It was never this hard before, thought Guillermo De La Rosa as he stretched out his arm, pulling himself out from a muggy tunnel; it was daytime when he reentered the United States—San Diego. He untied the torn, red flannel from about his waist and dusted himself off, and when he got to wiping the sweat from his brow, he began to cry. “I promised you Natalie. I promised you that we would watch the American stars until the day we die,” he whimpered to an empty space beside him. Clutching the shirt to his face, absorbing the tears, he recalled the last time he saw his family: they were all there, standing outside by the patio with distraught, confused faces as the police car rushed out the driveway. The mother of the two little boys stayed by the door, hunched over, screaming into her shaking hands, while the boys ran to the street where they saw their father looking back at them, “Papi! Please! Don’t go!” That was the last time he saw Arturo and Diego—twelve years ago—they were seven and nine years old then. Wiping the last of his tears, he gathered himself and grabbed his backpack, rushing to the city to find his family.
He found himself in an old town where he would play handball with his old friends, all of which were now either in Mexico or no longer played. So, he decided to visit the courts in hopes to see people playing, but found nothing but a spray-painted fence covering unwanted debris. Different variations of “Fuck Trump” covered the entire fence; same words, different style. He was shaking his head with both perplexity of the court being torn down, and with amusement towards the graffiti, when he heard a crowd of young adults yelling what he had just read. Down the street, a Chicanx movement group was protesting the latest Trump executive order. Guillermo didn’t understand why they were shouting profanities aloud while there were children around, and he had an even deeper misunderstanding of what they were protesting. “You’re not with the movement old man?” a young man in a neatly combed hairdo asked Guillermo. “No? Uh. I-I-I don’t know, I’m sorry… My-my-my family…” he anxiously replied. “NO?! Well if you’re not going to fight for our rights then stay out of our way!” the young man shouted. Confused by what had just happened, he walked to a bus stop where he could still hear the faint chanting of the group. He was relieved to discover the bus route had not changed, and neither had the fare. Stepping off the bus, however, felt different; the wind that met him as the doors opened fell heavy on his shoulders. Nearing his old house, he felt his bones quiver, which made it hard for him to keep himself from falling to his knees, but soon enough he found it—with a new red door. At that moment he looked up, and realized the sky was no longer the same.
To Readers (if you exist),
I chose to recreate Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” in relation to its theme—or at least what I could take away from it as the theme. There was always this sense of uncertainty with defining anything that I found within the story. Life is constantly changing, as are the times, and I wanted to reflect on that with my own short story. I knew I wanted to recreate Irving’s story because I wanted to relate it back to the situation with immigration in modern day United States, to sort of satirize Trump’s America. Therefore, instead of a blatant attack on the U.S. president, I wanted to use a personal inquiry of my own to push the story forward. I imagined what it would be like if my own father had reentered the United States, what his interactions with others would be like, how he would feel. So, that’s why my story follows an undocumented father that reenters the United States after twelve years to reunite with his family. His encounter with a young man at a protest, for me, was both extremely funny and upsetting through the irony set in place. Here you have a privileged man protesting for the rights of undocumented folk shaming Guillermo for not “being about” a movement, which can be both funny and disturbing in the sense that the young man is being hypocritical. I ended the story with a new red door and a completely different sky—not the “American” one he promised his lover they would share forever, which was meant to symbolize how much the times have changed, and perhaps, how he may never make it back.
–Daniel Lizaola Lopez