Call it what it is.
Let’s not mince words about it.
The day my foot first touched
The American soil
I was marked – unwanted.
The epitome of a reviled species
And so lived I…
More mimed through happenings
Of a piecemeal life
One upheld flat palm
March upward, one to the left,
The other to the right
Trapped with a pantomime grin
Behind an invisible brick wall
A series of walls were erected.
The law said, “Impermissible” – Wall # 1
The paranoid mother said, “Be careful!” – Wall # 2
The walls of silence self-erected – Walls # 3 – to – Infinity
Though already innately shy, add
The layer of shame for secrets
I dear not speak.
Could anyone catch a glimpse of me?
Not from the words of my mouth.
The school was the way.
I’d heard people say.
And so study & work & took aim
For the sky
Only to find at the end of 12th grade
Was the end of my journey.
How could it be?
How could congress in all of those
Eleven years of waiting still manage
To fail me
This is NOT THE END.
Why sell me a dream
Of prosperity, of overcoming obstacles;
The American dream
Why sell it to me?
When you knew at the end
Was another slammed door
Just another invisible brick wall…
I watched, no jealousy employed – just a feeling
(jilted, slighted, cursed, pitiable),
As my American friends planned futures
Limitless skies above them
They were already driving cars.
A rite of passage they’d all accomplished at 16.
Whilst I said, with a shrug of shoulders,
“I don’t drive,” in explanation for my lack.
It was simple.
It wasn’t a lie. I didn’t explain why I don’t.
And that’s where the ever restless minds
Of people would almost always fill in the blank.
Postulations of ‘maybe she’s afraid to,’
‘Maybe her family can’t afford a car,’ and so on.
Though the answer was simple enough;
But people couldn’t seem to form the right question.
If ever posed, I believe I’d answer straight.
‘I lacked the documents needed
To garner a license’
No proof of myself that New York State
Therefore another layer invalidating me nonetheless
College was the thing.
I’ll keep alive
Those school dreams
And so in my 17 year old mind
I checked the box on those applications
That warranted the least amount of questions.
Damned be the consequences. Prudency shamed.
For what teenager plans for the future
When he will live forever in
A teenaged haze
High school was so different.
I could hide in plain sight there.
And act my way & make semblance to a life
Not like college, where every professors roll call
Included a list of students’ names and social security numbers
A SS# I used for years, I later found
It wasn’t mine.
Like those notifications from the
Social Security department weren’t enough,
When they read,
‘SS # and name mismatch’
I was assured by my mother it was mine.
Her reason being that they’d paid good money for it.
It was freshman year of college where
I first learned what anxiety was.
Anxiety being the pulling apart of a thing.
The strands of myself were unraveling.
I developed a nervous demeanor.
& jumped every time my name was called
Fear of being found out.
Fear of the truth I hid so well now,
Under half-truths & omissions
It wasn’t a lie; not really, only half of a thing.
I once remember a professor commenting
On the difference in my social security #
Compared to everyone else’s
“You’re from the Caribbean, right?”
“Yes,” I said, skittish, already preparing to bolt.
“I’m from Jamaica.”
“Hmm,” he pondered.
And I knew he knew.
But he let it go. So I did.
Can I say the thing, no one at 18 years of age says?
I’m married, by the way, did I mention?
Oh, just an added layer to my onion of deception.
Not to some random US citizen.
Although my family did have one commissioned
And attempted to brow beat me.
Back against the invisible wall of law and
A guy in Florida had agreed to do the
Service for a handsome fee and
A few years of his life
But I guess I was a dreamer
I didn’t constantly see my limitations
As they were
And dreamed of better for me
My boyfriend of a year was sure & strong.
For he said he had plans to marry me
One day anyway
And so a favor was done for me.
Atop my freely given love and his;
But he chose to keep our secret marriage hidden
Even after the birth of our son and then daughter.
So once equals, now me lovingly disadvantaged.
Walls closing in…
We met with a lawyer soon after our union.
And started a process of paperwork
That took 10 more years
And required meeting with 4 or 5
Different lawyers before finding the right one,
The only one that left me with hope
She said, “Maybe there was a possibility
To work with the law as is.
Waiting for Congress to pass the DREAM Act
Any longer was foolish.”
Was there a loose brick
That would allow me to finally
In the mean time I did things
Others living limitlessly did
I partook in the daily routine.
I drove, though carefully…illegally.
I’d even managed to start a career
By the same means I’d used to get into college.
This was all I had, you see.
The copy of a social security card,
Which was the only representation of me
For months after starting my job
In the business world
I jumped, moved quickly down hallways,
And averted eye contact
The microscopic lens was highly focused here,
Documents signed and bound by legal jargon.
What was I thinking?
The double-headed coin of the twists of fate,
One side, wanting to live my dream, as if I could;
The other side, reality & legality in being
Accountable as an adult
What was I doing?
Living…the best way I could
Whilst the law & Congress took vacations
Instead of addressing the issue
Of millions of lives held in limbo.
6 months in and I still jumped
When someone called my name,
Fear, Anxiety, Dread, Misgivings, Forebodings
Who was I?
No one knew.
My father died in August 2011.
In a country I have not returned to
In 20 plus years
And I was kept
Although, all the time, wanting to be
In his last days,
To ever have him see me
As an adult
Fate wasn’t so kind.
I mourned on my couch, in my apartment,
Whilst my dad was buried in Jamaica,
Even further from me, than just a plane ride
And the change of laws that would permit it.
You are worlds away & I love you.
Until the afterlife, I bid you adieu.
The very next year I gained
A lifetime of no documents & illegality
Turned momentously & quickly into
A plethora of forms of ID
I passed my road test at the age of 27.
All it took was twenty-two years in America,
Mine & my family’s blood, sweat, and tears.
The numerous sacrifices of those I loved.
The disparagement of any and all sense of pride,
The passing of my patriarch,
Prayer, and praise, and the mighty hand of God;
To finally move beyond the limits of the laws in place;
Immediately, all at once, and in random succession,
I set about righting my life.
Literally, it was actually me.
On paper, just as you would see in person.
Righting my life,
Meant to put things right.
Which forced me to recreate and practically
Rewrite my story from this point on.
I corrected my personal information
In my career
Which led to almost being fired
But by the grace of God
The position was secured for me.
There are still people in this world
Who value doing the right thing.
And are able to show mercy,
For them I am grateful.
Now I am urged in spirit
To not stop there;
But go back to all former employers
And set it right
Even to my university,
Where I graduated with Honors,
I must set the record straight.
Whatever the consequence,
For in my heart of hearts,
I know that I would have done it right
From the start
Had fate afforded me legitimacy.
And so I go on to live as I would
Representing America & God
With honesty of
Character, strength, endurance, & loyalty,
No longer desperate,
But still I cannot move forward
Without repenting & making recompense
For the times when
Desperation, Anxiety, & limits
Were all I could see,
For even a mime can be silently frantic
When faced with desperation and anxiety.