"I thought you had died, girl!" Mar'a Edelmira says, when she finally does call.
Better to send money, Lourdes replies, than burn it up on the phone. But there is another reason she hasn't called: her life in the United States is nothing like the television images she saw in Honduras.
Lourdes shares an apartment bedroom with three other women. She sleeps on the floor. A boyfriend from Honduras, Santos, joins her in Long Beach. Lourdes is hopeful. She's noticed that her good friend Alma saves much faster now that she has moved in with a Mexican boyfriend. The boyfriend pays Alma's rent and bills. Alma can shop for her two girls in Honduras at nice stores such as JCPenney and Sears. She's saving to build a house in Honduras.
Santos, who once worked with Lourdes's stepfather as a bricklayer, is such a speedy worker that in Honduras his nickname was El Veloz. With Santos here, Lourdes tells herself, she will save enough to bring her children within two years. If not, she will take her savings and return to Honduras to build a little house and corner grocery store.
Lourdes unintentionally gets pregnant. She struggles through the difficult pregnancy, working in a refrigerated fish factory, packing and weighing salmon and catfish all day. Her water breaks at five one summer morning. Lourdes's boyfriend, who likes to get drunk, goes to a bar to celebrate. He asks a female bar buddy to take Lourdes to the public hospital. Lourdes's temperature shoots up to 105 degrees. She becomes delirious. The bar buddy wipes sweat dripping from Lourdes's brow. "Bring my mother. Bring my mother," Lourdes moans. Lourdes has trouble breathing. A nurse slips an oxygen mask over her face. She gives birth to a girl, Diana.
After two days, Lourdes must leave the hospital. She is still sick and weak. The hospital will hold her baby one more day. Santos has never shown up at the hospital. He isn't answering their home telephone. His drinking buddy has taken Lourdes's clothes back to her apartment. Lourdes leaves the hospital wearing a blue paper disposable robe. She doesn't even have a pair of underwear. She sits in her apartment kitchen and sobs, longing for her mother, her sister, anyone familiar.
Santos returns the next morning, after a three-day drinking binge. "Ya vino? Has it arrived?" He passes out before Lourdes can answer. Lourdes goes, alone, to get Diana from the hospital.
Santos loses his job making airplane parts. Lourdes falls on a pallet and hurts her shoulder. She complains to her employer about the pain. Two months after Diana's birth, she is fired. She gets a job at a pizzeria and bar. Santos doesn't want her to work there. One night, Santos is drunk and jealous that Lourdes has given a male co-worker a ride home. He punches Lourdes in the chest, knocking her to the ground. The next morning, there is coagulated blood under the skin on her breast. "I won't put up with this," Lourdes tells herself.
When Diana is one year old, Santos decides to visit Honduras. He promises to choose wise investments there and multiply the several thousand dollars the couple has scrimped to save. Instead, Santos spends the money on a long drinking binge with a fifteen-year-old girl on his arm. He doesn't call Lourdes again.
By the time Santos is gone for two months, Lourdes can no longer make car and apartment payments. She rents a garage really a converted single carport. The owners have thrown up some walls, put in a door, and installed a toilet. There is no kitchen. It costs $300 a month.
Lourdes and Diana, now two years old, share a mattress on the concrete floor. The roof leaks, the garage floods, and slugs inch up the mattress and into bed. She can't buy milk or diapers or take her daughter to the doctor when she gets sick. Sometimes they live on emergency welfare.
Excerpted from Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario Copyright © 2006 by Sonia Nazario. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The Kopp Sisters Return!
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