Chapter 4: Wherein I Prepare to Start Over and Carve Out a Life in Mexico
We pulled over and jumped down from the truck to see that the ropes were still secured around the bumper, but that the bumper had given up on the Dodge Raider. It was dragging in the street behind us like a dog that refuses to walk any farther and demands to be carried. Everything I had of importance, including my passport and also my friends, were in the Raider. I was with a stranger in the middle of a border town at night with about seven dollars in my pocket. The little boy looked at the bumper, then he turned to me and laughed in my face.
Thankfully, the kindly man didn't abandon me at my weakest moment. Instead, he tossed the bumper in the bed of the dump truck and we climbed back into the cab and retraced our steps through the city. It took us about 40 minutes to find the Raider pushed drunkenly to the side of the road in a busy intersection. My friends were already pulling everything they owned out of the Raider. "I'm leaving it," my friend Jesse told me. "The whole thing is worth less than a new engine." The gentleman with the terrible son expressed interest in taking it off our hands in exchange for the ride. We consented and piled into the bed of the dump truck so he could drive us the rest of the way to the border.
Chapter 5: Wherein We Bravely Lose Our Way to the Station and Sneak Across the Border by Mistake
A little less than a mile out from the station, our hero and his heartless son dropped us off on the side of the road and said they couldn't go any farther. We were pretty confident we could walk a mile with pillows, a boom box, and duffel bags under our arms, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous and then immediately got lost. We walked for what felt like a mile in what felt like the right direction but never stumbled across anything that felt like border patrol.
When we finally did see something that resembled a station, we opted to take a shortcut there, squeezing between bushes, jumping over loose boards in a muddy ravine, and climbing through the broken chain-link fence of a construction site. Between where we left the road and where we found it again couldn't have been farther than the length of a football field, but in that distance we inadvertently found the most accommodating illegal entry point into Calexico for probably hundreds of miles, and no one was there. The lights we had been aiming for didn't belong to a border station after all, but to a factory. By the time we found the legal point of entry and realized our mistake, we all just stood there looking at it, quietly deciding it would be too embarrassing to go back through a second time and explain why we were muddy, carless, and trying to get into the U.S. while already standing in the U.S.
Epilogue: Wherein None of Us Get Shot by Minutemen and We Eat French Fries in a Greyhound Station
"I'm glad no one shot us," Jesse said while we waited for our bus. We agreed that was our favorite part, but said nothing, because we were all eating french fries from the fast food restaurant next door.
It took us four hours to get to Los Angeles, and along the way I tried to extract some overall thesis from the experience, because I was a freshman in college and I thought that's what I was supposed to do with everything. I couldn't understand why the dump truck driver had helped us in the first place or why he circled back with me when we lost the car. I certainly never would have done that for anyone, but then again I didn't own a dump truck and maybe there was some code of ethics.
Or perhaps he found himself in a similar situation once. Perhaps he felt the same impulse as I did, an impulse so strong, it doesn't belong to each individual man but to all mankind, binding us together despite our cultural differences and the borders between us: The impulse to jump a car in the air until it breaks.
Or maybe he just felt bad because I almost cried when his son laughed at me. Man, I hated that kid.