It took fifteen steps for her to die.
Fifteen—one for each year of her life before they snuffed it out.
I was supposed to be doing homework. I actually was doing homework, but my phone kept buzzing, so I tapped on the
notifications, and there she was.
I never did learn her name. In the reports they would call her "an illegal fifteen-year-old" or "a fifteen-year-old immigrant." It depended on who was talking.
The underground reporters would also call her brave, defiant, fearless.
And the government news would call her disease-ridden, illegal, criminal.
BUT AS I watched it with my own eyes, I saw that she was just a girl my age. Wearing a faded Mickey Mouse T-shirt and jean shorts that were rolled over on top but still looked like they might fall off her skinny waist. She had somehow gotten over a line of concrete ballasts and the chain-link fence stretching across the burnt-out field between Tijuana and San Diego. That rusty, mangled barricade that was supposed to keep people on the Tijuana side. It stood there as a scar. A reminder. A warning. Its sole purpose was to say
STAY OUT. YOU DON'T BELONG HERE.
That girl in the Mickey Mouse shirt had no time for warnings. She had no interest in being intimidated. She looked completely unafraid as she stepped away from the fence, entering the no-man's-land between Mexico and the United States. The girl was alone, unarmed. Her dark hair was tied back in a bouncy ponytail, and she had a bright red scratch under her left eye. Besides that, her face looked clear, even calm, as she made her way across the dusty strip of scrubland between Tijuana and the wall.
Or really, the Wall. The Great American Wall.
There was nothing great about it. More like grotesque. It blocked out the sky, with fifty-foot-tall reinforced steel slats and thick metal mesh in between. Every few feet there were coils of barbed wire strung across, and on top there was a maze of cables spitting out electricity.
The government had spent gazillions of dollars and called in all the Reserves to help build this monstrosity. Sealing us off from the rest of the Americas.
Stop where you are! snarled a voice through a speaker by the Wall. Technically, that girl wasn't even on United States soil. But as the President loved to say, America was the greatest nation in the history of greatness, and we needed to do whatever it took to protect our sacred borders. That was why there was a platoon of Border Patrol officers lined up on top of the Wall. Green zombies, I called them. Standing at attention in their olive-colored uniforms with pale, expressionless faces. They had the newest AK-87s strapped to their backs and German shepherds circling at their feet as they stared down that girl.
Because this was their land.
Because it was their duty to preserve and defend the United States of America.
Because whatever this fifteen-year-old intended, walking across in her flip-flops and saggy shorts, she had now become a national threat.