Empowering undocumented young people to achieve educational and career goals
STUDENT VOICES IMMIGRATION STORIES
Our first date:
Somehow, over pizza, we begin talking about immigration and you tell me your stance. You are respectful, which is enough for me to give us a chance. Relieved, I tell you earnestly, "Good ... because that would have been a deal breaker for me."
We continue exchanging dimpled smiles in between bites of pizza. Before we leave that restaurant, we establish that we're "official" now, that I am yours and you are mine. We are lucky to have found each other.
I visit your apartment in Berkeley for the first time. It is spotless with everything put neatly in its place. I am surprised to find yet another reason to like you. But your lack of furniture makes things awkward. Six chairs, but no couch. We must take turns sitting at your computer desk.
Suddenly you ask, "Did you remember to submit your FAFSA?"
The form for federal financial aid was due three days ago. It's an innocent question, but I know where it will lead to.
Hesitantly, I say no.
"I don't qualify."
With a cheeky smile, you ask, "Is your family really rich?"
Again, I say no.
"I just can't. It's complicated. Please don't pressure me to tell you things. It's not that I'm hiding anything from you or that I don't trust you. I'm just not ready to talk about certain things. Besides, it's not that important. Well, actually it is. But, it's only specific or important to me. It doesn't affect our relationship. Or, at least, it shouldn't. But, I really do trust you!"
You are confused, maybe even hurt. "Let's just drop it," you say. "Let's go to dinner."
It is getting easier for me to tell people about my secret. I don't burst into tears anymore. It's not that I am ashamed or that I am afraid of what would happen if you told other people. I know you wouldn't betray me or my family. But my secret has become more than a circumstance or a label. It has become the reason for everything I do. It consumes me. Could I bear the emptiness if I gave you my reason for being and then you left? It is precisely because you mean so much to me that I can't tell you.
I am sorry that my secret sours our moods. Our evening is only just recovering when I ask you what your middle name is, just out of curiosity. I know it begins with a C, just like mine.
You answer, "I'm not going to tell you. It's complicated. I'm not ready to tell you."
It is getting late now. We exchange good nights, but neither of us wants to let go. We embrace each other in all our mysteries.
Typical of weekday evenings, you initiate a conversation with me over the Internet. Sometimes, it's awkward between us. Sometimes, I miss you terribly. Sometimes, you irritate me. But we are both honoring the promise we have made to each other to stay friends.
Minutes of silence pass after I tell you that I am preoccupied with a writing assignment. Something occurs to me and I wonder if you'll remember.
Slyly and with a smile, I break the silence. "Hey, what's your middle name?"
You reply with five uppercase letters: "NEVER."
But I know better than to say "never." After all, I never expected that I could care about someone so much. I'll be able to tell you one day. It's precisely because you mean so much to me that I want to share all of my secrets with you.
About the Author Catherine is one of E4FC's 2010 Scholars. Currently a senior at UC Berkeley, she is majoring in Political Science and maintaining a 3.9 GPA. She is active in numerous school and community organizations, including the Associated Students of UC Berkeley, Pilipino Academic Student Services, UCLA School of Law Fellows Program, and the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant. In the future, Catherine hopes to become a lawyer or community organizer. She emigrated from the Philippines with her family when she was four years old.