The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

All Issues
OCT 2019 Issue

Eight from Border Simulator

You look at the crossers, you look just like them.

The border knows you every time, you no-face-crosser. In the border
simulator you can get fired three times before you actually have to pack up your stuff.
The first two are just run throughs.
The border simulator is constant practice at Rossing, shopping at Ross. What to say when crossing, am I right? And Ross loss prevention is always side-eying you,
the merchandise. You might steal a badly seamed pair of bedazzled jeans but Ross loss prevention cares more about you stealing yourself. Borders accept crossers as payment now.
The new crypto currency is the crosser. The crypto currency of the border is the crosser
and they are in crypt like boxes as they cross but soon they are released back from the crypt
and exchanged for debt or exchanged for other crossers, or exchanged for VHS camcorders
and you can record the dust falling from crossing eyes and in the editing room use a dissolve
to mesh this scene with the one where customs needs to get someone else to check this crosser’s papers because this crosser is family. If you are customs receiving the line and you check a crosser that is friend/family, (maybe even foe) you can’t check their papers because you know them but it’s hard not to know everyone in this narrow corridor where corridos tuba from every car. It’s so loud that it’s quiet here. You also don’t get old, you just give up on the bridge, waiting next to the same Daewoo for hours and you roll down your window and start swapping stories about other wait times: On the Mexican side, customs had finally had enough and shouted to all the cars waiting: “¡Bocina si no existe!” “Honk if you don’t exist!” And all the cars honked,
you couldn’t even hear your passenger.

You thought you forgot how many borders there were. You could remember.

And there’s no way to untie yourself from the fence. You’re tethered and some of the tethers
are long and stretch all the way to D.C. where you lived with your tether still connected to the border fence while customs plays tetherball with you and now you’re tightly wrapped around the pole, nowhere to go.

You love emblems and flags don’t you Primitvo? and I get it, you wanna feel like you’re part
of something bigger than yourself but you know what also is bigger than you and is the same shape as the flag? My fence! It’s the longest flag you’ve ever known and it ripples across the border.
It’s mesh and made of metal. A flag you can see through, que padre. Where do all your fences live?
All my fences live in Texas.

You crossed in the same place as those who came before.
All your styles are reflective of other crossers and thus the mylar suits you well. It’s so cold here
I guess that’s why they’re called ICE. Where walls build themselves and real women
have traveling pants and they sew these pants and then these bedazzled jeans get to cross
into simulation but they, the ache-rs of the pants, sorry, the makers of the pants, do not.
You drew a map to a city that wasn’t a city but it looked a lot like the city you knew. Unfortunate maps draw the necessary frontier, ok? The map creates the land instead of the other way around.
If you’re ever feeling down (snicker) because you couldn’t pass, just flip the map
so it looks like you’re on top. You don’t need actual land to make a map. You just need the same grid system and you’re also a grid. You’re seeing too many frames per second. You can see so much
that it doesn’t look right, it looks unnatural but customs tells you this is even more natural.
“To make you fold your mylar sheet mijo. After you wake up fold it and tuck it into the corner
with the other mylar sheets. This floor is cement but one day we’ll have our own cement floor mijo.”

# ## #

you’ve always simulated yourself, with every border a new self

And you’ve crossed through many borders as a fugitive to arrive here.
Are all these fugitives conditions? Or are the conditions we’ve made fugitive?
Have we made Primitivo a fugitive in the cholla? Are all these deserts on

Customs thinks we’re here to take their throng, sorry, throne (it’s bot true,
person false). Customs spent so much time in the ruins of the border, looking at the first fence
and then the second. You can peel off the first layer of fence and there, you’ll find another fence.

When the crosser has ripened into simulation, the border is reopened and reborn.
I work at the factory of the border where we manufacture it, the border.
All the factories have been magnets here or, here is a magnet for factories.
They just appeared one day in 1994 the same decade as Terminator II Judgment Day.
Ah, nights I spent with the terminator I, I mean I. We send Primitivo to the end of the line
and he doesn’t even need to say anything, we know we’ll see him again.

