It has been 51 days since Drumpf became president, and I lock the door to my apartment for the final time. It’s a cold day in March, but even my thick coat raises eyebrows as I arrive at the station.
They say Mussolini made the trains run on time, but I’m guessing the strange intricacies that seem to govern the Greyhound buses would’ve sent tears running down the fat, doughy face of the Italian despot. My ticket reads 5:30 to Chicago, No. 302, but the sun is already starting to rise over the desert. All the seats have been taken. I find myself a free spot of ground beneath a leering poster of the president. The bitter morning wind, reeking of diesel fumes and cigarette ash, sends loose papers skittering across the concrete. Discarded ticket stubs, crumpled receipts- a single page that looks like it may have come from some shoolboy’s essay. All decadent, unpatriotic schools have been replaced with Drumpf Universities, where we are to be re-educated to stop thinking like “bimbos” and “losers.”
An hour passes, and the guards return- weak, winter sunlight glittering off of their glossy, golden uniforms. They have proper haircuts- as we all do now. Aryan blonde, brushed forward to cover the parts of our head that absolutely aren’t balding. Any illicit hairstyles will earn you and your barber 80 lashings. They takes measurements our hands, to ensure their proper size. They search my belongings. I’ve prepared for this. Just enough clothes for a three day trip. No money. No passport. Just my mandatory certificate proving native birth and authorized religious beliefs. My papers say that I am going to Houghton to visit a sick friend. I am lucky that I already have documents that show I went to college there- at least, to the Houghton in New York. I do not think I could have afforded to have all my papers forged.
They move away from me for a moment, whispering among themselves. When they return, they stamp my documents and allow my to board the bus. I watch from the window as they pull several men from out of the crowd.The passenger next to me shakes his head sadly.
“Muslims,” he says. And nothing more.As the bus leaves, I hear the sharp pop of what I hope is a car backfiring. But I know what it really is.
The hours roll by and I curse myself for not having gotten out when everyone else had. I watch the billboards fly by, sporting their grand portraits of our flaxen-haired leader and slogans condemning the Chinese and all infidels in general. I try not to think about anything.
We stop in North Platte, Nebraska, where the severed skulls of rebels line the parking lot of the Ramada Inn. We are worken in the night and taken to the diner by the highway, where we are forced to cheer as a subversive is executed. Our applause hangs in the frozen darkness long after we’re allowed back inside.
Somewhere after Cedar Rapids we stop at a rest station. I tell the guards that I am going to use the bathroom. I leave my bag on the bus and use the low, cinderblock stockade for cover as I run.
I am not sure how long I walked. The low clouds hid the sun as my shoes squelched through mud and broken frost. I found others there, on the back roads. A man accused of harboring illegal aliens. A journalist who had defied the anti-criticism censures. An old woman who had escaped the deportations. On our fourth day together a low flying helicopter scattered us, and I never saw them again.
I still kept the access roads. I showed my papers to anyone who stopped me, praying that I have smudged them enough for the “NY” on my documents to look more like “MN.” One guard gives me trouble, and so I take what money I have in my coat to persuade him.
Houghton, MI is bitterly cold, but I can see the great, grey waters of Lake Superior out in the distance. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people here just like me- trying to pay their way across the waters.
I am told by a man that he has a boat. He will take me across for one thousand dollars. He doesn’t complain that the money smells like it has spent the better part of a week in my socks.
There are fifty of us on a boat built for fifteen. Only enough room to stand as we push off in the darkness. A mile from the shore, the engines are cut, and a man with a gun tells us that we must pay an additional thousand dollars. Some of us have the money. Most of us don’t. He threatens that if he does not get his money, we will all be taken back to America. Backpacks are opened, suitcases, wallets, purses. A watch that has been in a family for three generations finds its way into the sack the man holds open. Wedding rings. Bracelets. Medicine. Cellphones.
When he had enough the boat started again, the engine drowning out the noise of curses and tears.
And the storm hit sometime before dawn.
Rain, out of the east. Waves that launched us up and brought us down against angry water. When it passed, only three of the ten boats that had started had made it across the lake. Everyone else was swallowed up by the depths.
And the following days passed like a dream.
We were found by Canadian border control. Brought to refugee centers for processing. Taken by vans to Thunder Bay. Outside, angry citizens shouted at us to go home. Afraid that Trumpists had snuck in along with us. Men and women with megaphones- organizers from the Patriotic Canadians Against the Americanization of the North– called for us to be deported. They fear that we will impose Biblical law. That American communities in Toronto and Calgary have become no-go zones that non-Canadians can’t even enter. A man in a maple leaf t-shirt calls me a “Flag-head.”
A woman seated behind me weeps silently. I tell her not to worry. Not all Canadians hate us. Some are just frightened.
I believe that.