Lorraine Licona

The Life Of An Invisible Man

He kissed his wife and children goodbye
and with nothing more than the clothes on his back
began his long journey to a better life

The scorching heat
beat down on him like a merciless master
The bitter cold of night pierced him to the soul
His feet, blistered and bleeding
Legs weak and failing
he marched on in silence
A plastic gallon bottle of water - his only companion

He closed his eyes and pictured his wife -
Long black hair pulled back in a braid
flipping tortillas between her sun-drenched hands
Child-like eyes smiling innocently
Sunlight dancing upon her lips
as she hummed a tune he couldn’t quite remember
His children running around her
Kicking up dust into the air
Laughing with delight at some made-up game they played

He wasn’t sure if it was a tear or a bead of sweat
that trickled down his cheek

He picked up his pace for a while
and the pain subsided

Five days and five nights he walked till he reached the border
where he was herded with twenty others
into the back of a van
The repugnant stench of bodies was diminished
by the relief of rest
His eyes gave in to the slow humming of the engine
and the gentle rocking of the van
as it sped to it’s final destination

Dressed in hand-me-downs that didn’t quite fit
he began his new life
Self conscious and uncertain, head lowered
His hands moved quickly
In silence he worked
Catching a glimpse of a group of young girls
chatting jovially, giggling over some gossip
in a language that had no meaning to him
They never looked his way
He was invisible to them
He was not of their world

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months
Still he labored in silence
Collecting his pay at the end of the week
he would wire the money to his wife and buy a phone card
With the few dollars he had left
he would go to the little Mexican restaurant at the corner
and order Carne Asada

Sometimes he would buy home-made tamales
from the woman down the street
and take them to the room that he shared
with two other strangers
Carefully unwrapping each one
he would heat them in the microwave
then sit on the old thread-bare sofa
with a Tecate and watch football on TV
Later he would call his wife

Each time they spoke she seemed more distant
Long periods of awkward silence
as if they had nothing left to say
His children hardly remembered him
and his heart ached to go back to his little home in the mountains
When the phone card ran out of time
he would lay down on the old bed with the broken mattress
staring at the ceiling in the dark until sleep took over

Five long years he worked
till he returned
He boarded a bus with hard seats and no suspension
Stop after stop more people were crammed in
till the air became thick
Holding fast as the bus bounced and jostled him like a rag doll
He stared out of the cracked window at the bustling street
as if in a dream
and dozed off a couple of times
He walked the final three miles to his home

His wife greeted him with tears in her eyes
They embraced
but he felt the separation of time between them
His children kissed him on the cheek
then went back to watching some cartoon on TV

He sits on an old weathered chair
silently gazing out over the mountains
His crippled frame unable to work
Eyes weak and failing
Weary and alone
A bottle of tequila - his only companion
His watches his wife - graying hair pulled back in a braid
flipping tortillas between her wrinkled hands
Tired eyes filled with sorrow
Her sun-scorched lips are silent now
His children gone
Following in his footsteps
On their journey to a better life from which he knows
they will never return

He wasn’t sure if it was a tear or a dropp of rain
that trickled down his cheek

He closes his eyes
and recalls the day
he kissed his wife and children goodbye

Lorraine Licona ©

Poem Submitted: Saturday, October 13, 2007
Poem Edited: Saturday, April 16, 2011

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