Sitting in the front seat of Mom’s white 96 Civic.
It’s a baking hot Folsom day.
Beads of sweat smear across my forehead as
I reach to readjust my hair–a matted mess
from the almost two-hour-long drive
I fight every urge within me to throw a fit.
I’m trying not to get restless or bored–we came too far for this.
On any other day I’d go through with it
I have chosen to preserve my energy.
“Vo… Van… Villapan?” the white lady officer stutters.
We all get up.
Mom flashes a look at her, too weary to correct her again from the last time.
“Make sure there’s nothing in your pockets,” she warns me and sis.
The seat on the bus sticks to my skin.
I glance up at Mom as she she quietly stares off into the distance.
We rumble past towering old stone buildings
One, two, three… I count the windows,
squinting my eyes to see if I can catch a glimpse of anyone inside
The bus screeches to a stop
barbed wire and chain linked fences
loom through the large front windows.
My five year old feet hit the asphalt.
One, two, three… I count my steps
as butterflies flood my stomach.
I see him in the buzzing crowd of big men.
Dressed in his usual, all blue.
His skin is deep brown from days spent in the sun.
He beams his bright smile and waves.
We run to him, hug him, kiss him.
The hairs of his self-groomed mustache feel prickly
pressed against my forehead.
“How are all my babies doing!” he laughs as he
wraps his arm around Mom’s shoulder, pulling her closer.
The next couple hours are spent on his lap
eating cold, triangle-halved
ham and cheese sandwiches
the ones with cheap bread that stick to the roof of your mouth.
I daydream of Dad in regular clothes.
Maybe a t-shirt to show off all his tattoos.
I imagine taking markers and coloring in every single one of them.
I want to be an artist, just like him.
I close my eyes and wish for this moment to last forever.
The intercom buzzes, “PREPARE TO BOARD THE BUS IN 5 MINUTES.”
It’s almost time to go.
I feel my stomach knotting as the lump in my throat begins to grow.
Hot streams of tears run down my face before I can think to stop them.
Dad smooths his palms across my cheeks.
“Don’t cry, nang. You’re my big girl.
You gotta be strong for your sister and Mommy.
Daddy will be home soon.”
I nod through the ache in my chest.
I wonder when “soon” will come.
In Janit’s own voice: