For a moment Ignacio forgets himself, forgets the wails of the baby next door that pierce the clapboard apartment walls, forgets the tension in the space just above his shoulder blades that flares with each unattended scream. From his third-floor window he is looking at the sidewalk below and the rain, just enough to mat the filth to the concrete, to weigh the plastic shopping bags and candy wrappers firmly in place, but never enough to wash everything clean, never. He smiles at the memory of a childhood focused on escaping Chiapas and its poverty for El Norte, where everyone willing to work hard could have a better life. More than anything he wanted to live in cleanliness, and America was clean, he thought, modern and clean, with burly machines to wash the roads and even the gutters. He smiles because of the grime, because of its unique urban character, because it makes him long for the simple dirt he knew in youth, and even for the desolate muck of his two-week journey here four years earlier. He remembers how his cousins laughed the day of his arrival here when he suggested they walk down to la playa. He remembers his disappointment upon finally seeing the beach, his incredulity at how there can be an ocean with no waves, a flat and stagnant surface. But down by the water he saw a Long Beach unlike the Long Beach in which he lives and congregates with other braceros hoping to be chosen for whatever menial labor los gringos need that day. He smiles as he gazes south because it seems to him the promised land is always somewhere else: El Norte, al sur, never here.
Story by Greggory Moore
Artwork by Stephan Canthal
Published in Book by Authors: North Long Beach Anthology, 2009