04 Chasing The American Dream
F E B
Is it so much to ask for? Just a little taste of it...
My name is Lola. I live in Jackson Heights, Queens but I am not Spanish. It’s not too much to say that more than 99.99% of the population here are of Spanish descent. I live in this tiny apartment with my boyfriend who hailed from Olsztyn, a city in northeast Polska or Poland in English, where I'm from too. I met my boyfriend, Krzysztof, at a bar back home where we worked and became sweethearts, up to now.
The first time I heard of the word ‘New York’, I got the chills! I mean, imagine living in such a big city like New York City to earn American dollars, instead of złoties! And I’ll get to try American hotdogs, besides pierogi and bigos! It was Krzysztof’s idea to come here, to New York City. It got me all excited!
‘Dobre szczęście’ or in English, good luck! All our friends and relatives kept saying it to us. Tak, we needed it. New York is a big city, we will need it!
Never would I have known that I would end up living in such a small apartment with leaks in the kitchen, problems with the Mexican neighbors who kept playing Mérengue music over and over again at 12 midnight when they just finished their twelve-hour shift. I also didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to obtain certification in school because they require social security number. The only school I can go to is English school because all they care about is more students mean more money. Nor had I known that I would have to work six days a week just to buy groceries and have quarters for the laundromat. Luckily, I have Krzysztof to help me pay the rent. After all, we’re in this together.
I'd also never have thought of finding myself work at a delicatessen, owned by another immigrant—my Korean boss. Meanwhile back home, the ones who served me at coffee shops were the elderies who worked part-time there just to fill their spare time. Not a means to meet the ends, exactly what I’m doing right now.
My boyfriend’s situation is no different. He works for a construction company owned by another Polish immigrant. The difference between him and my boyfriend, well, he has all that’s needed to make a living, legally.
The other day, a lady who comes to the deli every morning for her coffee—light with half-and-half, no sugar—asked me again the same question she asked me last week and the week before, “Why are you working here? You’re still young. Can’t you find a job you can call career or perhaps, school?” I kept in silence, just nodded and gave her a sour smile. Or more precisely, bitter. Yeah, it fits more into my life’s description... bitterness.
I can’t have a proper job, not even at a fast-food restaurant, because the only places that would take me are restaurants owned by other immigrants such as the ones in Chinatown, but I don’t speak Chinese. I can’t go to college because I don’t have the proper papers. I can’t even get an I.D. because in order to get it, you need to have a number and I don’t have it. I can’t be naturalized because who’s gonna sponsor me? My boyfriend? Well, he’s in the same boat.
People like my customers or boss’ daugther ask me what my plans are for the future. I tell those I feel comfortable with that I would like to go either to the U.K. or any European country. From what I’ve heard, the latest news said the immigration over in Europe had agreed upon letting immigrants from countries like Poland some kind of asylum that would let Polish people like me move and live there legally. That’s something I can look forward to achieving one day. If not, I would like to have my own American dream—a place I can call home with nice things in it, like flat-screen TV, living room set, a chandelier, and children—they will be born as American citizens therefore will make me feel a part of America. And of course, more money. Maybe a bank account would be nice, something that I don’t have, for now.
Is it so much to ask for? After all, I’m just one of the 10 million undocumented immigrants that are here to make an honest living. I’m not here to harm anybody or take away jobs from the Americans. I’m also here not to work and take the money out of the US. I’m here to chase my own version of American dream.
“I gave my country what I love the most, my children. We love USA.”
—Salvador Ardon - from El Salvador, 24 years without citizenship in the U.S.
P.S. All characters written here are fictional. Any coincidental event is unintentional
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