2003Feature Writing

Enrique's Journey; C1, p6

By: 
Sonia Nazario
Times Staff Writer
Don Bartletti
Times Photographs
September 29, 2002;
Page 6

index

chapter one continued
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A Decision

Enrique sinks deeper into drugs. By mid-December, he owes his marijuana supplier 6,000 lempiras, about $400. He has only 1,000 lempiras. He promises the rest by midweek, but cannot keep his word. The following weekend, he encounters the dealer on the street.

The supplier accuses Enrique of lying and threatens to kill him.

Enrique pleads with him.

If Enrique doesn't pay up, the dealer vows, he will kill Enrique's sister. The dealer mistakenly thinks that Enrique's cousin, Tania Ninoska Turcios, 18, is his sister. Both girls are finishing high school, and most of the family is away at a Nicaraguan hotel celebrating their graduation.

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Enrique pries open the back door to the house where his Uncle Carlos Orlando Turcios Ramos and Aunt Rosa Amalia live. He hesitates. How can he do this to his own family? Three times, he walks up to the door, opens it, closes it and leaves. Each time, he takes another deep hit of glue.

Finally, he enters the house, picks open the lock to a bedroom door, then jimmies the back of his aunt's armoire with a knife. He stuffs 25 pieces of her jewelry into a plastic bag and hides it under a rock near the local lumberyard.

At 10 p.m., the family returns to find the bedroom ransacked.

Neighbors say the dog did not bark.

"It must have been Enrique," Aunt Rosa Amalia says. She calls the police. Uncle Carlos and several officers go to find him.

"Why did you do this? Why?" Aunt Rosa Amalia yells.

"It wasn't me." As soon as he says it, he flushes with shame and guilt. The police handcuff him. In their patrol car, he trembles and begins to cry. "I was drugged. I didn't want to do it." He tells the officers that a dealer wanting money had threatened to kill Tania.

He leads police to the bag of jewelry.

"Do you want us to lock him up?" the police ask.

Uncle Carlos thinks of Lourdes. They cannot do this to her. Instead, he orders Tania to stay indoors indefinitely, for her own safety.<

But the robbery finally convinces Uncle Carlos that Enrique needs help. He finds him a $15-a-week job at a tire store. He eats lunch with him every day--chicken and homemade soup. He tells the family they must show him their love.

During the next month, January 2000, Enrique tries to quit drugs. He cuts back, but then he gives in. Every night, he comes home later. He looks at himself in disgust. He is dressing like a slob--his life is unraveling. He is lucid enough to tell Belky that he knows what he has to do.

He simply has to go find his mother.

Aunt Ana Lucia Aguilera agrees. She and Enrique have clashed for months. Ana Lucia is the only breadwinner. Even with his job at the tire store, Enrique is an economic drain.

Worse, he is sullying the only thing her family owns: its good name.

They speak bitter words that both, along with Enrique's Grandmother Agueda, will recall months later. "Where are you coming from, you old bum?" Ana Lucia asks as Enrique walks in the door. "Coming home for food, huh?"

"Be quiet!" he says. "I'm not asking anything of you."

"You are a lazy bum! A drug addict! No one wants you here." All the neighbors can hear. "This isn't your house. Go to your mother!"

Over and over, in a low voice, Enrique says, half pleading, "You better be quiet."

Finally, he snaps. He kicks Ana Lucia twice, squarely in the buttocks.

She shrieks.

His grandmother runs out of the house. She grabs a stick and threatens to club him if he touches Ana Lucia again. Now even his grandmother wishes he would go to the United States. He is hurting the family--and himself. She says, "He'll be better off there."