Once, when he was four, they told me that everyone was going back to Mexico. Just as soon as their mom got out of prison in California. The oldest, the only girl and the baby. Their Abuelita, too. That only leaves him. He didn't have the right papers. But he could stay. They would find someone to take him in. And so, for a week once, I was a maybe-mother. But that was before the notion passed back into that haze of abstraction from where it had been prematurely plucked and handled ever so briefly, molded into something tangible.
Five years passed and mom got out of prison. She was there for awhile, but then went away again. Nobody I talk to seems to know where. She left behind a new baby. A girl. But I went back and I saw him, same baby face but perched atop a nine year old's skinny body and gangly legs. He ran like a boy, kicked a ball like a boy.I ran up to him and hugged him and felt him stiffen. His eyes betrayed mistrust. Who is this strange white lady, he must have been thinking.
But I didn't mind. It only makes sense. Even at nine, four is a long time ago.