“Are you sick, señor?” the coyote asked, eyeing his customer. “You look sick.”
Michael Nbume wiped the sweat from his face with his sleeve and leaned on the tailgate of the battered truck. Inside its sweltering back, a dozen Latin Americans waited to head north, staring at the African.
“No, it is just the heat. It is drier than in Liberia. I am not used to it,” Mbune lied in fluent English. He knew he was sick; he had seen so many die around him as the epidemic swept through the packed slums of Monrovia. When he first felt the severe headache and fever, he knew that to stay would be to die and be bulldozed into the mass graves like all the others. America – yes, there they could help him.
He was lucky; he had the money not only to buy the airline ticket but to pay the bribes that let him avoid any questions at customs. Not in America, of course; they would catch him at the airport and send him back to die. Instead, he came through Mexico, where a $1,000 bought him a wave through the turnstile. Now was the easy part – to cross into America through its porous southern border and claim asylum while he sought treatment. Even in Africa, he had heard that American hospitals were required by law to treat anyone who asked for help, including those in America illegally.