The Wall

by Nate C., age 11
The Wall Nate is eleven years old. His favorite food is sushi, and his favorite place to travel is Japan.

“‘Get up!’ yells my older brother, Jim, who never loves me. ‘Get up, or by the time we get to the store, the shelves will be empty.’ Oh right, I say in my mind. Ever since Trump’s wall was built, my life has been split in half.”

“Wake up!  Wake up!”

My eyes flutter open inside my dark and dismal bedroom. I glance at my clock, one of the last possessions I have left.  We sold the rest. It’s only 3:30 am.

“Get up!” yells my older brother, Jim, who never loves me. “Get up, or by the time we get to the store, the shelves will be empty.”

Oh right, I say in my mind. Ever since Trump’s wall was built, my life has been split in half. I put on my dark, gray coat and get ready to leave. Even though curfew doesn’t end for another hour, we still wait in silence in the sketchy alley behind the store. While we wait behind an oil barrier, I catch a glimpse of the wall. An eyesore, a barren stretch of barbed wire, the wall that keeps me separated from my parents.

It’s been five months since my parents crossed the wall in search of work. They left when you could still cross the border freely. They left in search of food. They left in order to give us a better life. They were in search of the real American dream. I can remember that day; my mom was wearing a khaki coat, my dad was in patched jeans. Even nature knew that was a sad day. That morning, the birds didn’t sing their happy song. Instead, they sang a sad, low song.

Before they left, they gave us 250 dollars, enough to buy one hundred pounds of food. Enough to last until the day that they would return. My parents warned us to save and not splurge. That was the last amount of cash left in the bank. The wall just doesn’t flow between the U.S. and Mexico, it also cuts through the states of the Northwest. To the north there’s Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. To the south, there’s Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Leaving my home state of California divided, the wall cuts through my hometown of San Francisco.

As I daydream on, my annoying brother pinches me.

“Ouch!” I squeak. Jim must never have loved me.

“Shhh!” My brother hisses at me. “Stay focused,” he snaps.

Just to annoy Jim, I ask, “Why do we have to wait so early?”

Then he really gets ticked off. Then he says in an annoyed, angered, and mocking tone, “You know why, buster. Because of Trump’s policy, only American goods are allowed for purchase, making a shortage of food.”

As he speaks, I can detect sadness in his voice. I know he’s depressed, not because his parents are gone and not because his life is forever scared, but because his girlfriend, Anne, who he loved more than me, fled across to the North a few months ago. He was planning on proposing to her, but he was waiting on me, who was waiting on my dad, who was waiting on his sister, who was waiting on a baby, who was waiting to come out. But that night, Anne fled with her family across the border with only the clothes on their backs in the tar-black night and only, with the light of the faded stars, to fall and to be shot.

“C’mon, curfew is over. Let’s go line up at the store,” he says.

As I glimpse over at the bleak and life-threatening wall, with the patrols that are ordered to shoot on sight, I ask Jim, “If you had the chance, would you go to Canada?”

Then the slightest bit of happiness is drained from his face. Then he said, “Don’t think about that. Those who get too curious about the divider end up crossing it.”

We walk inside the lifeless store. Up above, I see a faded supermarket ad with a smiling mom with her kids saying, “So many choices, for such a small price!”

I think, Yeah right, the only choice is between white cabbage and napa cabbage. I dump a sack of rice, some napa cabbage, and a can of soda into the shopping cart. As I wait in line at the checkout counter, I see some smuggled mangoes, carefully buried beneath a carton of pasta. But as soon as I look away, the cart is gone. I wonder, if only I could afford some of the juicy, tangy, and sweet mangoes that I crave so much. Then I remember that if I were to buy a mango, that would cost all of the cash we had left. As my brother and I arrive at our apartment, we see the cars that belong to the dreaded secret police.

“Stay calm,” Jim says, in a hushed tone. We were the reason they were here. They were here for two reasons:

  1. Our parents’ daring escape to the North.
  2. They believed that we were associated with Anne’s escape.

The moment we step into our apartment, we realize that we are correct. There are two officers in the room. The officer with the nametag that says “Ted” asks us, “You two know that we only want some answers that’s all, right?

