No or Unknown (Story by R.C. Peris)

They came for him in the quiet night. Busted the door. Pulled him from my arms. I screamed and then I heard Luna crying from her room she shared with two male cousins. As Felipe was dragged out of the tiny house I enclosed Luna into my arms.

“Papa,” she cried through a veil of tears.

“Papa is gone.” I cried too. Into her small, fragile neck.

A man loomed in the doorway.

“You don’t cheat El Mejor. Comprend?”

Luna’s cousins were now huddled in the corner of the room and I could hear my mother and grandmother crying from the other bedroom.

The man, with tattoos snaking up his neck, flashed a knife. “Your baby daddy is gone. Good as dead. You watch yourself senorita. We come back for you next so keep your mouth shut.” And then the man left.

My mother and grandmother rushed in and grabbed Luna.

“I’m packing,” I yelled. “I’m leaving. Luna…Luna…listen. Pick your favorite toy. I’m going to pack some clothes for you.”

Before the sun rose, I was heading to the bus station with $1000 that Felipe had stuffed in a jar, a suitcase, and Luna with her purple teddy bear held tightly against her chest. Two weeks later we were at the Mexican-US border. I told the border agents I was seeking asylum. I and my daughter would be killed by the drug cartel. I was crying but calm. The Americans took me to a room. Luna clung to me.

A woman who spoke Spanish asked me questions and then said she needed Luna.

“We will give her a bath. Don’t worry. It must have been a while since she was really clean.”

A shower. A small, normal thing. Luna was dirty.

“Go with the lady, Luna.”

Luna left her purple teddy bear with me and turned back, waved, and smiled so beautifully that I began crying. Were we now safe?

Ten minutes later ICE came. They pulled me out of the room and stuck me in a pen with others seeking asylum.

“What about my daughter?” I screamed. I kept screaming.

“They’re putting the kids in cages. Just like us,” said one woman who was scratching at a sore on her arm. “Legal Aid should be here soon. Have them look for your daughter.”

Legal Aid did arrive. A black woman in slacks and a button down. “The US government won’t accept your claim for asylum.”

“What about Luna? My daughter…” I was crying again.

“They’ve put all the kids in cages. There’s really no organization to all this. If I ask about her I will get the usual response. No or Unknown. I suggest going back home or somewhere else. America is hostile to people like…people with brown skin.” Then the woman laughed. “The US is hostile to black skin too. They act like my ancestors came over on a cruise ship.”

The woman’s Spanish was poor. “Luna,” I yelled again. Legal Aid walked away and the guards ignored me. I collapsed onto the ground. “When will I get Luna back?”

ICE walked up. “No or unknown,” he said. “Now get up and act like a real human and not some animal.” And then he walked away. I was in a cage without Luna. Her purple teddy bear was clutched in my hand. Luna will be so upset to not have the stuffed animal.

For weeks I kept asking questions and I always got the same response. “No or unknown.”

Finally, I screamed that everyone was evil and then I wanted to die without Luna.

A guard walked up. “No or unknown.” And then he walked away.

“Luna, Luna…” No one listened. No one cared. I ripped the crucifix from my neck. God was gone. On vacation. Satan’s minions were now running the world. I never released my grip on the purple teddy bear.


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