When I stepped off of the boat, it took my eyes a little bit to adjust to the view. My sense of smell was overwhelmed, and what I had heard people talk about left me more than a little disappointed. Cigars and cigarette smoke mixed with the satusfying smell of seafood markets. They had said that there would be buildings that stretched as far across the horizon as I could see. They said that I would smell the “sweetness” of sea water, and be greeted by the guardian of America. They call her Lady Liberty. I didn’t see her. I had been practically hanging over the edge of the boat for the last 50 miles, but I saw no tall, sprawling landscapes or a big, green lady standing triumphantly in the water.
My eyes focused a bit, and instead of tall buildings, I saw boats. These boats weren’t moving in the water though. Instead, they were sitting completely still, almost land-locked, with lights on them that flitted and sparkled so brightly in the night sky. I heard the voices of people, some happy, and others not so much, just based on their language. I didn’t speak much English, but even I could tell the more “colorful” vernacular when I heard it. Some of them were dressed in garb that indicated partying. I didn’t quite understand how this translated into the American dream. Partying? This is not what I had heard when I left my family. These people were dark-skinned, like me, but there was something missing. They were downtrodden, almost miserable, despite their smiles and revelry.
Their brightly colored clothing and staggered steps did not jive with the stories of the proud people who lived in America. I saw no suits. I saw no brief cases. I didn’t sense purpose. Was I in the right place?
My blood pumped furiously. Unease wrapped itself around me. Everything that i had been told…
My first steps onto land were cautious, as if some monster would snatch me and return me back across the water if I stepped in the wrong place. It was an uneasy feeling. I didn’t feel free. wasn’t this the “land of the free?” Was I in the right place? Was this New York? The elders had told me that if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere. I’d been sent here for a purpose, but everything that I saw before me right now, undermined all of the things I had been taught. I’m not in the right place. When my eyes catch the sign just off of the pier, my blood runs cold. I feel disoriented, and my feet begin to stumble. Something is not right here.
I’m NOT in the right place.
The sign says, “Welcome to Mississippi.”