Quit using the border for your writing! But no, you’re using the users of the border
for your language cuffs, they fit so well on my awkward frame. We all work
at the frame shop. You frame me, I frame you, but the portrait is always Primitiva.
The surface of the crosser appears to be iridescent and on closer inspection
it’s what we expected, it’s their bedazzled jeans, the sun reflecting off their jeans
and their whole outfit is made of bedazzled jeans and it’s hard to get a likeness.
This crosser looks like the past me in El Paso and objects in this composition
have a relation to each other, they’re siblings!

# # # ### # # #

You have a sister city in Juarez but don’t you also have a sister named Primitiva? She’s crossed here before, hasn’t she? Her voice was here too, wasn’t it? I guess you’ll have to find it, I’m too busy laminating my face (face lamination keeps the same expression locked in). They named her that because she was the first girl born in simulation. It’s smart to use the buddy system while crossing and she’s usually your buddy but not your body, even though you both have the same eyes.

I want the line to itch, oops, inch forward

and I love writing notes in crossers pasaportes. Sometimes I get fake passports
but if I’m feeling generous, I’ll let them through but either way I love writing these ominous/cute warnings to these crossers. A wink and a nod sort of message because that’s how everything works here (wink, wink, nod) and now I have to wake this crosser up because they’ve nodded off,
well that won’t pass. Geez, I don’t know why I’m sharing all this with you, I guess I like you, Primitivo, I have a fondness for your features, I mean, I’ve seen your laminated face so many times, you remind me of someone I once knew. A primo or a tio or something. Anyways,
here are some highlights from my passport scribbles:

To use the words of your muzzler: whiteout your wilderness, your won’t zone.

All your friends are waiting in line to cross while all my friends, customs, are revving in their rooms and I’m just a mall alone in this barn.

The crosser is a vernacular vehicle. Border histories interlock intimately (and immediately) and now you’re back to the lint and mylar life. See the vinegaroon room? that’s all it is, a room full of vinegaroons.

This is alimony house cause now that you’re crossing over, you need to send me all your dollar signs.
Your best friend is also Western Union. A return to the sources of
muy muy.

This is the border escalator where you continue to ascend but you can’t get off the escalator
and soon the air will thin. You wish you were back below where you could see your mesh fence.

Pobrecitx, if you can write this border story today, in Texas, then you can write it tomorrow, in Texas. But there’s just the hope to return you may never actually get through. You’re so close to being over the border, just get over it already.

We were laws waiting in line, me and my sister. We were waiting in line to get our documents stamped because without stamps you’re without simulation. We ran up several bridges and from before we got to the checkpoint, we swapped faces. After I was wearing my sisters face people looked at me with more esteem and I was let right in. My sister wearing my face was detained at the bridge of my so called life but it was really her life. They knew the face of me. So they said they would have to have someone collect her and I came to collect her but in her face. I thought I could pass as her but alas, her face started to droop on my face. That’s when they knew it was me and they took both our faces away and now we’re featureless. All the border is is a pile
of blank in a customs kiosk.

In the holding cell my sis told me “All blankness leads to blankness” but I thought she said blankets. We only had our papers to cover us and my sis laid her face down next to her laminated face. She had a dream that the wind took her laminated paper. She chased it and when she caught up, the face turned into someone else’s face but the name was still hers. Me and my sister were always signing on to the private browser of the border simulator. We didn’t want customs to catch us looking at jeans, catch us looking at some type of cover. We wanted to be zipped into simulation but first we must unzip ourselves and prune. You prune yourself to be able to pass. You also prune your phrase, digo, face but it looks like no one knows how to prune, no es facil. They just bowl cut their trees. You don’t have to prune cactus, you never knew. You remember what it’s like to be unsimulated watching crossers unpack themselves, their neck turned to what brought them here, the laminated version of themselves. What else?

Watch out for voices that don’t match their face.

Whose voice is this? Who is speaking to me? Are all the voices here? Are the voices commoners still? Maybe we should have let some peasants be peasants through a sieve. Maybe we should have let some voices be voices by their sleeve no, I mean, mouth, or eyes to redeem the ex-voto, sorry,
the ex-vato. He was painted on the border wall but we just painted another mural over him,
but we didn’t cover his eyes so you might still be able to see that. You don’t paint murals of crossers at the border anymore. You got a different job through customs to be a repossessor. You gave us land and now we’re also taking it! Getting back all the late on payment cars and customs can repossess the crossers just as easy. We just have to open their file and their lives reopen
to us, it’s never closing time.

