Today's Reading

"Help you, ma'am?" the clerk said when I showed up with Sonia's birth certificate.

"You can if you do passport applications." I shoved the paperwork through the slot in the plexiglass screen.

The clerk, who looked all of nineteen, snatched it up and told me to wait. "Oh," he said, scurrying back to the window, "I'll need your passport for a minute. Just to make a copy."

Sonia's passport would take a few weeks, I was told. What I was not told was that my passport had been invalidated.

I found that out much later. And Sonia never got her passport.

At the beginning, a few people managed to get out. Some crossed the border into Canada; others left on boats for Cuba, Mexico, the islands. It didn't take long for the authorities to set up checkpoints, and the wall separating Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas from Mexico itself had already been built, so the egress stopped fairly quickly.

"We can't have our citizens, our families, our mothers and fathers, fleeing," the president said in one of his early addresses.

I still think we could have made it if it had been only Patrick and me. But with four kids, one who didn't know enough not to bounce in her car seat and chirp "Canada!" to the border guards—no way.

So I'm not feeling fancy tonight, not after thinking about how easily they kept us prisoners in our own country, not after Patrick took me in his arms and told me to try not to dwell on what used to be.

Used to.

Here's what used to be: We used to stay up late talking. We used to linger in bed on weekend mornings, putting off chores and reading the Sunday paper. We used to have cocktail parties and dinner parties and summer barbecues when the weather turned. We used to play games—first, spades and bridge; later, when the boys were old enough to tell a six from a five, war and go fish.

As for me, on my own, I used to have girlfriends. "Hen parties," Patrick called my nights out with the girls, but I know he didn't mean it unkindly. It was just one of those things guys said. That's what I tell myself, anyway.

We used to have book clubs and coffee chats; we debated politics in wine bars, later in basements—our version of reading Lolita in Tehran. Patrick never seemed to mind my weekly escapes, although he'd joke about us sometimes, before there wasn't anything left to joke about. We were, in his words, the voices that couldn't be hushed.

Well. So much for the infallibility of Patrick.


When it started, before any of us could see what the future held, there was one woman in particular, one of the louder sorts. Her name was Jackie Juarez.

I don't want to think of Jackie, but all of a sudden, it's a year and a half ago, not long after the inauguration, and I'm sitting in the den with the kids, hushing their laughter so Sonia doesn't wake up.

The woman on the television is hysterical, Steven points out when he returns to the den with three bowls of ice cream.

Hysterical. I hate that word. "What?" I say.

"Women are crazy," he continues. "It's not like it's news, Mom. You know that saying about hysterical women and fits of the mother."

"What?" I say again. "Where'd you hear that?"

"Learned it in school today. Some dude named Cooke or something." Steven hands out the dessert. "Crap. One bowl's smaller. Mom, you want the smaller one or the bigger one?"

"Smaller." I'd been fighting to keep the weight down ever since my last pregnancy.

He rolls his eyes.

"Yeah. Wait till your metabolism hits forty-something. And when did you start reading Crooke? I didn't think Description of the Body of Man had made it into must-read high school fodder." I scoop up the first of what looks like three mouse-sized bites of rocky road. "Even for AP Lit."

"Try AP Religious Studies, Mom," Steven says. "Anyway, Cooke, Crooke. What's the diff?"

"An r, kiddo." I turn back to the irate woman on the TV.

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