NOVEMBER 9, 2016
Today is the day for silence. I have experienced grief before; I have held it in my body and know its weight. Today I am grieving. Hollow-eyed, lugubrious, I am a body of water spilling over. My unwillingness to meet another's gaze is self preservation: Do not ask me the question to which I do not have the answer.
Because I was born into one country I was gifted, right away, the right to travel freely and without fear to any other. So this morning I took my grief for a swim in the ocean off the coast of a country 4,000 miles from mine. Face to the waves I thought of Azul, a woman I had met just a few days before in her daughter and son-in-law's neat and spare home in Western Pennsylvania, beautiful country broken apart by the Delaware River and Make America Great Again signs punched into the dirt.
As way of introduction Azul shared her story. She came to Pike County from Mexico to be with her daughter who greeted us at the front door holding a fuzzy-headed baby, her first, in a tiny pink blanket. Away from her homeland Azul looked up at the spruce pines around us, almost bare though the day was warm, and spoke of them as her brothers and sisters. "Wherever I am in the world, I am home," she said. "This land is family I am just now meeting."
Compact and graceful, efficient in Spanish and sinuous in English, Azul was fearless. "If I have it, I use it. If I don't have it, I don't need it," she said, as if it were the plainest truth in the world.
In the ocean I cried for Azul, now in limbo more than ever, home away from home in a country that claims it does not want her. I thought of Mexico and my own desire to go there again, to return to Oaxaca and visit the rocks that look like waterfalls; to snap a fried cricket between my teeth; to feel my breath, caught short in my chest, in Mexico City; and drive the length of the Baja Peninsula in a car streaky with dust. Why should I be welcomed there now? Native, overnight, to a country that wants to keep our people in, your people out.
I felt, for the first time, what it might be like to be a political refugee. It passed through me at bone level, first the terror of belonging to a country so deeply unaligned with my own ideals; and then, imagining an asylum seeker marginalized, punished, shunned by the places she sought to make her home, the terror transformed and catapulted into a sadness too big to name, a mourning for a loss I have never imagined and for all those who do know it in their bones, a birthright like any other.
How small the world would be if I could not go out from the place that made me.
Today is the day for silence, for allowing my waters to move. Tomorrow I will start again. Tomorrow I will get loud.