First of all I wanted to say that my main genre of writing usually consists of fantasy that touches upon a lot of social issues but through the support and guidance of my friend, and past CAS major, Hector Fuentes, who really believed I could do this, I took a deep breath, mellowed down and took a step into working on something with a more realistic tone and setting. In my work I touch upon the very real topic of migration along with the burden the decision-making process has on an individual who makes the choice to leave their home, people, and world they’ve known their entire life. Through this piece I focus on the main character's perspective and show how her interactions with the people around her--and the environment she lives in--have shaped her decision to take a chance at finding a better life.
Crowded Desire/Recurso Recorrido
By: Benjamin Bivian
Sounds of the wild fill the dawn as the rising sun slowly begins to illuminate the forest, hiding in the dusk. It rises slowly from behind the easterly mountain range, revealing a boundless landscape of forestry and hills accompanied by calm bursts of winds. The sun's rays bleed through the shadows as its light dimly floods the room of a small hut from a window, revealing a young woman resting on her bed. She looks out intently as the sounds make themselves heard more clearly.
“Should I even show up today?”
She steadily and quickly sits up on the side of her bed, pulling down on and fixing the white sleeveless blouse she was sleeping in.
“No. I have too.”
She fixes two bracelets on her left arm and with a yawn looks down beside her opening a small cupboard next to the bed and pulling out a brightly colored-patterned pair of pants. She slips them on and stands up with a bit of trouble a she tightly clasps them and holds them up forcibly. “Ow, ow, ow… My back still hurts.”
She walks left toward a mirror on her room wall and grabs a similarly festive belt from another cupboard underneath it. She fastens it around her waist and looks into the mirror, caressing her dark wavy hair with one hand and grabbing a small brush shakily with the other. “And my hands. They feel so numb… Who would have thought this would all catch up to me?”
She begins to comb her rumpled head of hair back taking a few minutes to wince through the pain to make it look as wavy as she possibly can. Done, she heads off into the restroom and shortly after grabs a tan, red, and purple colored-patterned satchel on her way into the kitchen which also serves as part of the living room. She walks past a small wooden table with a colorful bouquet of flowers on it, to a concrete countertop with a fruit basket. Taking a look at the array of fruits and other greens in it, she stares at the bananas grinning to herself, “Hmm… At least he’s coming by today. If only I had the guts to leave and travel like he does too.” She takes pause and chuckles, “It’s so cute. He’s got me eating it up. Travel! He only comes around between this village and his own. He so funny.”
With a smile on her face, she heads out the front door and shuts it behind her. Stepping out, a neighbor in a hut across from hers waves as she waves back. Jubilantly, she stands for a second to take in the beauty of the millions of trees and mountains. Surrounding her with a sudden sense of a greater obligation than before. She looks at both sides of the dirt road in front of her before stepping down from her porch. A few people pass by greeting her as she respectfully gestures back. Wraps the multicolored satchel around herself and steps onto the road heading west. She then walks past rows of other huts left and right of her, all whilst the single road sprawls with people coming back and forth. She greets many of the passing people, her community, with a grin and a polite, “Buenos días.”
The woman passes along many others traveling like her. Some from places near and others from afar. Some walk or have modes of transportation like bikes and trucks, all sharing one road. A few small children run past her shouting “Buenos días!” while simultaneously looking back and waving at her. One boy stops and turns back asking her, “Another day of picking corn again Ms. Miriam?”
She replies with a grin, “The same as everyday Milo. Say isn’t it too early for you all to be heading to school?”
“We’re going to try and see if the guava tree we planted last week is starting to sprout!” he replies and runs off.
She chuckles a bit and sighs, “Niños. It’s only been a week.”
She continues down the road for a few minutes longer and eventually leaves the sight of her village towards fields of tall plants. She gazes at the long corn stalks to the right of her admiring their presence, but slowly becomes agitated as she turns onto a path within the cornfields. Miriam gawks at the plants around her. “I this really the only thing I can do?” she thinks as she walks through until reaching a medium sized wooden hut. “Am I wrong for thinking about wanting something more, … than this?” She looks at the hut for a moment and gathers her courage entering it with a bothered conscious like many other days before.
