A Campaign I Can Never Win
By Fabiola Inzunza
Fabiola, is an active member of Dream Team Los Angeles.
Their death marked the first time in my life that I sought someone else’s arms for consolation. There was no campaign in the world that could bring them back and for that, I felt vulnerable.
The strength I had built up inside of me to stay sane, the stoic methods of my socialization, the tears I’ve held back for decades, everything I had done in order to live through the experience of being undocumented while appearing to be seemingly unaffected by the idea of being a rejected human being simply because of where I was born — all of it vaporized in one second. For the first time in a long time, I felt raw pain and emotion.
It was early on a Saturday when I got the call. I was both a little alarmed and a little upset that it was so early for a Saturday. The night before had been a night of venting with my roommate. We were angry at the man, the people, the system, and the universe. It was one of those surly, drunken, dark nights. The morning brightness was not part of the plans that weekend.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
I felt goosebumps up and down my spine. I was hoping it was work related, but the tone of the voice told me otherwise.
“Tam and Cinthya were in a car accident this morning.”
A friend once told me that if I were to be standing in front of a crumbling building set on fire, I would probably be the type of person who would stand calmly right in front of it whilst everyone around me ran like crazy, as I planned on how to rebuild it again. Being Zen, they call it.
Right away, I went into organizer mode, wondering if they needed money and what the next steps were. I wondered how long their recovery would take. I wondered if this meant they would need to take time off school. I quickly thought of a fundraising plan. Not for one second did I even think anything worse. The next few words I heard hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Cinthya was killed.”
Have you ever thought about what a ton of bricks would feel like showering over you? Feel every brick as it hits your fleshy body. Feel the smoothness, and abrupt roughness of each brick. Feel how heavy each subsequent brick feels as it lies on your body. Feel each brick as it piles into the rest of the bricks now shattering your bones. Feel the weight mounting, as your body loses the capacity to breathe. Multiply that pain by about infinity. No longer a quirky analogy about what shock feels like, it was real. The bricks were real. The pain, too sudden.
A few blurry phone calls later. I was on organizer mode again. For I still had hope. Tam was still alive in a hospital on the east coast. She was still breathing and that’s all that mattered. Hours later, she also left us. They went together and that’s as much peace to the situation as I have found since then.
They died and the system that screwed them over continues to churn the injustice they lived through. Although they were undocumented and unafraid, they also had dreams, hopes, and aspirations that were supposed to take them beyond the year 2010.
Two years later I find that a wall has been brought down within me. I feel comfortable loving, I feel comfortable sharing. I understand that vulnerability is not negative. I am ready to express myself in ways that I always understood meant I was subject to retaliation.
The melodic guitar strums of Modest Mouse now only remind me of a painfully treasured time as I watch Tam’s video featuring Cinthya on continuous play. I love watching their quirky happiness that only an undocumented young person experiences when they discover they can prove their identity for the first time. I ponder whether I should ever go back to Six Flags again because the last time I was there, times were easier. Should I let the ghost of our past friendships to forever haunt the theme park, to forever scream in delight while reaching the top of the fastest roller coaster in the world, to stay, forever young? As I revisit old memories, holding on to them a little bit closer, writing them down for fear of forgetting them, I acknowledge the gaps of our friendships, wishing I could travel back in time and make every moment perfect, to fill them in with the benefit of the doubt given to those who recount the memories of loved ones who left too soon.
In their honor, in their spirit, and to promote their legacy, I will challenge myself to walk beyond the line I had previously drawn. Their gift of love stays here with us. And for now, that will have to do.
Check out the new book which honors the lives of Tam and Cinthya and highlights the amazing work of undocumented youth across the country.
Crossposted at: www.fabiolainzunza.com