The Country Offroad – Julián Shaw

Freedom looks like the other side of a river, and it’s protected by a fence. Freedom looks like a desert, and it burns like the scorching sun above. Freedom looks like the country ahead – the country offroad. Just a century ago, countless ships stopped at two islands, one west and one east of thisland. Millions disembarked, filling every pier full. Their tongues told tales of their travels -speaking in a thousand dialects of hope, and muffling the cries of those forced to return. Today, the islands lay forgotten, yet, the hopeful remain. There is no statue(1) to greet us, no Angel(2) to take care of us. There is just a perilous heat accompanying our every step. Offroad, down a path with no name I search for freedom, yearn for the fulfilment of a dream. One that I always needed, yet one unbeknownst to me. In front, I hear the river(3), I see it cut through the land. Past it, I see a flag carrying a small firmament on its fabric. Before it stood a fence with oxidadated steel beams protruding from its concrete base. Little gaps in between each beam resemble a cell. Through them is the sight of hope, one that -for now- is out of my reach. We walk downstream, for a day or two, looking for where the wall ends. There, a man waits for us on a raft. “Suban” he says, whilst extending his hand to help us get on board. Crossing the river, I stand atop the boat as I witness the approaching land. A scene reminiscent of George on the Delaware(4)- abruptly cut short by my stumbling steps as we reach the other side. My body barely balances. “¡Bajense rápido!”, says the man, as he holds me from falling. All passengers jump atop the eroded river bed. The raft quickly returns to the other side. Running rapidly down an arid shrubland, we find shelter on the shadow casted by a pile of rocks. Families cry of joy. A mother and two kids laugh and joke, a man looks back south. He thinks of what he left back home. Some eat, others rest, while they still can. I Look at the horizon, only to be blinded by window panes reflecting the sun. Sudden stuttering sirens sound out of shining speakers. Slightly struck, my eyes close. My hands cover my ears, sheltering them from the strengthening sound. Standing still, I see the cars approaching. Blinding white, they are from the police. They stop, three men and a woman step down, pointing the guns at us. “You have illegally entered the…” Says one of the men through the speaker. Some run, only to be stopped at the spot. Flinging fast, my arms fight a futile fight, only to delay the inevitable. Handcuffed in the land of the free, they shove me in the back of a car.” Where to?” someone asks. “back home” the policemen answers. The car turns silent. For hours, dust trails follow the car as we drive offroad. The sun slowly hides past the arid hills, its dying beams shine on a dull concrete building in the distance. The car stops. The police handle us inside, separating the kids from adults, and women from men. Like pigs to the slaughter, we await our processing. Guided to cells, we repent for our crime of wanting a better life, waiting to be sent home. Until now, I look past the wall at the red siren’s glare, giving proof through the night that their flag is still there (5)- up north in the country offroad.

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(5) Reference to the U.S national Anthem, original line: “…And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs

bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…”

(4) A reference to the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze, inspired on one of the many feats of George

Washington https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/11417

(3) Reference to Rio Grande, alongside the border of Texas and Mexico.

(2) Reference to Angel Island, more info: https://www.aiisf.org/history

(1) Reference to Ellis Island, more info: https://www.britannica.com/place/Ellis-Island

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