Inside a few other women, some younger others older carrying satchels like her, stand around one older women. She announces, “Ok ladies, listen up. We’ve miraculously had a great crop this year. There have not been any foreseeable signs of environmental or temporal issues for these next few days. This means there’ve been no needs for changes on meeting picking quotas. With that said, as usual you’ll all get keep 1/3 of your pickings and... Oh yes-” she shuffles through her satchel pulling out some rumpled envelopes. “We’ve got everyone’s pay from yesterday’s crop which can be collected now if you’d like. After that straight off to the fields.”
Miriam collects her pay with a nod. “I’ve been keeping some savings these past few months and I’m not even using them. What more of a push do I need? What am I afraid of?” She grabs a small knife from a rack on the wall near the door used for cutting corn and heads outside into the hot midmorning field muttering to herself, “Forgot my hat at home, …” as she softly presses her palm to her face. “It’s as God himself pulls fast ones on me to see what I’ll do. …”
Miriam spends the next few hours in the hot sun pulling corn from its leafy stalk with the rest of the other women until she’s filled her satchel completely. She picks her last cob as she forces it into the filled satchel saying, “Quittin time, …” while wiping some sweat off her forehead. She looks up at the sky and checks the suns position.
“It looks noonish now.” she groans stretching her tired arms into the air. “Everything’s still sore from yesterday.…” She places her hands on her hips and puffs her chest out, as her back cracks a few times. She looks down at the satchel, “Young chick like me to be hurting like this constantly. Don’t they get that some of us will never get better if we keep up like this.”
She stares down at the knife in her hand for a few seconds and mutters, “Maybe I should go through with it and leave. Everyone talks about a better life.” She looks up at the sky with great wonder, “What if my life isn’t meant here.” She sighs. “Well at least I’m done with my pickings. I can get out of the sun now, but that’s what my dumbass gets for not remembering my hat.” She bends over getting a good handling of filled satchel, groaning, and wincing through each step as drags the heavy load behind her, toward the hut.
Moments later she enters the hut as two other woman rush towards her and proceed to pick the load up onto a stone table. They begin to empty the bag as one woman stands across the other side of the table splitting the corn cobs into two separate piles. Miriam watches closely as the woman finishes separating the piles and pushes the one containing less up to her. She looks up at Miriam, “Here’s your share of the pickings,” and puts the remaining corn in her satchel simultaneously nodding at her.
“Thank you, Ma’am.” she nods back with a gratuitous air and leaves.
Out of the cornfields she fidgets with her belt, loosening it quickly and pulls out a knife. “They didn’t notice,” she stares at the blade shaking. “I’m really going through with this.” She closes her eyes still shaking and exhales, “If I am going to leave. If I’m going through with it, I have to do it now. They’ll soon figure out the knifes gone and go on the hunt for it.” She checks out her surroundings and begins to walk, heading back toward her village. She thinks, “If I go home now and get dinner started a bit later I would have time to get water from the mountain springs. Oh but he’s coming tonight. I just hope he has a long enough delivery run for me not to keep him waiting.”
She enters the village as a more bustling afternoon atmosphere fills the area from movement by its occupants: children play and others go on about completing their daily errands. Miriam passes by her house to drop off her satchel and knife. She grabs a big empty red jug decorating her porch and walks southeast toward a visible mountain range familiar as the place with the watering hole. She makes her way into the forest and follows an instinctively constructed path toward the hill distracting herself by looking at the serene wilderness around her. “If this beauty exists here, what else will I find out there?” she keeps quiet listening to the sounds of the birds chirping and the winds blowing through the tree branches., “It’d be so sudden if I asked him to leave with me without saying anything. How do I go about asking him?” she continues to ponder about with herself as she suddenly spots a women on the path ahead with a small girl. The girl looks back and spots her, immediately telling the woman with her. She turns and shouts out, “Well, hey there Miriam! Come on, Catch up with us!”
The little girl continues cheeringly, “We’ll wait for you!”
The three ladies journeyed uphill holding onto their jugs with more care. The little girl says,
“You know I heard you can see the village from up this hill.”
Miriam asks, “Oh, really?” with admiration, “So this is your first time up here?”
The girl replies eagerly, “Yep,that’s why I’m here with my Tía!”
Her Tia says earnestly, “We’re almost there.”
A few minutes pass as the sound of a river flowing can be heard. They continue climbing up until they reach a tree covered flatland with a small lake of spring water lowly spouting out of the ground, flowing down the side of the mountain. Tia motions to her niece with the jug and they both kneel down near the riverbed as she explains to her how properly fill it. Miriam scoops her jug into the basin of water fairly quickly and gets up. She looks back at the guidance and says, “I’ll see you two soon. Tell your mother I said hi.”
