As a little girl, I had many fears. Born from reasonable and not-so-reasonable wombs of circumstances, I consciously (and consistently) fought their penetrating presence by erecting walls of logic and fortitude. With passing years, I saw many of them surrendering and receding into thin smoke, leaving me a fertile air concomitant of a progressive upbringing.
But some fears continue to seethe within the subdued bark of emotions like its ashen cousin in an extinguished bonfire: time and again, an unexpected gush of reminiscent wind victimizes the tranquil symmetry and bares the fear to rise like a blinding demon of ineluctable anaesthetic might. More than anything, it feels almost inhuman to be sentenced to loneliness, more so in this unforgiving world of depleted values and volatile anomalies.
And perhaps it is the incessant fight against this pungent foe that made Makina, my instant kin. A poor yet independent girl, all of teen blood, wise beyond her mysterious age, a braveheart toeing no boundaries yet short of filial potion, when sets out to find her brother who has been long gobbled up by the Mexico-US border without a trace, I wondered if all she would tread be a pallid array of tedious navigators with futile marks embedded in riotous paths. Doubling up as a messenger of her mother and the mafia (as a part of the deal) bore fatal marks on her survival. But her stark resemblance to a determined rock made her a fascinating and faintly optimistic traveler and I was sufficiently fuelled to follow her mission.
What becomes of Makina’s expedition into an unknown terrain, spread across the supple body of this book, is to the credit of Herrera’s prismatic brilliance. Herrera weaves a translucent coat around Makina through which her tribulations appear exemplary and pitiable from different angles.
How even if they’ve got filthy mouths, they’re fragile; and even if they’re like little boys, they can really get under your skin.
You are a door, not the one who walks through.
We who are happy to die for you, what else could we do? We, the ones who are waiting for who knows what. We, the dark, the short, the greasy, the shifty, the fat, the anemic. We the barbarians.
While hearing her heap pearls of advice in her little sister’s mental safe was exemplary, witnessing her crumbling under her brother’s clinical detachment was pitiable. While seeing the dissolution of her mother’s voice in the crushing vestiges of her palms was pitiable, finding her unwavering voice echo in favour of strangers on the whimsical outline of the captives was exemplary.
Covering the blazing rays of shootouts, trafficking, underworld, conversion and immigration like a benevolent patch of cloud, Herrera brings a generous shower to Makina’s personality, embellishing her with twinkling drops of sensitivity, radiant rivulets of courage, sparkling scent of wit and uplifting spirit of language.
“More than the midpoint between homegrown and anglo their tongue is a nebulous territory between what is dying out and what is not yet born.
In her tireless footsteps and listless pauses, in her unexpected friendships and expected partings, in her deadpan acceptances and audacious defiances, in her mortified realizations and amorphous hopes, I detected a tenebrous redemption; a redemption that may seem brushing against sanity but sometimes, a blemished sun is enough to look forward to a clear sky.
As she walked away to the other side of the border, I couldn’t help but fix my gaze at her for a long time. And she looked back, one last time.
“Later she stopped feeling the weight of uncertainty and guilt, she thought back to her people as though recalling the contours of a lovely landscape that was now fading away.”
[Image courtesy http://www.nbcnews.com ]