
When she started to move toward the left side of the room, dwelling through these severing of heads and limbs for which she had dreamt, the corpse-like from of her husband seemed more grotesque, sunk in those sickly snores.
She wanted to wake him and beg him once more to speak to the Immigration officials again and ask them to deliver the message to Mr. Robert Drake who had the case. Juana had put all her faith on him. Because Mr. Drake know what to do if they decide to deport them. And as God lives, Mr. Drake had done so far a well job for them, almost discrediting himself for their sakes.
But, again, nothing could be done if that lady lawyer named Hortencia Rimos would not send those damned papers back to him, and once in his hands he could read them to that Judge Rock who merely glanced at them that afternoon and he could get a satisfactory verdict. I'm sure he'll win this for us, she thought.
Instead of cursing Lawyer Hortencia, she went to the corner of the room and knelt before a wooden image of Our Deliver Jesus and murmured a paternoster. "Dios mío...Dios mío ¿por qué nos has desamparado? ¿Por qué estás tan lejos de nuestras salvación, y de las palabras de mi clamor? Dios mío, clamo de día y de noche, y no respondes. Y de noche, y no hay para mí repose..."
Then, rising and going to the cloth postilion, she was about to pray again over the cradle. Juana could barely open her mouth to say a rosary when another of the man's snores interrupted her.
She turned her head and gazed at the bed. His mouth was opened and shut seeking the scare air that circulated in the room.
Juana rose to her feet and wanted to wake him and remind him to go see Mr. Drake.
Once again, she hesitated. And then she returned to the corner and, crossing herself beneath the image of the Virgin del Rosario, she remained still before her for whom she felt a special affection.
At last she got up. Having taken a look upon Our Deliver and then to the Virgin del Rosario, she crossed the room and stood by the cradle. A cradle that's resting on a crate and it was woman's only pride of joy.
The Mexican woman gazed down for a moment at the body who was sleeping fast in a nest made of sheets and dirty rags.
Again she heard the dry and consumption snores.
She wanted to curse him. But what was the reason? she said to herself. Was it his fault that he's been thrown off that job? Those inspectors knew something or others, and before anybody had known what had happened, they were all outside standing against the clammy walls of the subway.
The world had brought her yet another misfortune. It's part of our destiny, she thought. Now that the little tot was a nuisance, no matter how much she'd wanted him. Why did she not wait? But Juana knew that she loved too much Gabrielito like a lovelorn knight to let him down not to give him such a baby.
It had been for him. To make him happy and to get out of that pueblo once and for all. That flight had also been for him. Always for him.
In spite of the joy and the sorrow she had undergone it; and it had also been for Gabriel this dream to come to America.
Her Gabrielito! That consumptive snorer who was laying asleep, mouth tilted upwards in expectation of death.
She could remember it.
How she now remembered that day! Gabriel lay alone in that filthy jailcell, from which as much as Juana Rosada was trying to bring him any little thing to distract him, she could not retrieve his pain what he felt. The food they given him in jail had sickened him and with each visit he's worsened. He always complained of the food that were cassava, damp cornmush and dry breads.
But Juana, his Juanita as he called her, took him chicken as stacks of rich cornmeal tortillas. Nothing, nothing could awaken him the enthusiasm of that day of her first encounter on which she remembered him walking along the riverbank fishing and over the hills when he declared his love.
For Gabriel all was dead and there was no any sacrifice to bring it back. Except, in the second of July, he told her the promise of marriage that he made to her in Jalisco jail. Getting out of this dried-land and how happy they would be in Mexico City.
"We'll be getting ready to be married and you will see everything will be okay, mi amorcito."
Just as his dream was taking forms in his head, that badly scrawled note that Juana Rosada had written to him, given him the impression that nothing had been changed back in the pueblo and he enclosed himself in another aguish of waiting.
When they transferred him to Tijuana, the years passed and the summer months of July and August arrived.
One day he was snoozing when the warder Gregorio, a gross and quarrelsome man, announced the arrival of Juana Rosada in person. It's a total surprise. Because it was the last thing he would be expecting after sending her that letter that he wrote to her a week ago, telling her to forget about him.
Gabriel never expected the woman to have the saintliness to visit him. But here she was, and she wanted to see him. Juana Rosada Maratin herself, his Juanita. There was no doubt this unexpected visit had cheered him.
It had been, however, about the middle of December that he had wanted to break off with her. It was all due to his useless efforts to get out of poverty and that dream of his that would never come true if he would stay in his pigsty of a pueblo and anywhere near the impressions that Juana Rosada's mother hurled at him.
Juana Rosada's mother, Doña Clara, was saying that Gabriel was a hobo and a damned dreamer. Because, she thought, Gabriel didn't love her and he wasn't going to stay in the pueblo to plow the land and care for the pigs and muck the goashit out of shed. Nor dirty his hands for anybody but was going to head north and forget about her.
"But mamma, you must understand he loves!"
"He won't love you, silly child," her mother yelled from the threshold. "A man can't dream too much. See, Juanita. He's working too little, as he's expecting to live already in a land that seems to open its arms to him. Damnable dreamer!"
"Just you don't want to be fair."
"Of course not. He's a damned creature like you," the woman stepped into the dusty pathway." He should never have been borne! God forgive me!" Pronounced the old woman, with a vigorous oath hurled at the dried-up soil.
Juana loved him and there was a Gabrielian hook that she liked of his: his dreamer's stubborn resistance.
Really, looking at it, the young Juana Rosada had made a mistake. Nevertheless, she held this error as part-and-parcel of a woman's punishment, and because she thought that with Gabriel's getting out of this filthy land the man would change. On the other hand, Gabriel had promised her that one day, not far off, he would take her to Mexico City or to the United States.