“Really! You’re leaving so soon? I’m sure you’re going to need more than that honey.” exclaims the Tia.
“No really. I don’t want to lug around more water than I’ll need.” Miriam chuckles bashfully.
“I see.” replies Tia looking at her warily,. “Is something wrong dear?”
“No, no. I’m just tired… from work.” she replies hastily, smiling sincerely. “I forgot my hat when I went in today. Heat exhaustion. I just need some rest.” She sighs, “My minds been all over the place, honestly and-…”
“The Tia walks over to her and softly says, “You can talk to me dear. I can see somethings wrong. It’s not like you to be half in tears like this.”
Miriam clears her throat, “Can I trust you with something? I’ve been having some really conflicting thoughts for a while now. I need some guidance…”
“Mija, you know I’m no chismosa.”
Miriam makes her way down the mountainside carefully and sees that the sun has begun to lower down steadily. She makes a bigger effort to move as quickly as possible in order to get home and get dinner started. Her ears flare up in red as she looks back on her exchange with Tia.
“Mija, you know I’m no chismosa.” assures Tia.
“I.., I’ve,…I’ve been contemplating leaving the village.”
She nods her head and asks, “I see, … Is this in connection to the boy you’ve been seeing? Does he have anything to do with this?”
“No.” Miriam defends, “He has nothing to do with this. This is something I want. I’m tired of all the labor, of all the pains. I, … I feel trapped. It’s not worth it,.…I feel so wrong about saying this. What am I thinking?”
“Mija. Don’t cry.” Tia sighs and continues, “I had thoughts of leaving once too when I was your age and you’re absolutely right to feel how you do.” She rolls up her blouses sleeves, “I’ve endured years of cuts and bruising.” She rolls them back down, . “A day hasn’t gone by where I don’t get a new one…All the things we do aren’t worth it. We work long hours, day in and day out with no real way to keep ourselves sustained.” She grabs old of Miriams shoulder, “If you have a means of leaving, take it. I regret not taking the chance when I had it and I always wonder about what could’ve been. This is your life, not theirs.” She hugs Miriam, “Take care of yourself out there mija.”
Minutes pass as she finally makes it onto the main road again and shuffles into the village, as the bustling noise from the afternoon earlier have now been hushed into calm early evening murmurs. On her way home a man on a bicycle, with a basket full of bananas secured to his back seat, waits in front of her house. Upon spotting her, he straightens his gray shirt and scratches his short dark head of hair.
She gives off a smile as the man says merrily, “Miriam I was so close to leaving, so, so close.”
They both chuckle as she puts the jug down onto her porch and replies, “Good evening, Josue. You didn’t have to wait for me.
You’ve left your other customers waiting because of me.”
He smiles her way, “Well, I can easily catch up on my run. It’s no worry. So how many would you like today?”
She sighs with a little chuckle “Oh boy,… Lleave some for the rest of the village.”
The banana seller gives her playfully appalled face, “Hey. I’m only trying to give you a good deal. Don’t tell me you’re on a diet… No!” he walks up to her snickering, “You found yourself another banana seller!”
They both bursts out in laughter as she pushes him lightly, .“You silly. I wouldn’t ever.” They both let out a sigh as she teases him with gleaming eyes, “What, you worried about a bit of competition?”
He hands her the bunch of bananas as he teases back, “Oh, who knows. How do I know you aren’t hiding the some other guy in that jug there. It seems pretty-”
She wipes her eyes as Josue asks, “Are you alright Miriam? I’m sorry, was it what I said? I didn’t mean to take it so far babe. We were playing.”
“Oh no. It’s not that.” she replies looking down, “I just had a rough work day, is all. I’m really tired. I’m real glad to see you.”
“You sure you ok?” He tilts his head a bit to see her face, “You don’t need to feel like you need to hide anything from me. Look I know working those fields can be real laboring for anybody out there. I mean, I work picking these bananas that I sell right here.
And though its hard work, at least it paid off cause I got to meet you.”
She looks up with a slight smile, wiping away a trail of quiet tears. “Thank you, Josue,” and gives him a hug, kissing him.
Josue looks at her astonished and without any words, clears his throat jubilantly, “Uh-um… Woah! You really missed me this week, didn’t you.”
“Get going you fool.” She says wiping her eyes. “When you get back, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
“About what?” he stumbles across his words.
