With a phone call everything can change so quickly. One minute you are chuckling to yourself over some private joke that you remembered from the evening before, and then the next minute your friend’s voice is over the phone from somewhere south of Tucson in the middle of the desert telling you they found the body of the woman they were looking for. She had been crossing the border and then the desert like so many thousands of others, looking for work. The body had already begun to decompose he tells me, and the hair on my arms stands up – I don’t know if it is from the air conditioning that just kicked back on or the gravity of his words that kicked me in the gut. There was a strain in his voice that was palpable and it wasn’t the static that from poor cell phone coverage. There are times when phones have this unnerving quality, like a massive car wreck between juxtaposition of events and interconnectedness of us all. Sitting in the shaded confines of my office, the picture of a woman’s body, decomposed and lonely, was never clearer, never more distinct, and yet miles if not worlds away from me. The very border that killed her made my reality possible. The insufferable heat she succumbed to was my privilege and my enjoyment. The car wreck of our circumstances is not easily cleaned up.
Somewhere, only an hour’s drive from where I write, more phone calls are being made to the necessary authorities, and surely prayers are being whispered on the dry burning wind of the desert. Water is touching the lips of those who endeavored to find this unnamed person, and sweat is being wiped from brows with the knowledge that the cars are not far off. A woman who died with nothing but courage, is now with companions she never knew. The family she was walking towards is certainly weeping at the news of her confirmed death, and yet sighing with the relief that she will not be one of the hundreds who simply evaporate into the oblivion of the desert. Close by, I am sure there are those who are sidestepping such an ending, walking a tightrope to survival and the possibility of work in the North. Meanwhile we jump from air conditioned cars to offices and back, our agendas tightly under our arms, and our destinations “legally” sanctioned by convenience of laws made on our behalf. As long as there are jobs here and US sponsored poverty elsewhere, women like this will die alone in the desert. As we are responsible for the policies of this country, we are then responsible for this woman’s death.