For 20 minutes a day the sunlight caresses my skin, peeling off the numbness like the rind of a lemon. I’m stuck in this room. I cannot leave, for I am not allowed to. I wish they could put me in a room with bigger windows so I could see outside, see the sky, see the ground, see the sun beating down, zesting the space around me. Pero no, I’m stuck here, for this is the only room they had for those staying long term.
The sunlight crawls towards me curiously at the same time every day. I don’t know what time it is exactly because there are no clocks in this room. Does time even exist if no clock is present? Its rays hit me ever so slightly. I am not sure what direction it’s from. I just know that it gets dark after stroking my skin. The apple-shaped sun shines through the glass and dips into my skin like caramel. Dust cuddles my body like cocoa powder. I hear other boys and girls in this place coughing – sick just like me.
I wrap my silver blanket over my shoulders closer and closer towards mi corazón. It’s getting colder now. When I came here the sun was high and drizzled the earth with a heat so hot even the shade of the lemon trees wouldn’t be enough to save you. The sun’s rays sprinkle across your skin, leaving burned shoulders and noses. My caramel skin protects me from the sun’s rays, so I never got burned like Mamá who is much paler than me. The light recoils slowly away from me taking its warmth with it like a dog whose nose grows tired of smelling the roses. As it gets colder and colder, I pull my blanket tighter and tighter. I wish they would give me another. I wish they’d give the baby crying in the place next to me another; I believe they are cold just like me, or maybe hungry. I do not know.
My Mamá told me this place would be safe; that I could have a better life here. It would be better here than at home burning under the lemon trees. That they could give me a future as bright as the star above. Sprout and grow for we have strong roots, but even stronger branches to climb onto.
I didn’t know I was going to be stuck in this chain connected cartridge containing coughing children. If I knew this, I don’t think I would have wanted to come with Mamá. I think I would have rather risked staying in the village back in El Salvador, burning under the lemon trees. I know Mamá y Papá had no money left to give them. That’s why they killed Papá, but I don’t know if being stuck in a cage alone was worth it. I don’t know if I will see Mamá again. How long have I been here? I don’t know, but it’s cold now. It was warm when Mamá and I slid through that tunnel.
Mamá, where are you? Save me from this cage please Mamá! Did I do something bad? Mamá, was this worth leaving the lemon trees? Are these people going to kill me like they did Papá? Mamá, why does the sun take it’s warmth with it after kissing my skin?
Por favor, eat the caramel away and let what’s underneath catch flame if that’s what it takes. Lo que sea, whatever, just come get me por favor Mamá. Let’s go back and burn under the lemon trees. ¿Mamá? ¡Mamá! ¿Dónde se fue el sol?
Matthew N. Marroquín is a Salvadorian-American writer, spoken word performer, and slam poet from the cornfields of Storm Lake, Iowa. He attends Buena Vista University where he is attaining a degree in theatre and media performance. Marroquín’s writing reflects identity, culture, advocacy, and unheard or unvoiced perspectives. If you wish to see more of Matthew Marroquín, you can find him on Instagram at vida_marroquin.