When they came to his village, Youssef purchased a dream that he couldn’t afford. His family sold their farmland and payed the remainder on credit be- cause he had no future in Bakai. He and his brothers were workers, but too often the land was unfruitful and the river destroyed their shabby wooden homes. As the youngest and only unwed brother, Youssef got his family’ blessing to work and send money until someone else could join him in Dubai.
The agent promised him paradise: a steady job with good wages. In six months, he would pay off the worker’s visa. Then, everything he earned could be sent to his family in Bangladesh. It was a small price to pay for a slice of heaven, the man said.
Youssef had never even been on a plane before. If he were alive, his father would’ve scorned him for admiring an iron bird when there were so many real ones around his home.
“Remember, son, a duck will feed your family. A piece of metal won’t,” Baba would say when he gazed at the planes that ew over the village.
Baba was right. The metal frame that he and the other workers molded for the towering skyscrapers didn’t feed his family. Sometimes, the Company remembered that animals still had to eat, but the meager was barely enough to keep them alive.
Dubai was a desert—there was no water for them. But the Company wanted to seem accommodating by providing them with large, water- lled canisters at the end of the night. The septic water made everyone sick, but they had
nothing else to drink. Because of this, Youssef couldn’t even take a proper piss. The sun scorched his skin and the dry heat absorbed all the water in his system, leaving him with little to urinate, even after days. The smell of sweat permanently stained his clothes, his hair, his skin.
He was trapped here for two more years. The man who picked him up at the airport took his visa so that he couldn’t leave without re-paying the money he had borrowed, the small price for heaven. But he was luckier than most. Without him, his family would survive, unlike some of the men whose wives and children depended on them for money that never came.
Today, on a particularly hot day, the men found a body splattered on the ground. The worker had only been there for a week. He was a quiet Indian whose language no one spoke. No one even knew the boy’s name. Scraping his remains off the concrete was brutal. The heat had already begun to cook his body onto the ground. It was messier than most accidents. The others just swallowed razor blades.
But things weren’t that bad. Because of the accident, the Company showed them mercy. After the workers discarded the body, they shuttled everyone back to the little town. The driver, who never spoke, even offered them a bottle. The men took turns with the liquor. To Youssef, things were already starting to get better.
Brenda Julian Yanez
Iguala Guerrero, Mexico, BFA Writing