We were born on January 1st, 2000, in Juárez, Mexico. In the first few years of our life the only thing that you could remember was your parents telling you that outside was dangerous and only home was safe. Since you were so young it was natural to stay with your parents, but as the years passed and you had only been to school and back, you wanted to explore. But how were you to do this? You spent days upon days and nights upon nights trying to find a way to break your parents’ number-one rule of going straight to school and coming straight home.
January 1st, 2010, your tenth birthday, you were still in the same stucco house in Juárez, Mexico. But this day you were extra happy, you had decided that this would be the day that you would take an adventure. Instead of following the same hundred-foot dirt path from school to home you decided to go in the other direction.
After ten minutes you started to get overwhelmed; so many new things had to be taken in. Different buildings and different people – it was all too much for you. Police with huge guns lined the streets, or at least you hoped they were police. Buildings covered in yellow tape stating “Cuidado” filled the city. People were running around yelling and screaming at each other, waving guns, threatening death.
At this point you knew this wasn’t the time or place for a 10-year-old boy to be alone. You wanted so badly to run home to your parents and tell them what you had seen and heard, but I didn’t let you. You had told them you were at “la casa de mi amigo,” and you didn’t want to reveal your lie. You followed the same narrow gravel path back ten minutes and were relieved to find yourself in a familiar place … school.
After school you went straight home on the usual path, but when you walked into the house there was a strange man sitting talking to your parents. You wanted to see who he was but it looked like a pretty serious conversation, so I told you to go to your room; I just needed to help. After twenty minutes of thinking about what had happened, you finally heard your mamí.
“Hijo, mi cielo! Ven aquí por favor!”
“Si, Mamí, ya voy,” you replied, hoping the man was gone.
“We have someone we want you to meet,” Mamí said. “This is Armando, and he is going to take us to a better place. But first we want to show you around Ciudad Juárez so you can finally see why we want to leave.”
I told you that Armando was a bad man but you didn’t listen. All four of you got into Armando’s truck and followed the road that went in the same direction you had walked earlier. You thought about telling your parents what had happened earlier, but I told you that was a bad idea. You saw the same “Cuidado” taped buildings, but this time you had your parents and Armando there to explain.
“Hijo, that is a building for homeless people.” Mamí let out a big sigh. “Last week a very very bad man broke into it. Mi cielo, the man had a gun and demanded drugs and money from some of the most helpless people in the city. Of course they couldn’t give him what he wanted, and he killed all fifty homeless people, women and children too.”
You couldn’t believe what you had just heard. You wanted to cry but I didn’t let you; you needed to stay strong. Your mother went on telling you about other terrible things that had happened, and with each story you got more and more emotional, but I didn’t let you cry.
“This city has been taken over with drugs, money, and weapons. It is no longer safe for us to live here, and that is why Armando is going to help us get out. Your papí and I have been saving, and we finally have the 67,550 pesos to pay for our journey. Te amo mucho Nene, todo está bien!”
You went to school the next day and said good-bye to of your friends. It was hard for you because they weren’t sad. This happened a lot in Juárez – families went on journeys to a better place. You were sad and you wanted to stay with your friends forever, but I told you that your parents were more important.
That weekend your parents packed bags, mostly with water and food. They told you that they couldn’t bring much because the backpacks couldn’t be too heavy. This confused you because they were very light. The journey would take a long time, and you thought that you were going to drive or fly somewhere better. You thought that you would go to Puerto Vallarta or Chihuahua. You thought this would be easy, but later I would tell you the opposite. These were the hardest days of your life and sometimes you just wanted to end it all, but I didn’t let you.
Armando drove you and your family to the northern end of Juárez. From there, he said, you would be walking for the rest of the trip. This surprised you because both Chihuahua and Puerto Vallarta were south and too far away to walk. You grabbed your backpack containing two T-shirts, two shorts, two pairs of underwear, two water bottles, and a little package that Armando had put inside. I didn’t like that package.
It wasn’t long before you saw a big fence with barbed wire on it. You were too small to see over the fence, but I knew there was a sign that said San Antonio. There were no other people in sight.
Armando was acting really weird, and you didn’t understand why. He told you and your parents to hurry through a small hole in the fence, and to not make any noise, even if you were in pain. You said that you couldn’t do it, but I knew you could.
You went through first. The fence ripped your clothing and your skin. You were in pain and bleeding, but I told you we would get help later. Armando and your parents came next. You saw a red pickup truck and Armando told you to run and get in it. You listened to him. The driver asked for your bags and motioned to Armando. You didn’t know what he meant, but I had a bad feeling.
You gave the questionably white man your bag, and he yelled in English to get out of the truck. Armando stayed in. They drove away. They had all of your family’s bags. They were bad people.
You were left with your mamí y papí. You were scared, and I let you be. You felt lonely, and I let you be. You didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t either.
You were lost because you didn’t have a voice. You didn’t have anyone guiding you. You didn’t have help. And that is where I come into the story. I am your brain, your mind, your conscience. When you want to make a decision, I either approve or disapprove it. I am the reason you don’t make bad decisions, and I like when you listen to me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.