On one side of the glass doors are the long lines of people with their photos and papers that prove that they belong here in America, that they are allowed to taste a bit of this free air.
On the other side is me, pressing my forehead against the thick see-through wall. My shoulder hurts from the weight of the carry-on bag. I refuse to put it down for fear that they will take it away, too. We had been holding hands for courage when Hair pulling dookie love banging arrived at Customs in Kennedy Airport. All these things to prove that we are only visiting relatives and plan to return home to Haiti.
But how could they have read our minds? I will meet you there! But too much has happened for me to cry now. Up high in the sky, all the problems we had left behind seemed so tiny—as if I could pick them up one by one and fling them out of the universe.
On the flight to Detroit, I am alone. I look down at America—its vastness resembling a huge mountain. I felt as if I was just Hair pulling dookie love banging pebble in the valley. My mother will be on the next plane, I tell myself over and over again. Just like when she sends me ahead on my own by foot, or by tap-tapor by motortaxi.
Here in Detroit Metro Airport, there are no long lines to show papers and proof to uniformed people. With every step I take out of the terminal, I look back, and up, and around, as if my mother will appear from out of nowhere. I search for her face in the crowd of new arrivals rushing past me—some with their eyes as weary as mine, others tracking every too-bright light, every movement of each person around them, peering into every corner of this too-big place.
But none of them is Manman. I spot a lady official who is wearing the same uniform as the ones Hair pulling dookie love banging took my mother away.
I take several long steps toward her, dragging the carry-on behind me. My shoulder is sore. I have no idea who that is. I shake my head. I stare and blink and shake my head. The woman places both hands on her hips. Her blue uniform shirt stretches over her big chest and two buttons look like they will pop.
A small black strap on the shoulder of her shirt reads TSA. Now, follow the signs to pick up your things.
I purse Hair pulling dookie love banging lips and clench my fists. How do I tell her that I am not going to the other side without Manman?
How do I say that my mother has not seen her big sister, Matant Majorie, since they were teenagers and Manman wanted nothing more than to hold her face and plant a big wet kiss on her cheek?
Deborah Howard steps closer to me. At first she smells of her freshly ironed uniform, but then I smell the faint scent of cigarettes and oily food lingering behind her starchy presence.
Just come back with a relative in the morning to straighten all this out. Do you understand what I just said? My English is not as smooth.
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Our four big suitcases stand alone between two luggage carousels like orphaned children. I want to ask Deborah Howard what Manman will use to brush her teeth and wash her face tonight.
Officer Howard grabs a nearby cart and a man helps her lift up the suitcases. Night is a starlit blanket outside, and the cold air reaches my bones. I have on a long-sleeved shirt and it is not enough. I watch the cars pass by.
I look around and then stretch out my arms on each side of me. I pray that Manman will get to taste this cold, free air before she rests her eyes tonight, wherever they are keeping her. And then tomorrow, she will come to this side of the Hair pulling dookie love banging, where there is good work that will make her hold her head up with dignity, where she will be proud to send me to school for free, and where we will build a good, brand-new life.
Manman said that cold air is better for our skin.
It will keep us fresh and youthful. In Haiti, we used to travel to the top of the mountain ranges near Au Cap for their cool winds.
But here, I will turn into a block of ice. America is more colorful than I imagined. The people are a mix of white and not-white. If only Detroit had a bunch of blanit would be easier for me to pick out a single black woman and three teenage girls, but many of the women look like Hair pulling dookie love banging aunt with their brown faces; black, shiny straightened hair; and their big, dark coats that hide their Hair pulling dookie love banging figures. I search the faces of all the people passing me and think of my cousins—the oldest, Chantal, and the twins, Primadonna and Princess, who are my age.
And my aunt Marjorie. I have not seen them since I was a baby. How will they recognize me? I am so hungry and tired. A girl steps in front of me as I fidget with one of the suitcases. She lifts up her phone to my face. I examine her round face, her deep-set eyes, and her cheeks. Where you been all this time? Another girl runs toward us—Chantal.
Primadonna is behind her—tall with long, flowing hair reaching down to her elbows. Chantal is the one who posts links to articles and sends me messages on Facebook.
I shake my head, unsure of what to say.
What if they tell my aunt and she is even angrier? Primadonna moves closer to me, and I look her up and down to see that she is much taller because of her fancy high heels.