Look at all these potential crossers we get to film without their consent. The image of these migrants at the border are open domain, they are stock images and this is why we make you paint murals of the rural crossers. Sort of the same reason classical music is used in movies. The crossers, like the classical piece by Bach, are open domain, they are open for use in your documentary
or mural about the border. The only protection these crossers have is to cover their face
with their phone and sometimes it’s a rotary phone but you can still see their eyes
and it seems as if they could care less whether you film them or not, they just want to be able to cross back at some point. These crossers, they came here to have their image recorded and perhaps projected and used in a billboard or a meme and their children stuck in the Yucatan will one day maybe (maybe) see the billboard and they’ll say, “That is my mom, that is my dad. They left so that their images could be used and their data mined because they are the only real people left.”
The mural people are the rural people and we’re trying so hard to remember what it’s like to be rural because they err.

Speaking of err, we’ve gone so far in simulation and we haven’t talked about your name, have we? They named you Primitivo because you were the first born in simulation but you don’t get to live there permanently, it doesn’t matter if you’re a resident or not because they were suspicious of your name and you proved them right, you were first in line but also a primitive. You weren’t as strict as customs but like Popeye said “If I'm not me, who am I? And if I'm somebody else, why do I look like me? I yam what I yam” but on the border its camote. You use so many words that are out of fashion so they sent you to the end of the line for being too primitive, too unkempt. Perhaps there’s someone that's interested in your old ways, sort of a vintage, antique shopper sort of life. A little kitschy I mean, I’ve seen houses in east L.A. that look just like you. With glow in the dark Virgins and Pee Wee Herman chairs that talk and when you try and sit on them they bark “No hay espacio para Primitivos como tu”. But, let’s come back to you.

Who am I kidding? This is all about you. And the crossing.
There’s no rising action or boring denouement, just the crossing (sometimes you pass
and sometimes you don’t in El Paso). The beginning was you crossing and the final chapter
is also a cross, funny though, because in the town of Las Cruces, where your parents were born, they only know how to criss. There are those who should be woo’d and you’re so bad at it. You’re a face that resists the face. A border that resists its borders. We put a song to your face. A song and a face go together, yes? The border where we used the interface of your face and opened the file. All the tabs open, all crossers still alive. You came to find out more about a crosser, a friend you knew, and then you tabbed someone who was already x’ed out. Their data, two x’s in their sighs. You’re trying to find the x, to click on it, but it keeps moving and now you’ve x’ed out the crosser you wanted open. The border is raw with data but who mines it? The border is raw with data but who minds it? You signed on to the right face, I’m sorry, (you’re probably tired of your face by now) interface. A once unknown timestamp letting us know that you’re the gate valve releasing water when purses come for heads. The crossers came to gate-crash, they desperately need some consulting.

We took Primitivo’s voice with a cassette recorder

We’ve been waiting to take in his voice for years because it’s been said that those who hear Primitivo’s voice can hear themselves in the past. If we can return to our voices we can shed our badgesuit; walk out of the badge and into Primitivo’s skin that has detained us (the detainers) with its promise of constant returning. The line never ends and thus our job will never end.

Primitivo was one of the endless streaming where there is no stream and we were happy to guide him into our vernacular hut. We asked him to sum up this crossing in one face, no, phrase and he said: “because I cross the border it exists; a procedure of spectator, a life that throbs and bulges extra organs and layers of artificial skin.”

Primitivo also mistakes us for J. Cristo, all the time! In his eyes we’re beheld crucifixed to our stations as we receive the line of cars, a continual reply all effect.

The principle of continuous life is the Rossing, no, the crossing, the act of it. An act that can distort a voice but it’s all an act hitting download and watching crossers dissolve into a border fence.
But this download was stopped halfway through and this entire file of crossers are now half fence, half crosser. Primitivo is now attempting to pass the other half of his body which is a fence. To move 360 around a custom, it helps if your body is half fence, half crosser. So anywhere you go you cross you.


Gabriel Dozal

Gabriel Dozal is from El Paso, TX and received an MFA in poetry from The University of Arizona. He writes about the borderlands and has work in The Literary Review, Guernica, The Iowa Review, Hunger Mountain, and forthcoming from The Volta.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

All Issues