The girl didn't care where he would take her; she only wanted to be with her man, to see him every day next to her.
No matter how it was, Juana desired him and she was belong to him completely. She loved him and swore to love him till death. Though she had gone up against the unwritten rubs of Old Doña Clara, she did not care to follow him.
"Juanita! It's really you!
That's Gabriel's exclamation when he saw her standing up against the bars of the jail. He stepped forward and embraced her in front of that ugly jailer to whom Juana Rosada had given her body to be able to see Gabriel.
"I'm very scared, Gabrielito," the woman said to him. "I told my mamacita that I was going to Jalisco. But here I am, mi amor. I want to be your wife."
And she handed him a ring made of a golden-colored wire that she had twisted into shape during the trip.
He took it and looked at it.
Juanita was aware that every day the idea to emigrate to Costa Rica stewed in their mind; due to continual discussions she had with her mother for the past few days. "You suppose if he never come out of the jail?"
"He will be free, mama."
"That what you told her?"
"Yes. And there was more. She blamed you for all what's happening."
"What did she say?"
"She cursed it again. She said, 'To leave this dirty pueblo will not be easier. This is more that a noisily than a cawing of crows and the hooting of the owls and the shrieking of the dried and dusty land when the northwest wind blows, my child, as thought it were a grinning against hunger and against the corroding of human courage by the savannah.'"
"I see she didn't never has anything in her heart for me."
It's just a thought. For Gabriel it was a devil's lament, and he didn't want to die there.
"It better to die in any other land than here," he said seriously, looking at the walls.
Although he, scared by not being able top come across anything other than poverty, had tried to jump the border many times. Like the last time, when he'd been caught on that occasion for stealing a car, forgetting for a moment Juana Rosada's love.
Shy, comforting herself with her dreamer Gabriel's little phrases of love and her memories, she went about taking off her clothing.
To Gabriel's eyes there gradually appeared a thickest body, a pair of small, pointed breasts tipped with black buds the size of dark grapes. Feelings the cares of those hands, smooth but thick as the offspring of the true Indian, he helped her to take off her last clothes.
He ended up loving her and succeeding at last in banishing those well-known doubts that he had heard in prison of the surrender women or their daughters as payment for that privilege that he now enjoyed.
He smiled. Nude, he brought himself forward. He had longed for that body a great long while and he felt happy for the first time.
As though she were mounting like a jackdonkey, Juana straddled Gabriel. Juana Rosada wanted to be pregnant as soon as possible by him, and not by that revolting jailer who had forced her to beg him to let her visit her Gabriel.
It seemed to her that she heard her cries.
She had wondered along tortuous paths, among hills and plains, only to be caught by what she herself had done, and by that surrender against her mother's warning, who, on coming back out pregnant, Juana Rosada had to forget her forever.
Moreover that surrender, that was like that of a mule to a horse, without neighing and clumsy, to the jailer, now became tormenting and cruel.
Gabriel continued enjoying her body as though it were the first time for Juana. She began to howl like as sorely-wounded animal...
A tiny cry interrupted her reveries and she bent over the cradle, fearful. The child struggled convulsively.
He wailed again, slightly. Then, mixed up with his father's snores, he emitted a bubbling sound, stretching out his little arms and legs and fell still.
"No!" Damned dream! No!" She screamed, stroking his hair, bearing in mind the voice of her mother Doña Clara back in her native land along with that nightmare of hers.
There was sound; and then a voice was heard. She turned around, panicked. It was not a dream; because there were somebody knocking incessantly at the door. But, at this hour of the morning, it was impossible.
She looked at an old clock. It was five o'clock in the morning. As frightened as she was, Juana Rosada went to the door and opened it.
Standing in front of her, wearing immigration uniforms and surrounded by San Francisco police, there were three men who identified themselves as agents. One of them, without saying a word, entered into the apartment and strode directly to the bedroom, awaking Juana Rosada's husband at a blow.
Gabriel uttered a sickly snore of protest, awaking alarmed and then murmured, with his eyes feverish, on seeing those men in blue with several faces at once.
When he were able to understand what was happening, another of the band had already gathered up the couple's rags, tied them up in a sheet, and they were pushing him out from the bedroom to the open door.
Juana Rosada, on her part, protested fiercely. She shrieked something about American rights and legal processes and other memorized lines that Mr. Drake had taught her.
But they were not heard her and it was impossible for her to pick up the child in the cradle. Making gestures to the agents, she tried to make herself understood.
"Speak English, goddamn it!"
"¡Mi niño! ¡Mi niño!...My baby...!"
The policemen, swinging their heads toward the place indicating by Juana' gestures, and finally understood, by means of those desperate gesticulations, what the woman wished to say.
"But that kid's dead!" the man said.
Juana Rosada took up the child, and the gazed heavenward, she understood that she were once more walking beneath a fierce July sun.
After the time they spent locked up in the jailcell, Gabriel and Juana Rosada with her dead child in her arms reached the border. They were tossed them like a package onto the dry and dusty Mexican soil.
She glanced at the husband, nearly poisoned by his groans and by the strong wind, surprised as he was still against her breast.
In reality, she felt nor anger nor hunger, only burdened by a strange sorrow on seeing that immense land that stretched before her eyes; hard, that now pitilessly received that inert little corpse and the craven weeping of her Gabrielito.
"Don't cry! Don't cry, my husband! Soon night will fall, and we will make another try at it. Don't cry!" She said again and again to give herself spirit to keep going.
Meanwhile, in the distance through the dried up trees, the wind and the sun of July makes themselves felt ever more. Or perhaps it was like a sweet maternal voice that never ceased to call out and spoke in the distance.
Jalisco, Mexico July 19, 1998.