From the third Tri Short Story Collection A Corner Of The World
They said that the water was rough and the darkness was thick when they made that journey. My grandparents came here that night on a boat. They were seeking a better life. They found it, but they returned home. Returned back to The Land of Little. I never understood why.
My parents came years later. They, too, were among the sometimes hundred packed on a wooden boat like slaves going across the Middle Passage. The difference being that they were not slaves. And the passage was a body of water between their country and the one they wanted to go to. They also were going to their freedom, not being taken away from it. Nonetheless, the trek was dangerous.
And yet some still come.
You could see some of their faces on TV; the ones that were apprehended. You could see them on the news with arthritic like fingers on the older set as they rubbed their aged, frowning foreheads. And the chewed down fingernails on the younger set as they tried to cover their faces from the sun. Both set with their pupils like black holes sucking in everything that was around them. And then I would ask myself was it worth it all? Was it worth paying all that money to be smuggled in at night? And, then, I would think about my parents.
They stayed. I was born here. And seeing that I am almost eighteen, two more months to go, I have to decide if this is my motherland. If the country of my birth, The Land of Some, or a place I have never been to, The Land of Little, will get my full allegiance. I thought the first one already had it. I guess I was wrong.
“It is not that they are asking you for blood,” my brother said. He was born here at the right time. “They just want to make it official and to give you a passport and status.“
“But I was born here.”
“But there are rules that everyone has to follow and obey. You are not the only one, you know, so do not think that they are picking on you.”
He is the smart one in the family, not that I am not. I am just not as smart as he is. My parents would speak to him in the language of The Land of Little, and he would always answer back in English. “English is the mother tongue,” he would tell them. “If you come to a country to live, you must learn how to speak the language.” My parents know English pretty well; they also know their own language—and they want to keep it.
I will not mind getting a passport. It will be great. My very own blue book. I will get to travel easily to The Land of Plenty and not be hassled or questioned repeatedly as if I belong to some terrorist group or something. That my intent is to shop and experience a different culture, not to destroy or to stay. Maybe that is it, they probably think every time I travel to their country I may not return. I would want to stay. As if.
Getting a visa may be easier also. When I went to the Land of Plenty’s embassy, I sat there honest and straightforward when they had called me up for my interview, but they thought that I was lying. I had the required documents they had asked for. And in my mind I was thinking that I had forgotten to bring a polygraph test. That was not a part of the things required. When I was at the airport and it was my time to go to the counter and I presented my travel document, the guy looked at me funny and then turned around and began to type something on his computer. And as he typed, he looked at me from out the corner of his eye, scanning me with questionable intent. And me, well I just stood there thinking, God, please let him let me through. Sometimes some people from The Land of Plenty can be so paranoid. Or perhaps it is like that everywhere. After all, I was trying to enter someone’s country legally.
Some speak of this global village, but do they know what it really means? Do they know for what they are asking and why? It is all cloak-and-dagger to me.
I have never asked my parents if The Land of Plenty was their true destination, not here. If staying in this country was for a time being. And becoming too complacent or familiar, they stayed here. If you read the news and statistics report, majority of the time it is in fact another place that the boat people, illegal immigrants, The Land of Little migrants or whatever other name they have want to be. Maybe my mother and father settled too quickly and I could have been a Land of Plenty citizen and not . . . What am I again?
Mrs.Agnes is forty-three and lived here for over twenty years. She finally applied, paid, and got her citizenship. She came on a boat, too, not the same one as my parents or grandparents.
“If you don’t be behind them, they’ll forget about you.” That was what she told my mother. My parents knew— they paid the government to become Land of Some citizens too. But I guess it is like that everywhere. That tape is always red.
And back to Mrs. Agnes, she voted. Another thing my brother told me. “Just think about getting that right and privilege. You will be able to vote and be a part of, join in a democratic process.” I guess he does not know my views on politicians.
