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Living Conditions

When I drive through town, sometimes I flinch. The crumpled brown up ahead. What is it? Could it be? How could it be anything but. . .

The immigration lawyer stands up and takes questions about applying for asylum. "It's a hard case to prove. It can take a long time. But you know, it's worth it to some, because for that amount of time, they feel safe."

The figure comes into focus so that I realize, it isn't a figure at all. Thrown, laid, forgotten, but not what I prepared myself to see. I breathe a sigh of relief. Why? Because a living creature isn't dead or because I didn't have to see it?

One folded mass is in my rearview, but there's always another.  Clothing.  Cardboard boxes.  I look up ahead just before the stoplight. There is a mound of something. What is it? Could it be? How could it be anything but, except it isn't. . .

For the second day, the news reports on squatters. They are able to slip in when people are on vacation. Then, it's hard to get them out.

"How could it be hard?" my dad asks. "Why would it take time?"

A few days later, another report on new laws, specific language, to make occupation of what belongs to someone else, illegal.

The lines. The boxes. Someone built them. Someone distributed them. Then we try and find our place inside them. I stare at the line markers. Black. White. My stomach unclenches, slightly. Why? Because a person isn't suffering or because I didn't have to see it?

I ease by the awkward shape. There's not much room, but I slip by and still remain in my lane. Oncoming traffic is not inconvenienced. Does oncoming traffic even notice? What it is. What it could be. Do they think it could be. . . My instinct is, they don't consider the possibility of some body. . .

Parallel narratives. Someone is seeking shelter. Seeking refuge. They need it so badly that even its temporary change is worth the effort. Even if they never reach their destination. Even when they are ultimately discarded on the roadside.

I fix my sight on the dash horizon. Nothing else out of the ordinary. On the curb, on the border, on the news. What do we expect to see? What do we feel when we see something? What should we all feel about what goes unseen? The fact that discarded bodies and boxes always belong to




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