Asylum

§6: Radical Hope in a Time of Despair

§6: Radical Hope in a Time of Despair

“You have sudden sensorineural hearing loss,” the ear-nose-and-throat doctor tells me. When I protest saying that can't be it, that I've felt extreme pressure in my left ear for a month, he explains that this is how some people experience the inability to hear low register sounds. 

 

“How did this happen?” I'm stunned.



“There’s lots of potential causes,” the doctor says, “often we can’t pinpoint what it was, sometimes it’s reversible, sometimes not. In that case, we can always try a hearing aid.”



I nearly cry, it’s one day past my forty-second birthday.

§5: Asylum-Free Zones

§5: Asylum-Free Zones

Women and girls crossing borders are open wounds. Subjugated, enslaved, mutilated. Because they are viewed as lesser and disposable by governments, tribal groups, gangs. Because they possess soft pink flesh. The wetness of vulvas, the plumpness of labias, the quivering of clitorises, the pulsing of vaginas. They absorb the misdirected pain of patriarchy until their battered bodies collapse, until fleeing is the only available option.

§4: The Beast

§4: The Beast

There are moments on the train when the girl wants to cackle like a witch or howl like a coyote. Like when tourists, standing below, motion for her and other riders to pose so that they can take pictures with their fancy phones. How strange, she thinks, but forces a crooked smile anyway. Perhaps they’ll take her picture back to the United States so that people there can see what people like her will do for a sliver of a chance at life.

 

“Ms.____’s PTSD is severe. However, she may not look to an observer like she is suffering from PTSD. Factors in her personality serve to camouflage her anxiety, fright, and isolated sense of herself in a dangerous world … she puts powerfully troubling feelings aside so that feelings of anxiety, rage, or terror do not interfere with competent task performance or cogent speech. She can be aware of this division herself when she says, ‘I know I look calm, but inside I am shaking all over.’” – Expert Witness Report of Licensed Psychologist after clinical exam of young female asylum applicant persecuted in her country of origin.

§3—Notice of Hearing

§3—Notice of Hearing

Today is the day I’ve spent weeks preparing for. Reading my argument to anyone who’ll listen. Reciting it in my head during workouts. Dreaming it in the middle of the night.

 

We have two major hurdles. One, the government’s attorney always argues against any bond amount. Two, even if the judge grants a bond, the chances of your being able to post it are slim. You have nothing and your family, who you can’t contact anyway for fear of putting them in danger, has no money to send you. You have one close friend in the United States who’s been like a second-mother to you and has agreed to be your sponsor should you get out. She’s offered to put money up for your bond but she cannot give much because she herself has very little.

 

On the day of your hearing, I rise early, walk long in the desert, whisper prayers to a sliver of moon lit up by the rising sun. A falcon, perched on a utility pole, lifts off as I approach and circles above me twice before flying towards the hot-pink horizon. I take it as a good omen. But I am wrong.