Two immigrants came to my house and tore out my old white privileged bathtub today. One of them saw this painting I have that I paid, like, a buck for in Antigua, Guatemala. He told me he grew up an hour away from Antigua in Guatemala City. He’s lived in Austin for 15 years, hasn’t been back to Guatemala since, and sends money to his sick mother, sister, and two kids. (I can’t even imagine)
He would like to buy a home in Antigua but worries he wouldn’t have any savings left. (I can and have imagined)
I asked him about ICE raids in Austin, and if he’s afraid. He said they’ve happened every year but it seems worse now. After 15 years here, he doesn’t want to move out of Austin — his job and friends are here — but thinks leaving Texas is imminent. (I feel that)
During our entire conversation I felt like a complete ass. Moments before I was sitting in front of my computer obsessing: Will I lose 20 pounds by next Thursday? What if I never write anything funny again? Maybe there’s something wrong with my thyroid? Or maybe I just like fries? How does she write so much? How much would it cost for a tailor to add ruching to every piece of my wardrobe? When is that buzzing saw noise going to stop so I can actually work? Petty concerns. Low stakes. Boring. Whereas this guy has real shit to worry about.
I tell him I’m disheartened about the direction our country has taken. I’m sad about Texas. I tell him that when I was in Guatemala, 15 years ago, I had a kind of spiritual experience (I didn’t actually say those words, because that’s repulsive). I was there to do volunteer work with people who were poor but really happy. And that left a mark on me because here, we have everything, and no one is happy. The trip was so transformative that I intended to return, and maybe learn Spanish, and live and help people. But ultimately I moved to Austin instead, worked with an altruistic nonprofit for a year and a half, and then left to make more money. And I still can barely speak Spanish.
And then we shared Topo Chicos and everything was okay and the country was no longer a fearful, hateful garbage pit!
JK. IT. STILL. IS.
This has been an investigative report from one American who benefits quite a bit from immigrants. Privileged and grateful.