By T.J. McGowan
There was a black mass growing in the ocean off the coast of where she had found herself: a shoreline far from where she was born. One where she tried to hide, but the memories of yesterday always crawled their way back into her life—into her line of sight. Oil spills only she could see, which whispered a lost child’s name. Even at the edge of the world, he haunted her.
Martha is what she called herself now. She was Lupe in another life. His name was Guillermo. She called him Gilly. She hopes another family is doing the same. She tries not to think of the likelihood he has been sold, beaten, or worse. She prays his home is warm, caring, and full of a future worth living. She cries that her last home is at the top of a cliffside: alone and unknown.
The abyss continues to crawl just under the surface of the waves. The people on the beach do not react. They swim, with happy faces, through the blood of all lost voices. There is poetry in death, she thinks—in choosing your own way out when the world won’t miss you. When you hope your child no longer misses you.
Lupe’s husband stayed behind with his dying mother, who was too weak to make the journey north. She died shortly after Lupe and Gilly left, but her husband never found her. He was robbed about thirty-five miles from the border. He was stabbed and left for dead. His body was buried in a town not far from where he was found. Lupe only knew this because he was carrying a letter addressed to an American residence that was to be their new home. The letter waited with an elderly couple for thirteen months until she finally showed up.
This was thirteen months after Gilly was taken from her. They told her he would be returned upon her trial. They told her they would send them back together. They told her he would be okay, that he’d be looked after. He was three.
Martha can barely find a speck of blue left on the horizon. It’s a pool of mud. The burdened see the poison for what it is and where it lies. And how it grows. Only so many bodies can be buried before the earth vomits back the misery of all the souls mistreated for wanting to live a life like anyone else. Martha doesn’t want to be swallowed. She wants to cause an eruption.
Lupe made it into New Mexico under darkness with Gilly asleep in her arms. He was rolled up in one of her shirts. They traveled with a man she’d never see again. He called himself 50/50 as a sort of joke because there was no guarantee he could get everyone across safely. He didn’t venture too far from the border once over. He quickly gave her instructions and a hand drawn map of a dirt road. He explained there would be a truck waiting for her on that road. He told her the driver’s name was Gene and that if she didn’t see the truck when she arrived to retreat back to the hills.
All the instruction didn’t matter because Lupe and Gilly never made it to Gene and his truck. They barely made it a mile before border patrol swept the area they were in. She could see the spotlights approaching in the distance—beasts surveying preying fields.
The last thing she ever said to him before he was loaded into a separate vehicle was, “I will be back soon.” She has spent her life trying to put herself in the shoes of a three-year-old boy who didn’t know his mother was lying to him. He would be eighteen now, still potentially waiting for her to come back. She thinks, maybe, if she jumps with her husband’s note in her pocket, the headlines will reach Gilly, wherever he may be. And that he will understand that stepping off a rock was her only option to return to him.
The ocean looks like night under the slow burning sun. he is no longer Martha or Lupe, but a stone skipping between the pain she left behind and the pain that will always await her if she continues to wake up. There is no hell worse than losing all that you love and having to continue breathing without it. She can only see him through her tears until she sees no more.