“It’d be better talking when you’re done.”
“Miriam.” he leans closely to her. “Miriam, if somethings wrong. Just tell me. I’ll try and understand.”
“Listen. It’s better to talk it over dinner. Finish up your route and I’ll see you later. Okay?”
The sound of this bike peddling off against the dirt echoes as he leaves.
She looks down solemnly, “Would he want to come with me?” and lights a few candles around the house, adding some light into the darkness. With a sudden drive, she goes and pulls the corn out of her satchel and sets them next to a grinder in the kitchen. She then heads off into her room where she lights up another candle and bends down to pull out something from under her bed.
She shuts the door behind her, setting the jug down, and looks at the bananas she placed in the colorful straw basket in her small kitchen. She looks down solemnly, “Would he want to come with me?” and lights a few candles around the house, adding some light into the darkness. With a sudden drive, she goes and pulls the corn out of her satchel and sets them next to a grinder in the kitchen. She then heads off into her room where she lights up another candle and bends down to pull out something from under her bed. After a bit of searching she finds a hefty money pouch. She pulls out her days’ pay from her pocket and deposits it into the pouch shutting her eyes inhaling through her nose and sighing. She places the bag on top of her cupboard and pulls out the small knife she stole from work and places it right beside it. She sighs and heads into the kitchen, preparing to get her dinner started.
“So the fish jumps toward the canoe and in the middle of the whole thing, my buddy decides to duck right, flipping us into the water!”
Miraim and Josue laugh in unison as she stands, holding her empty plate and walks over to grab his.
“Thank you. Ill fix the table up.”
She places the plates in the sink and winces as she says, “Josue. I want to talk about something. …”
“I was wondering when you’d finally get to bringing it up.” He says as he places a neatly folded tablecloth next to the sink. She freezes for a moment due to his sudden appearance next to her. “What’s wrong?” he asks. “I’ve got food on my face?”
Miriam chuckles, “Let’s take a seat.”
They take their seats as Josue’s eyes focus on the sole candle in the middle of the table. He chuckles nervously, “Feels like I’m being interrogated. …” She sees his discomfort and pushes the candle to the side, “I’m sorry, …I just wanted to see your face much better. Even with all the other candles lit up, I feel, …like I can’t see you clearly…”
Tears begin running down her cheeks, “I don’t want to lose you.”
“Lose me? What are you talking about? Lose me how?”
Her voice breaks, “Josue. I’m leaving the village tomorrow morning.”
“What? How long have you planned this?”
“It was all just a thought lingering for a while, but then it became set. I love this place, I always will, but I can’t stay here. I want much more for my life. Our life.” She closes her eyes shut. “I can’t stand the thought of never seeing you again. Will you come with me?”
Josue shifts his eyes from the candles placed all around, back to her confoundedly. “Are you really…serious?”
“Yes.” She sniffles, “I’ve gotten everything ready for me to grab and go.”
Josue stands up and walks toward her as she looks up at him vulnerably. “Is that’s the case then I’m coming. If me leaving my village allowed me to meet you, imagine what else we could see out there for us.”
Miriam jumps out of her chair and hugs Josue tightly in tears as he puts the candles flame out with his fingers.
The morning sounds of the wild declared dawn’s coming as Miriam gets up carefully with haste as not to wake Josue, who is asleep beside her. She lights the candle she set on the cupboard next to her bed the night before. Still dressed in her clothes from the day before, she heads into the kitchen and grabs a small canister from her kitchen sink filling it with water from the jug. She heads back into her bedroom and wakes Josue asking him to fill her satchel with bananas, corn and other varieties of foods. Inside her room, she grabs her money pouch and the knife, strapping them to her belt as she pauses to watch the sun peeking through the mountain range from her window. With a resolved look she walks into the kitchen as Josue gives her a bright smile and nods.
“Hold on.” She says, as Josue stands by the door. She takes a good look around her house, one final time. Taking a deep breath, she asks, “Are you really sure we shouldn’t pass through your village to get anything you need?”
Josue shrugs. “We’ve got my bike. That’s pretty much the only thing I really need. Plus I’m carrying the money I made from my run yesterday. That’s about all I need.” She steps up quietly opening the door, and steps out into the priming morning. Josue shuts the door as she mutters to herself while looking up to the sky with promise.
“We will reach it.”
Josue grabs his bike as Miriam comfortably grabs onto him from the backseat and they head off, not looking back.