“Why are you sitting like that?” he asked with a shaky voice.
“You’re making me feel nervous, like I did something wrong.”
He let out a sarcastic laugh as he looked at me in the passenger seat leaning the chair back all the way and attempting to hide my body’s intense shaking. Once we arrived at my house, he gave me a half-hearted kiss, and I stumbled to get out of the car. As I finally managed to stand up and put my palm on the handle of the door, he looked up at me with a grin on his mouth and said, “I don’t know what is wrong with you tonight, but I want you to remember that if you leave me, you won’t get your green card.”
I was left speechless. I got distracted by the fact that my legs were shaking intensely, and it wasn’t because of the cold December breeze. I gave up on the excruciating effort of walking and decided to crawl downstairs to my bedroom. Once I got to the bottom of the staircase, I stopped to look up at a giant poster of Machu Picchu that hung on the left side of my room — the marvelous ruins of my Inca ancestors. Images flashed in my head of my beautiful country… It painted memories of la Plaza de la Constitución in Huancayo where I would run around with my brother while my young parents took a romantic stroll together. It made me think about la señora Rosa and her flower shop where she would give me little candies every time my mother and I visited. It made me miss my grandmother’s farm in Lima, where I would chase headless chickens to eat for dinner.
It fueled the intense jealousy that had been lingering in my mind for months upon seeing photos of my brother and older cousin who got to travel and visit relatives who we haven’t seen in over 15 years. I started bawling from remembering the photos they took while visiting my recently deceased grandfather’s grave in Arequipa. He was buried next to his parents who had tragically passed away when he was a child, leaving him and his two siblings orphaned and forced to provide for themselves. His lifelong struggles gave my grandpa strong moral principles which he then passed down to his children, and eventually to my brother and me when he raised us during our first years living in the United States. He knew he wanted to be buried in the land where his heart belonged: la sierra, the Andes, the heart of Peru, the heart of his soul.
“If you leave me you won’t get your green card.”
All the images in my head vanished as I heard the phrase echo loud and clear across the walls of the giant, dark basement. I proceeded to grab a red marker from my desk and drew a big red “X” on my giant poster. I walked past the poster and stopped to stare at hanging photos of me as a child holding up trophies from my junior soccer league. The girl in the photo had hopeful eyes and a wide 8-year-old smile, which stood for her belief in her capabilities and aspirations as an innocent child who wasn’t fully aware of the obstacles she would face in the future. I stored the portrait in my closet and desperately looked for clothes to change into.
My knees began to fail me, and I was forced to sit on the carpeting of my tiny bedroom with no source of lighting. I felt as though I was going through the darkest phase of my life. I was living in the basement of a house where the sunlight forgot about my existence, and my anger towards the world was at its peak.
How can I be proud of my achievements? I’m such an idiot. I put myself in this position. Should I go to the doctor? Will my parents find out? I thought about his words, “If you leave, you won’t get your green card.” How could I have considered that getting married at the age of 19 would allow me to further pursue my dreams? How could I have tolerated an abusive relationship for the hope that it would get me closer to my family in Peru, the place where my heart belongs?
The desperation inside me has existed for months and made me blind to the absurdity of my situation.
As I began to violently throw my clothes around the bedroom floor, my phone rang. It was my mother. A part of me was aching to tell her what I was going through, about how much I hated myself for tolerating an abusive relationship, about how crazy it is that we have no other option as immigrants but to get into dangerous situations to be able to feel secure in a country we lived in for years, about how the bruises on my legs gave me a pain that could only be described by my aching screams. I needed to be with someone, I couldn’t stand being alone, but something within me stopped me from reaching the phone.