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September 29, 2002
  • Chapter 1
Chapter 1

Maria Isabel, Enrique's girlfriend, finds him sitting on a rock at a street corner, weeping, rejected again. She tries to comfort him. He is high on glue. He tells her he sees a wall of fire that is killing his mother. "¿Por qué me dejó?" he cries out. "Why did she leave me?"

He feels shame for what he has done to his family and what he is doing to Maria Isabel, who might be pregnant. He fears he will end up on the streets or dead. Only his mother can help him. She is his salvation. "If you had known my mom, you would know she's a good person," he says to his friend Jose. "I love her."

Enrique has to find her. He sells the few things he owns: his bed, a gift from his mother; his leather jacket, a gift from his dead uncle; his rustic armoire, where he hangs his clothes.

He crosses town to say goodbye to Grandmother Maria. Trudging up the hill to her house, he encounters his father. "I'm leaving," he says. "I'm going to make it to the U.S." He asks him for money.

His father gives him enough for a soda and wishes him luck.

"Grandma, I'm leaving," Enrique says. "I'm going to find my mom."

Don't go, she pleads. She promises to build him a one-room house in the corner of her cramped lot.

But he has made up his mind.

She gives him 100 lempiras, about $7--all the money she has.

"I'm leaving already, Sis," he tells Belky the next morning.

She feels her stomach tighten. They have lived most of their lives apart, but he is the only one who understands her loneliness. Quietly she fixes a special meal: tortillas, a pork cutlet, rice, fried beans with a sprinkling of cheese.

"Don't leave," she says, tears welling in her eyes.

"I have to."

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