We were trying to be quiet as we walked along the river, so the Generalissimo’s soldiers wouldn’t spot us. Wilner leaded the way, trying to find a good place to cross, Odette followed him, visibly scared and rotating her head to all directions with every noise we heard. Amabelle, just like me, was struggling not only to walk, but also to keep the focus, and mostly, to survive. Of course we weren’t in the best of conditions. If only we could say perejil. If we had avoided the cathedral we could have already crossed, maybe without getting hurt. No! Not without getting hurt! From the inhumane, animal like work I’ve been doing in the fields for years to this witch hunt, crusade against my people, if there is one thing I know is that I got hurt. Had we avoided the cathedral Amabelle and I would have spared ourselves from some immediate pain, yes, there is no doubt on that. But there is nothing we can do to rescue ourselves from the sorrow and pain that accumulated over the years. To unsee the deaths, to forget the mistreatment, to unhear offenses, to undo it all. In coming to Alegria, we might have gained an extra piece of bread, but we lost all the rest and our lives became haunted by memories of a past that was poor and miserable, but at least it was free.
We stopped when Wilner found a spot he considered to be a good combination of safety and darkness. Odette was the first to enter the water, followed by Amabelle, myself and Wilner. Before I realized, the water was reaching my shoulders and I soon looked for Amabelle, because she is much smaller than I am and I wanted to make sure she was fine - I wouldn’t let her drawn. Amabelle seemed to be lost in a maze and the despair in her eyes made me remember what that river meant to her. She kept on swimming as if it was banal, but if one looked closely enough it wasn’t hard to realize that Amabelle was swimming through her greatest fear and biggest nightmare. I saw when she let go of Odette’s hand but I was too busy helping Wilner to think much of it. Odette and Amabelle had reached the middle of the river when it happened. A soldier hiding in the bushes appeared suddenly and shot Wilner, who was about to enter the river. As his body fell close to mine I could see hundreds of soldiers coming, I could see our lives ending and our efforts to survive not only the passage but also a life as a Haitian in Dominican Republic dying. I closed my eyes and waited for death to come. Oddly enough, I realized it didn’t. Opening my eyes, I saw the soldier who had killed Wilner talking towards some other soldier completely off guard. They hadn’t seen us, because it was dark and we were quiet. Confused by the silence, I looked back only to find Amabelle pressing her hand against Odette’s mouth, to keep her quiet. Odette’s facial expression soon changed from sadness and pain to emptiness and vacuum - as if life was leaving her body and now all there was left was a floating corpse. Amabelle, however, kept her hand pressing firmly and didn’t let go even when it was evident Odette was silent enough. I wondered for a second about what she was doing. If it was the coast of survival, a life for another life; if she had indeed meant it; if she had, maybe she was tired, maybe she thought we were all going to die. But then I look at Odette, who was barely alive, I looked at her eyes and I realize that Amabelle couldn’t have killed her. No, I don’t think so. She died when Wilner died. I don’t really know much about love, but I know that it’s about two people and only one soul - if one dies, the other has no choice but die too, because love is either very nice or very bad. When they shot him, her soul must have left her body, so even if someone tried to kill her it would be useless, for she was already dead. I think that would happen to me if Amabelle died. But it wouldn’t happen to her if I was the one to die.
We finally got to the other side of the river, and we were to busy for a dramatic entrance but I wish we had taken an extra second to look closely, it was home after all. I helped Amabelle to bring Odette to the shore and I wanted to move away from the river, but Amabelle laid her body over Odette’s - in a weird hug - and refused to let her go. It could have been a couple of hours but it could also have been a day, I can’t remember how long we stayed there as Odette died, because one loses the idea of time after suffering that much, I believe. I still remember every detail as if it was yesterday. Despite Amabelle’s sadness and even guilty, eventually Odette completely died - body and soul. I won’t forget, however what she said last. I was fairly distant from her body but her whisper was quite powerful that I have no doubt of its veracity. She said pèsi. Because we don’t need perejil. Because we didn’t come by choice, because we are not bad people and we never meant no harm. Because we look after your children as our own and we plant the food you eat. Because we are the arms and legs that keep you strong, and in return you give us perejil. You haunt us and you kill our children, make us jump off cliffs and hang us from trees. And what have we done to you but feed you and help you and serve you as more than an employer but as a slave? If you want to give us perejil that much, fine. We will take pèsi.