“Border Crystal” by John Washington, Arizona

Borders August 15, 2011 20:13

topic: BORDERS medium: TEXT

This story won the “Borders” contest in February 2010

Get to know John better by going Behind the Story

He said that he came to work, not to cross the wall this time, but just to work in some of the factories along the border, and I believed him. He told me that he was religious, and I believed him about that, too. And he found a job, like he was looking for, in a factory within sight of the borderwall. His plan was to work for a few years, save up enough money to buy a house, and then get married. He was only in his twenties. He told me that some of the other men at the factory were better workers than he was, and that they were making more money because they were installing the circuits faster than he was. For awhile, he said, he thought that they were just better workers than he was, that he was used to farming and that they were used to machines, but then one day they told him their secret. They showed him the crystal, which was a methrock, and they showed him how to smoke it, and they admitted it was a drug but one, they said, that you could live with, one that you could work with, and they told him that they weren’t even addicted to it, that they were only smoking for a few years, to make money, to do their jobs better, and that then they would stop and go back to their land, that they would return to their tierra, just the same as him. And so the man started smoking, and he soon found he could work as fast as the other men, even faster, and he started making more and more money, and he started smoking more and more. He was doing it for his family, he told me, for his future, for his future wife, for his future children, to put a better future roof over their heads. And he found that he didn’t even want to sleep anymore, that all he needed was to work, to work and smoke and put the circuits together, and he wrote home to his parents and he sent money to them and sent money to his tíos too. He told me that he called his brother and told him he would come home in a year, that he would be a rich man, that they would buy their own land and their own animals too, and that they would build their houses together, and he made plans and worked and smoked and worked and hardly slept until, one day, he told me, without any warning or explanation, the factory closed. He showed up for work one night, like he always did, and there were security guards there, and they wouldn’t even let him in the building. He was out of a job. He walked back into the city, his hands working, his hands wanting after the circuits to put together, his hands working and working. He told me he had just wired a paycheck to his parents, that he was living in a house with five other men, that he was more addicted, he told me, to the circuits than to the crystals. So that one night, he told me, about a week after he had been fired, after walking the city nights night after night for five nights, looking at the men and women sleeping on the ground, the bodies as if waiting for the earth to open and take them into its grave, walking by the hustlers and prostititues and sharing the peddling of nights with them and the bodies, that, without planning it, he broke back into his old factory, just, he told me, to do some work. He was so hungry, he said, he didn’t have a choice. And he found that everything in the factory was just like when he left it, that they hadn’t packed up yet. And so he started working. And so he spent all the night working. And in the morning, when he expected someone, a security guard, or his old boss, to come and find him, no one came, and so he kept on working. He worked all day and into the second night, but then, without realizing it, he must have fallen asleep. And when he woke, on the floor of the factory, it was because the bulldozers were pulling down the walls. They were building a new factory, he said, before they had even cleaned out the old one. And that is how construction goes, he told me, you have to do some knocking down first. You can build on top, but you have to do some destruction before you do the construction, to level the ground, to lay it all level, to clear out all the old circuits and crystals and the hands that were working them. And when the man woke up, he ran out of the open wall of his factory. And now he was on his way, he told me, when he told me his story, over the wall, north again.

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