My Sorrow. Mi Libertad. shares the story of fifteen-year-old Didi, whose world is turned upside down when she is placed in foster care while her mother battles heroin addiction and after her father is deported. The story is set in the United States amidst the opioid epidemic and at a time when many families are being separated due to US immigration policies. My Sorrow. Mi Libertad exposes the suffering Didi and other youths in care experience, but more importantly, it reveals their resilience. It is a story of strength, determination, and hope as the young characters learn to take control of their destinies..
I forced my eyes open. It must’ve been a horrible dream. It couldn’t be real. I slowly looked around the barren white room. My fears were confirmed. I was a ward of the state. My freedom was gone. There was a small three drawer white dresser between my bed and the next victim’s bed, which was currently empty. There was nothing on the wall except a few small holes where someone once placed mementos of their past. In a panic I looked for my stuff. A large black trash bag and my backpack were in the corner of the room. The bag contained everything I could grab when CPS arrived. Honestly, I didn’t even know where the rest of my stuff was. My mom and I moved frequently over the last couple years, and each time we left a little behind.
“Delores, time to get up. We have a busy day ahead.” My door flew open, and the house mom burst into my room. “What do you want for breakfast?”
“Death,” I replied as I covered my tear-stained face with the blankets.
“Come on, let’s make the best of this. I’ll see you in the kitchen in fifteen minutes. I put a clean towel in the bathroom for you, if you’d like to take a shower?”
How the hell was she able to act like it was a normal day? I could barely remember the previous day or how I ended up there. I think the caseworker dropped me off about 1am. By that time, I had spent so many hours cycling between anger and crying hysterically that I fell asleep almost immediately when my head hit the bed. I didn’t even remember the nauseatingly nice lady’s name. All I knew was that I needed to get out of there.
I needed to find my mom. Together we would figure a way out of the situation. We were always a team and no matter how shitty things got we figured it out. I knew my mom was going through some really hard stuff. She just needed some time. That’s how I ended up couch surfing.
I planned to give her a couple of months to straighten things out and then we would find a place to stay.
Don’t panic, you can do this. C’mon Didi hold it together. Don’t let them see you cry, I chided myself. I couldn’t help it though. I was furious at that lady that came and stole me from my friend’s house.
“I don’t want to go,” I screamed.
“I’m sorry, but you really don’t have a choice. It’s our job to make sure you’re safe.”
“Please. Please, don’t make me go. My friends look out for me. I’m ok. I can handle this. I’m almost an adult anyway. I can take care of myself.”
“You’re only fifteen. You still need someone to take care of you. Our job is to make sure that is happening.” ¡Con una chingada! Why now? – I thought. The sound of the house mom’s voice pulled me out of my head and back into the room.
“Delores, are you coming down? I made waffles.”
Her voice was making my stomach turn. It was dripping with more sweetness than the Organic Grade A syrup she would probably pour on the homemade waffles. I heard giggling. Oh no, who else is here? Did I need to talk to other people beside that lady? The thought was horrifying.
“I don’t wanna come out,” I yelled. A moment of silence followed.
“Delores, we need to go meet with the caseworker. Don’t you want to eat first?”
Food was the last thing on my mind. A hot shower did sound good though, it had been a few days since I had one. My mom hadn’t had time to cut my hair in a bit, so it was really long. My hair was thick and wavy and could get big and out of control easily. In my exhaustion, I forgot to tie it up before bed. I needed to tame it a bit before facing the world. I also had puffy racoon eyes from the long night of crying. My eyeliner wasn’t waterproof enough to withstand the flash flood generated by this situation. I extracted myself from the bed and grabbed the garbage bag with my clothes. I always do my best thinking while in a long hot shower – maybe I would find answers in there. The perky lady was still asking questions; I didn’t answer.
The bathroom was senselessly big, and everything was shiny and spotless. All the towels had matching hand towels and washcloths. There were four sets, all different colors. There were two sinks on the long marble counter. A set of thick pink towels were folded up perfectly between the sinks. I guessed those were for me. I turned on the shower, and the water was hot almost immediately. It was one of those fancy spray nozzles that you can change from feeling like a misty rain to where it hurts when it hits your skin. I had to stretch to reach the shower head. I set the spray to hit me as hard as possible. Maybe it would wash away the nightmare?
Attached to the wall was a dispenser labeled shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. They all smelled like roses. I don’t know exactly when the sobbing began or how long I sat on the floor of the shower. The tears wouldn’t stop. My fingers became prunes. I was startled back to my current reality with the sound of pounding on the door.
Thank you, Robin Harwick and Isabelle Kenyon
About the Author
Robin Harwick, Ph.D., is a writer, educator, research scientist, and performer. After years spent coaching youth on how to achieve their dreams – she decided it was time to “walk her talk” and spent a few years traveling with her teen son and two dogs before deciding to make Mexico home! Robin is also the founder and director of The Pearl Remote Democratic High School, a radical school that provides space for youth to take control of their education. She is published in peer-reviewed journals, blogs, zines, and anthologies. Her first novel, My Sorrow. Mi Libertad was published in June 2021