JUAN ALL BUT DRAGGED Eleanor out of the Border Crossing Station on the Mexico side and onto the sidewalks of Matamoros at de Mayo Street. It was getting dark and Juan knew that this section of Matamoros, around the bridge, had a very bad and well-deserved reputation.
People disappeared from Matamoros. Mostly Americans unaware of the danger, ignorant Central American immigrants, and those Los Mojados (the wet ones) who’d gotten caught illegally crossing the Rio Grande border and returned to the Mexico side. These were often robbed and sometimes even murdered in this section of town.
“Let go of me!” Eleanor screamed, jerking her arm free.
“We can’t stay here Eleanor. It’s not safe.”
“And I’m safe with you? This isn’t right. I shouldn’t be here! This … you… this is Willow’s mess. She should be here, not me.”
“OK! So you’ve told me and everyone else on the bridge.”
Juan ground his teeth together. He’d never wanted to smack someone so much in his life. But he knew that would only cause her to get more upset and louder. And that would draw unwanted attention to them.
“You can feel sorry for yourself later,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got to get moving and find my brother Miguel before anything happens to him on account of us.”
“What could be worse than what’s already happened to me?”
“You! You! You! I’m tired of hearing about what’s happened to you. If you haven’t noticed, this is happening to me as well. And to everyone else back there on that bridge. So quit your damn whining and start moving something besides your mouth!” Juan said, walking on.
“It’s not the same. You live here,” Eleanor yelled.
“You won’t be – living, that is – if you don’t stop whining and start moving! The Gulf Cartel and Los Oscuros, will be looking for the stupid Los Mojados and ignorant gringos, like yourself, who they can use as drug mules or worse, distractions.”
“Distractions. They shoot them. And while the guards are busy with that, the drug mules make a run for it. Which one do you want to be?”
By the time Juan and Eleanor were running down de Mayo Avenue and inky blackness had engulfed Matamoros. The golden glow of incandescent street lights that did nothing to conceal the area’s seediness or help orient Eleanor to her new surroundings. She was lost.
She hated unfamiliarity. Back home, she never went places she didn’t know unless she was with someone she knew well. Which meant she didn’t go anywhere.
In all of her forty-five years of living in Chicago, she’d never been on the South Side. And heaven forbid, the West side. Nor, had she been to Grant Park or even in the heart of Downtown Chicago. She always figured she had time. One day, when the right man had come along, she’d see all of those places. Together as a couple.
Now here she was in this God forsaken filth-ridden place, tethered to a total stranger, without any hope of ever seeing any of those places. All she could do now was pray that she made it through this horrible day and back home so that she could.
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