Urban Waite A Varying Border woke on a Thursday around noon, packed my school bag, and walked outside into an early afternoon spring day. I stood watching the street, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the sunlight. Across the street, a new house was going up, the workers were all out on the roof and the sound of pneumatic nail guns could be heard. I paused there, watching them, measuring the amount of work that was to be done before they finished. My body was in a sort of daze, a half consciousness between this outside world and the one I had just left. Cars came and went along the four-lane road in front of my complex. A pickup truck passed in the closest lane, a boy younger than I sticking h is head out of the passenger window until he caught my eyes in his. Spic-the boy yelled, looking me over as he said it. The tires on the road or the truck engine not enough to swallow up the sound of laughter quickly following. The boy had his head out the window possibly just a second longer, looking to see how the word registered in me, until he pulled his head back into the cab of the truck. The truck slowing into a flashing red at the end of the block then veering left around the corner and out of sight. This was the first time anyone had ever said something like this to me. I was twenty-two.
How DO I BEGIN TO TELL YOU WHAT THIS WORD meant to me? Would it surprise you if I told you I was the last son of a Mexican family that had been gradually erasing itself for four generations? Would it help to know that I- like this boy-shared the same fear of Mexicans; that this fear had been taught to me? And that I was in my own way filled with biased conceptions, hateful ideas, and a distrust for my own skin?
I WAS BORN IN SEATTLE, in the same hospital where my mother worked nights as a nurse. My father worked days as a bicycle salesman, and between the two of them they raised me. All of my life I have known that we have been alone, distances apart from any other family, and that this was a choice my mother had made. My mother was seeking a place away from a childhood of abuse and overcrowding, where my grandmother found it necessary to do cruel things in order to keep a household of seven children quiet. There, in my grandmother's household-a household that followed the borders of Mexico from El Paso, Texas to Long Beach, California-Spanish was Summer - Fall 2006
The Literary Digest of the University of Idaho