Fiction Issue 2014: "Diáspora" 

"The brakes squeal and cry like a child as the car comes around again and again. You do not like the way Tía Rosa breathes as if all the air in the world were not enough."

Now the three of you lie on the floor on your stomachs, sweaty forearms touching. It is almost like you are children again, playing invisible, and Sebastián, the youngest, has only left the room.

But your body is an adult's body that aches from lying this way for so long. You are afraid to open the curtains or move because the blue Toyota is still screeching around the block. Diego swears under his breath so that only you and Lucía can hear him. Sebastián is gone.

In this house where you have lived all your life, Abuelito and Abuelita hold hands and pray for impossible things. Their dry mouths move in ceaseless prayer like the pilgrim's. In a Chicago apartment where you have never been, Mamí and Papí do the same. The thing they all know but pretend they don't is they are praying the wrong prayer. They are praying the maras will give your brother Sebastián back without the money. But even God knows maras don't do things like that.

At the mission church where you learned English, you were taught two prayers only: "Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" and "Thy will be done." Now you alternate between them as Lucía knots her fingers together and Diego uses the last of the prepaid phone minutes to call Papí. The brakes squeal and cry like a child as the car comes around again and again. You do not like the way Tía Rosa breathes as if all the air in the world were not enough.

Sebastián has your mother's eyes, dust brown, while Lucía's are the color of molasses. You had hoped they would be identical. When they were born, their hazelnut bodies still sticky and warm, Tía Rosa called them little angels. Your father passed each baby into your child arms. Diego was too small to hold them, a baby himself, but he pressed his cracked lips to the palms of their hands. These strange tiny things your mother carried inside her so long. Seventeen now, they are too old for cradling.

You have not seen Sebastián since he left for class four days ago. You do not know if he is alive. Tía Rosa says Lucía would know if he were not. She says that if Lucía closes her eyes and opens them through Sebastián's, she will see where they are keeping him. Lucía says that when she closes her eyes, she sees only dark.

Loud voices become whispers passing through thin walls. With your eyes closed, you try imagining other stories for them.

It has been six years since your parents left, since they promised to send for the four of you. There was not money to go all at once. You were 16 then. Already you could not walk the street past dusk. Already you knew it was not the policía but the maras who had control, and that some of the policía were maras, too. You waited months for your parents to call. When they did, you waited months for the money to be enough. You've waited years.

In school they called you Santa María, the only virgen in the secundaria. You worked after school selling Coca-Cola in glass bottles at the little shop by your house and saved 7,000 quetzales in a shoebox under the bed you share with Lucía and Tía Rosa. It is not the hundred thousand the maras are asking for. It is not even enough to get to America.

You hear a car door creak open and slam closed, and then another, and another.

There was one thing your parents did not tell any of you the night they left, as the four of you followed them partway down the dirt path out of town, saying nos vemos and not good-bye. Maybe they did not know yet either.

You have a little brother in America you have never met.

Now you think about that night, about the stars, as the door shakes in its frame and Diego stands, as Abuelito pulls out a jar of rolled-up bills from under the couch, as you go to the bedroom and get your shoebox, as you stand behind Diego and he opens the door, as he passes forward everything you have, and the maras say it is not enough. The maras say you have family in America. Diego tells them Papí will send everything he has. The maras laugh.

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