Before we could respond, he says, “Very well, shall we begin? First question, when did your parents escape to the North?”

Then Jim answers, as clear as a bell, “February  3rd, 2018.”

Then, the second officer, Ben, says, “Have you had any contact with your parents?”

After that, I say, “No…”

But then Ben cuts me off and says, “Shut up squirt and let the older one talk! I didn’t sweat through training to deal with stubborn teens.”

Then, Jim finishes for me by saying, “No, not since the cell phone signals have been cut off.”

“Final question,” says Ted. “Were you involved in Anne’s escape?”

Jim freezes. I try to say something, but I can’t. Finally, Jim manages to choke out the words, “No, I never knew she escaped until a week later.”

The officers look like they don’t believe a word Jim is saying.   

I brace for arrest. I brace for jail. I brace for my life to be over. As soon as Jim says those words, Ted tackles him to the ground, but Jim slides out of the way. Then Ben grabs a lamp and bashes Jim’s head. Blood spews out of his head like water flowing out of the tap. Glass shards stick out of Jim’s head like teepees. The fight continues into the kitchen where Jim is thrown against a glass case of fine plates and cutlery. The glass case and plates explode into a million pieces. Jim grabs a knife and stabs Ben in the chest. Ben falls down and crumbles like a plastic bag on the kitchen floor. Blood seeps onto the floor, full of Ben’s blood. The floor looks like it was washed in blood. After noticing his colleague’s death, Ted gets a burst of energy, takes a frying pan, and whacks Jim in the head. Jim drops to the ground dramatically and gets becomes knocked out. Ted then takes a knife and says in a cold voice, “Come with me or you will end up like your brother.”

I follow Ted into his patrol car while he drags Jim by the legs against the hard concrete. He bangs up and down. I hope he just has a concussion. A few minutes later, Jim wakes up inside the speeding patrol car. When the car zooms by a bleak, dismal, and dark neighborhood that’s near the wall, my eyes meet Jim’s. Could this be the time he would sincerely tell me that he loved me, before we would be separated in jail? I begin to plan out what I will say to him.

But before I can speak, he whispers, “Don’t look back, no matter what.” Before I can respond, he pulls the car door handle and shoves me out of the car.  

At first, I thought he wanted to hurt me, but then I realize he just sacrificed his life for me and saved me.

I don’t know what happened next, but I envisioned this, a man yelling, “Well if I can’t get him, then I guess I have to take you,” and then there was a crack of gunfire. Next, I hear car wheels squeaking and a car coming in my direction. After this, I begin to run toward the wall. I knew that my life here was over, and my only chance was to cross it. I had nothing to lose. My brother was dead, and I had no future here. As I climbed up above the wall, just about to hit the barbed wire, I could see sirens squeaking, speeding patrol cars, and wild dogs swarming me. As I climb over the spiky, barbed wire, I feel something tugging on my leg. Then the tugging gets harder and I look down. It was a mutt, a sniffer, a police dog! I yanked myself free, but while I was dealing with the dog, I was was not paying attention and got tangled in the barbed wire. I then wiggled free of the sharp, barbed wire and land on the floor with sharpened particles in my arm and leg. Unable to walk, I begin to helplessly crawl on the dusty ground, toward the second wall that separates the South and the North. But as I tug myself forward, I hear dogs barking, and sirens wailing after me. All I feel inside me is a desperate need to survive. As I trudge closer and closer to the Northern Wall, a dog starts to grab my leg. I groan in pain. A few seconds later, his owner arrests me. After that, three more guards surround me. One points his gun, and says, “Any last words, traitor?”

Then in a whimpering voice I say, “Is it a crime to act free in your own country? Is it a crime for your own brother to sacrifice his life so you can live freely in another state? Is it a crime to live happily and in tranquility? Are you considered a traitor in your own country because you are going to another state for a better life and to find your parents?”

I’m not scared of the guards, I’m only scared of the fact that I won’t see my parents again. My final thought is that although I did not make it out alive, I am grateful for my brother and I only know this: yes, my brother did love me, he really did. All I can remember happening next was bang! My name is Dominic, and this is my story.

 

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