Stupid plans. So here is my father, preparing his departure, saying goodbye, in his own way, to a hard and painful life in the States. Resigned, in his own way, to death and dying in the land of his birth. But the dying he foresees is a peaceful one: somehow, during the summer months, when the rain pours down on the corn, and the wind whips the greenery into a frenzy, the dark earth will open up and swallow him whole, reuniting him with his umbilical cord (attaching himself to it once again), and sleeping in death beneath a welcoming, placental soil—an eternal sleep in his native land, without fear or running. This is the dying he foresees.
Stupid plans—My uncle came to see my father a few weeks ago and burst his bubble. Michoacan is overrun with drug cartels. The town of his birth has been commandeered by the Zetas. They have driven out the police, the mayor, the government, any sign of civility and democracy. They have instituted curfews—everyone is to be inside their homes by 8:00 p.m. They collect taxes from the citizenry, from merchants, and will kill anyone who opposes them or their rule. My father innocently suggested that he was an old man and all he wanted was to work on his house and mind his business: “I’m not into that shit. They should leave me alone.” No, said my uncle, they will kill you for the simple reason that you’re returning—to return to is to be done, to have accomplished what you set out to do, to have money! If you have money, you die. This is not the death my father foresaw. This is the death of wild dogs—of animals who don’t know how to die, who eat their young and their dead.
Now he’s stuck. I can sense the desperation and disappointment. And I lack the words. The immigrant has become an exile, and he doesn’t know what that means.
You can’t go home again, I said. We can’t go home again.