Other than the fact that we were born to the same parents, in the same country, are black, and the obvious difference in genders, the only thing that my sibling and I have in common is the prejudice we share from time to time. Some people call us names and tell us to go back to where we came from. See our last name is not like their own. Perhaps it is not as smooth sounding as it should be. He just let it slide away like water on a smooth surface. Me, like I said, I am not as smart as he is.
And I will get very mad at him. Not because he is being mature in his approach to those idiots but because it seems as if he just does not care. I am like a house in a storm, strong winds blowing, rain gushing, and debris flying—and he is inside. He is safe. And while I am trying to get him to understand, my mother would come and take his side. Sometimes I wonder if I was a mistake. But I take that thought no further because it may muddle the water. He will be married soon. As for my father, he just ignores all of us. Perhaps he is the smartest person in this family.
My best friend sister came back from college in The Land of Plenty. Her sister told her that The Land of Blackness is the true motherland of all black people. I told her to tell her sister not to try muddle the water.
Last week I finally went into the immigration office and sat down and spoke with someone about the process. I was trying to find out about the things that I will need to do.
“And what if I refuse to apply?” I asked.
“Then you wouldn’t be a citizen of this country,” she replied.
“And that will make me illegal?” I asked as I stared into her eyes. That is one thing that I can thank my brother for. He taught me that while speaking with someone always look them in the eyes.
She shuffled some papers and then answered the telephone. And while she did that, I thought of the raid that they had. How the public bus was stopped and people with questionable looks were asked for their papers. Am I just like them–‒illegal? Maybe I do not have the “look” or “speech”, but are we in the same boat? When I talk there is no accent.
I also questioned why is it that I have to pay a foreign rate when I go to the clinic or other government places. “Well you see,” she began, “the law stipulates that at present that you’re a foreigner and you have to pay differently as oppose to a local.” Another thing my brother and I cannot agree on. At least on that, I thought, I hoped that he would have been on my side. Does he not see this as unfair?
“You know that you are being ungrateful.”
“I do not believe you.”
“Some people would kill just to be born in a free country. I fact, they are killing to make where they live free.
“I smiled at him and started to speak in the language of The Land of Little, which irked him. So from that day forward, whenever he spoke to me, I answered back in the language of The Land of Little.
But maybe he has a point.
My mom said that after the application is approved they will call the person and tell him or her what time they can come in. They will give details on what happens next. They will have a swearing in ceremony with others that will also get the right to remain here as citizens.
I want to go to The Land of Little. I thought by now that I would have made that trip already. My brother has no desire to go. His lost.
Well, I brought home the application, just in case. My brother would not even bother looking at it. “If I was the oldest—”
“You are not.” Even though I asked in the language of The Land of Little, he could not help himself.
“Well if I was what would you do? Would you be making a big deal of it?”
“You mean like you?”
“This is very important.”
“I would have applied before my eighteenth birthday. If you started early, then maybe the process would not take as long.”
“We are talking about a government ministry.”
“You asked for my opinion.”
“I would have also already made copies of all the documents that they would be asking for.”
“If you could have been a citizen of any country, would you have chosen this one?”
“What a stupid question,” he said as he shifted in his seat.
“We are all born somewhere. We all belong somewhere. And asking silly questions like that would not change that fact.”
“I know we are all born somewhere. But if you could have changed where you were born, would you?”
“This is my motherland.”
“Is it mine?”
“Another silly question,” he said as he got up and left the room.
And from that point I figured out that it was not a question of loyalty for him but a question of not having a choice. He did not choose to be born here, but he was. He, too, probably has a lot of questions. But being who he is, he will never ask.
But I do agree with him. We are all born somewhere. We all belong somewhere. But what I am trying to figure out is, is it here? The answer lies in me not knowing any other place.
This story is an original idea written by me.© Thanks for reading.
See you next Tuesday, God willing. 🙂
First story Parent Me