By Alia Weylock
The hundreds of miles from Guatemala to Texas play out like a movie in my head. I see my ten-month-old daughter tucked into her papoose against my chest, and my wife Chetta clinging to my arm as we trudged the path to the United States wearily. Chetta is swollen and heavy with our second child. I see our guide finally waving us into the land of freedom. Chetta, in a lot of pain, had been having contractions for the last few hours of our journey. I wrap my arm around her, squishing Nina between us, “Almost done mi amor.” I whisper to her. A truck is waiting for our group of forty immigrants. The plan was to go to Laredo, and then, dispersing, find our own way from there.
“We have to find a hospital. My wife won’t make it to Laredo!” I say to our guide.
The Coyote shakes his head, “That would endanger everyone else.” He looks worried, and glancing at Chetta, makes a quick decision.
“We will leave you here and send someone back to help.”They lift a moaning Chetta out of the truck. I stand by my wife, Nina close against my thudding heart, wondering what we were going to do now. The dust from the truck has barely settled when Chetta’s water breaks. I look around and see nothing for miles. We are having this baby in the desert of Texas! I am flooded with anxiety and bone deep weariness. I get Chetta set comfortably on a blanket with Nina asleep next to her. Chetta’s labor is long, taking us into the next day, but finally, the baby arrives. My boy is stillborn, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his little neck. I hold him close, “The first in our family born in the US.” I whisper in his little ear. I wrap my son in a blanket, Chetta doesn’t even ask to hold him. She is pale, sticky with sweat, and still bleeding. She needs a doctor, or I will lose her too. The three of us are so exhausted, that we fall into a deep sleep, me hugging my family tightly together.
My eyes fly open at the sound of a vehicle. A man steps from a truck,
“Rivet? I’ve been sent to help! How’s your wife?” The man looks at the scene before him, realizing things had gone very wrong. Juan, our rescuer, loads us into the truck and drives us to the closest town. I arrive at La Clìnica defeated and broken. The doctor has no words of comfort for us,
“She lost a lot of blood. I have her sedated for now, but it will take her weeks of bedrest to recover enough to travel.” The doctor can see the panic on my face,
“There isn’t much in this town, but I can help secure you shelter until she has recovered, Rivet.” I fold under this new information. All my carefully laid plans fading as I see the reality of our situation. My grief for my son isn’t something I can address now; it takes all my strength just to remain upright.
The doctor, true to his word, finds us a room in the home of his relatives. I find a bit of work, enough to keep us fed while Chetta recovers. Chetta was prone to escapism even before our flight from Guatemala, but the death of her son, and the weight of this journey brings on an entirely different type of detachment. She starts using the pain pills the doctor had given her irresponsibly. When her body is at last recovered, we journey the rest of the way to New York. Our migration left indelible marks on Chetta, and despite my best efforts to stop her, she becomes addicted to opiates.
The squelch of breaks rouses me from my dreams. I slowly rise from my seat on the bus, the shadow of our journey to New York dissipating as I descend the steps and start the walk to my apartment.
We arrived in New York two months later than planned. My Uncle Jairo got me a job working with him upstate. My Aunt Cristina helps with Nina during the week. Chetta can’t stay sober to properly care for Nina by herself. I have stopped giving Chetta money for drugs, despite her pleadings. She leaves the apartment when I get home, never really telling me what she does all night, as Nina and I sleep.
“You can’t get high with Nina here, Chetta!” She lowers her head, ashamed.
“I try to take good care of her.” But she doesn’t and I am constantly worried about leaving my child with Chetta. Our neighbor Sabine checks on them, and text me with updates.
‘Nina is fed and asleep. Chetta seemed ok.’ I am thankful for Sabine; but even with her help, I don’t like leaving Nina in Chetta’s care. Recently, Chetta had taken too much liquid morphine, her newest drug of choice, and had overdosed. The ambulance came in time to save her, but I found myself wishing she hadn’t survived. I am left with the debilitating fear for my daughter every time I leave the apartment. Nina, my most cherished love, is vulnerable to Chetta’s sickness.
The sleepy haze from the bus ride floats away, and the anxiety begins to rise in me as I get closer to home. I know Chetta went out last night to score. My life has become a maze of dread and worry. I hit the staircase and hope the six flights would calm me. I enter the small apartment, my heartbeat thudding, I can see Chetta slumped in her chair. As I walk closer to her, I see a bottle laying near her teacup on the side table.
“You’ve taken all of this?” I shake the empty bottle in front of my wife’s face.
Chetta, startled, nods slowly, “It waz almost empty.” Chetta’s eyes are closed and her words slurred. I know she has taken too much of the poison already.
“Where’s Nina???” I brush past my wife, wishing the women I married in the little chapel in Guatemala, was here instead of this new broken version of her,
“I dunno…sleeping?” Chetta responds. I turn toward the hall and spot a small foot in the doorway of the only bedroom in the apartment.
“Nina?” I fall to my knees close to the little body. My mind suddenly alert, I check Nina’s airway. I see no obstruction, so I roll her gently onto her back, and start chest compressions. I apply the shallow taps between sternum and breastbone, then a few quick breaths into her little mouth, tasting my own salty tears. I wipe the sweat from my brow and shake the grief from my eyes. I do a few cycles of CPR and check again for breathing. But I can see that her lips are blue and her body cool. I know my Nina is gone. I stare in a daze, at her inanimate face. My head is throbbing, as I sweep Nina to my chest, and turn toward Chetta.
“What fucking happened?” I scream in her face. Chetta’s eyes open,
“Dunno…she wanna drink. I gave ‘er tea.” She says defensively,
“THE MORPHINE TEA????” A guttural howl from deep inside, shakes me and my only child.
“O mi amor!” I caress Nina gently. My mind goes quiet, hands stop shaking, ears stop ringing, and I asses my options. If I call the cops now, Chetta will be arrested and sent to jail. What justice would this be for my baby girl, or even for this unlucky wife of mine? I lay Nina gently on the floor.
“Where is the rest of the Morphine, Chetta?” My words are loud but eerily calm. She points to a purse next to her. Trance like, I remove the full bottle, and flip off the cap. I pour its entirety into the cup of mostly drunk tea, and then turn back to Chetta. I dump some of the brew into her mouth knowing it won’t take much to kill her. She swallows unquestioningly. I sit back, letting her slide to the floor, then reach for my dead daughter, scooping her close. I sit rocking Nina, my eyes locked fiercely on Chetta. I know what an OD looks like on her. The apartment is quiet except for occasional rasps from Chetta, as I wait for her to die. When it’s over, I’m left with a hard choice. Do I swallow the rest of the poisoned tea and join my family? Or do I call the police and spend the rest of my years in prison? The teacup in one hand, my cellphone in the other, I have only one lingering thought, would this have happened if we had stayed in Guatemala? It’s a pointless thought and provides no answers. Finally, I release my suppressed sobs, realizing what I must do.
Category: Featured, Short Story