by Mario Lio
American Airlines Flight 881 brought me from Lima to San Francisco 10 years, 4 months, and 29 days ago. That was the last time I was on a plane. Three times since, I chickened out from flying: a high school trip to the South in 2003, reuniting with my mother in 2005, and visiting New York in 2009. I am not afraid of heights; I am just undocumented. My boyfriend invited me to his brother Justin’s wedding in Michigan, so I thought it was time I lived a little. I finally gained some confidence and bought my plane ticket to Michigan.
Dreams of getting arrested have been sleeping with me for weeks now, more terrifying each night. Tonight, my dream starts at the San Francisco International Airport with immigration officers surrounding me and forcing me to the ground. My lips crack and I can taste the salty ground and sweet blood. One officer kicks me in the stomach and I curl up in the fetal position. Another puts his black leather boot on the side of my face. I am covered in a mixture of dust and sweat. Two of them pick me up, throwing my arms around their shoulders, like good Samaritans. I hope they have realized that I contribute more to this country than I take away from. This is exactly how I feel about the American government: when I feel a little bit of hope in them, they end up disappointing me.
I know I am still dreaming because we have popped out of the old map I pinned on my wall my freshmen year of college. The officers are walking down California, one leg on each side of the Sierra Nevada. One of them carries me on his back to pass through Panama. It’s too narrow for two people, let alone all three of us. I fall asleep on his back and start dreaming. The dream in my dream places me in Detroit, Michigan: I am at Justin’s wedding. I must have passed airport security with no problems because I am here now. Being away from California gives me the same sensation you get when you reach the highest part of a roller coaster. Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain in my back.
I wake up when one officer throws me from Colombia to Peru. They have successfully deported me. Without waiting to see what will happen to me, they turn around and are on their way back to the States. I get up and shake the dirt off my clothes and start heading south. It takes me six steps to reach Tacna, my hometown. I bend down to look for my house. The house in my dream is the same house I lived when I was a kid, even though that is not the house my mother lives in now. I knock on the door, hoping my mom is home. When she comes out she screams because I am so big. My mother in my dream is my thirty-year-old mother, even though my mother is in her forties now. I want to pick her up like King Kong picks up that girl in the movies, but when I am about to touch her my alarm goes off.
My torso springs up from the mattress. I feel as if I have been holding my breath all night. The pores of my skin have been open like faucets, pouring sweat all through my dream. The chilling sensation from the cooling of my sweat reminds me I am awake and not dreaming anymore. Reality hits me: I have woken up from my biggest fear to be faced with my biggest fear. My flight leaves in 3 hours.