Edgar At the Wall

We sit on the steps of a refugee shelter on the Mexico side of the equation, in Nogales, Sonora. The shelter is a simple shack next to the US/Mexico border. Usually 30 people stay here while waiting for their chance at asylum in the US; today there are 80 men, women and children crammed into this tiny place of refuge. They sleep on the rooftop, they pile into bunk beds, and their sleeping bags are lined up like cord wood on the floor. There is a black puppy that is tied up by the kitchen door which seems to calm the children.

Edgar, a 12 year old boy from Honduras, sits beside me on the steep steps of the shelter, and we stare at the wall about 20 feet away. There are trucks on the US side with men in camouflage putting up razor wire. We watch them for awhile, grateful to be in our own little world, away from the chaos of the shelter. Edgar wears a jacket and sweatpants with the LA Lakers emblazoned in red, white, and blue. His English is quite good—better than my Spanish. He is here with his mother and younger brother.

“So, why are they putting up all the wire?” he asks.

I am fumbling for an answer. How do I tell this child that my country is putting up razor wire because we are afraid of his people? We are building walls festooned with razor wire to keep out brown people fleeing the poverty and violence of their own country.

Edgar wants an answer: “So, is the wire to keep the Americans inside their own country? Are they locking the Americans inside?”

And indeed, the razor wire looks like we are imprisoned inside our own country.

I ask Edgar what he is most excited about when he goes through the asylum process.

“I want to go to school. I haven’t been to school in 2 years. The bullies attacked me and so my mother would not allow me to go to school. That’s why we are going to los Estados Unidos. My grandmother lives in Modesto.”

Edgar parts his hair and shows me a scar on his skull—the result of a beating by the bullies at his school. I am horrified.

“So where is your father?” I ask.

“He was killed last year. My mother cries all the time now, and so I can’t cry anymore. I have to help get us to America.”

Edgar is matter-of-fact about all of this. Mostly, he wants to practice his English with me.

The black puppy joins us, and licks his face. The solemnity of the moment passes, as Edgar leans back on the steps and lets the puppy nip at his nose, his hair, his ears. There are giggles and squeals, and the puppy pees on my leg.

I have relived this moment with Edgar a hundred times, and have a dream of him going to school in Modesto, maybe attending a Lakers game someday, and living a life free of bullies and razor wire. He has blessed my life today. He will bless my country in a thousand ways if we open our doors.

~ by Peg Bowden on September 11, 2019.

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