by Judith Trustone (blog)

We can all see her in our mind’s eye
Dumped by her captors to die holding her wailing infant, she staggers across the grueling desert, choking on her swollen tongue and teeth left broken from the fists that had subdued her.

She’s desperate for water for her and her baby, her teenaged once-budding breasts now withered and empty in the cruel sun. 

She has only a few occasional drops of spit to offer the hungry infant.

Terrified by their brutal attempts at making her compliant, she’d begged the hired coyotes not to kill her baby as they’d held a gun to the tiny head, laughing at her terror, forcing her to accept them without resistance into her sore, struggling body, both of them, one debasement after another as she submits to protect the tiny being with her very life.

Would the child remember?
She’d fled the murderous gangs in her blood-soaked former Central American paradise with her fretful new baby daughter, just days old. They’d named her Maria after her mother who’d been raped and murdered by the same gang of thugs, one of the many reasons she was fleeing in terror.

The young mother had watched in horror as her husband was slaughtered in front of her, and it was only a nearby explosion distracting the killers that had enabled her to escape to the waiting coyotes. They’d already been paid all the money they had to escort the young family to freedom in America despite the tales of the dangerous trip to an unwelcoming destination. 

Would the child remember?
She and her newborn had traveled alone with the coyotes, her only choice.Her sobbing, hungry infant had caused her to be abandoned by them; they’d claimed her baby’s cries had gotten on their nerves, their lame excuse for killing. They’d left her barely conscious, raped and beaten,  kicking sand on them both.

Would the child remember?
The mother was alone with her pain and her grief, guided during freezing nights by the moon and the stars, protected only by a shabby blanket, sheltering in burrows where she could, finding sustenance from the occasional cactus. Her only thoughts besides the profound numbness, a feeling of cement in her soul, were of a dream of life in America, safety for her daughter, a chance to live decently, to prosper, to get an education for her and her daughter, to have the space and support to heal, to grieve and maybe once again feel joy.

Now her brown body is covered by a torn garment and insect bites, bruises, dirt, crusted semen and cuts from her rapists. Had baby Maria been watching, screaming in her mother’s arms while she was being assaulted?

Would the child remember?
Feeling abandoned by everyone, even God, she scoops up the sunburned infant,  and sobs a raspy lullaby as an avalanche of salty tears flow, dampening her baby’s sand-filled hair, both their sobs of anguish blending, unbearable to hear if one were listening.

All the mother’s belongings and papers are gone with the cruel menalong with the water and food to sustain them on their final miles to freedom.

Beyond exhaustion, she resists the urge to give up, to curl up on the burning ground.Her baby held close to her battered heart, staggering on, a bloodied Warrior Woman, determined to start a new life for her and her child.

Overhead, vultures circle patiently, following her blistered footsteps. 

Suddenly she believes she is hallucinating, for there in the distance, she spots on the horizon what must surely be a mirage, a border fence where good Samaritans have stashed nearby jugs of water and cans of food for which they would be arrested! 

She forges ahead in disbelief and wonder toward a mountain of precious, life-giving water, gallons and gallons, beside sparkling cans of nourishing beans. She hadn’t eaten in days and was often delirious, hanging on only for the sake of her precious baby.

From a deep reservoir of whatever incredible strength mothers have to protect their babies no matter the cost, the young woman begins to run, hope springing as it eternally does, propelling her toward the possibility of life.

Baby bouncing on her skinny shoulders, gasping, sobbing with relief, doubting what she’s seeing, she draws closer and closer to salvation.

Suddenly stopping in shock, her voice hoarse and dry, she screams, “NO” and sinks to her knees in the hot sand, unable to believe her eyes.She can’t comprehending how anyone could do such a cruel thing by pouring out the water and food, taunting desperate refugees by leaving piles of empty jugs and cans that can lead to only one thing:  deliberate murder.

Border police had dumped it all out, laughing for the television cameras, following the orders of their despotic president.

Her mind ablaze with only hot light and unbearable pain, she stops, staring in disbelief. What human being could have done this? Pulling the baby up to her face, she screams, disbelieving,  an endless scream as Maria’s little head lolls on the tiny neck. The tiny baby has finally stopped crying…

We can all see them in our mind’s eye…if we’ll only look…