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by Caroline Rivera

The seasons were slanted this year, in mid Autumn the sun broke the spell of the cool air wrapping around my face. My mama and I were walking to the post office, hand in hand. I felt her skin, cool and shaky, pressed against my arm. Today, we were getting my passport and federal gestures always made my mama nervous.



It was a week after my eighteenth birthday, and it was the first time I saw us as being different. Her fear of being asked to identify herself was more foreign to me than ever. Her future was a mix of knowing she couldn’t leave and uncertainty of being able to stay. Growing up, my mother was a brilliant artist telling me stories about parts of the world I dreamed to see. Now, I saw those as places she hadn’t actually been to, that she’d been dreaming of them just like me.


We walked into the building. I before her, and I went over to the counter to grab the application that asked who I was. I told it my mother’s name as well as my father’s. I let it know that my father was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. The information had to be exact, precise, the boxes didn’t allow room for my informality. Applications like this are a reminder of how complicated my American story is. My mother was born in Montevideo, Uruguay – but my mama grabbed the application before I could completely confirm her existence.


“Why did you do that? I wasn’t done!” I whispered frantically.


“Redo it, write that I was born in Santurce, like your Papa.” She spoke calmly.


“Why would I write that?”


“Just do it, I’ll explain later.”


She grabbed a new application. This one felt less like mine, and while the man at the front desk wasn’t looking, my mama filled it out. When the man called us up, I looked at his name, it was Jube, and he spoke to us warmly.


“Alright, everything here looks good. When do you plan on traveling?” He asked.


“In January” I responded.


“Where are you headed to?”




He stopped his questions there and asked me to stand against the wall to take my photo. I pulled my hair, recently cut, behind my ears. The flash went off and hurt my eyes, which were replicas of my papas, Ojos Chinos, he used to call them. The process was almost done, and the last thing I had left to do is swear that the information on the application was true.

I stood there, no longer a child, truly seeing for the first time the walls that were already surrounding us. My mother, with eyes that were no longer mine, decided it would be best not to climb.


I looked at my mama, who looked at Jube and said “yes”.

Read all work by Caroline Rivera


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