I am fascinated by the boundaries between us. Borders between countries, lines drawn on rock, boundaries between people, between cultures–arbitrary or innate, they separate us, define us. But boundaries aren’t just barriers. They provide the arena for moving back and forth between the two. They offer the possibility of exchange. I can ride the charter bus from the Coachella Valley to Algodónes. I can walk across the border and be in Mexico. One line, drawn no doubt by nations after war, shouldn’t be able to make so much difference. I’ve studied the border from the bus, the way the fence runs through the desert, a jagged monster, the sprawling remains of extraterrestrials. I can find no clues, no evidence that one side of the fence should be so different from the other.
But walk a few yards toward el otro lado, the other side, and you can feel the change. It is of the body, I believe, and not the mind, yet I return to it again and again and again, wanting to make sense of it, trying to figure it out. When I walk across, my body knows I’m in a foreign country. Because I lived there once, it feels like coming home, but this is a comfort of the heart, I think, the soul, and not the body. The body knows this is not the land where it was raised. It’s not geography. My scrutiny of the fence line across the desert between us revealed nothing, only made me marvel, knowing just across it lives another world, a stone’s throw only, two crows flying. The land doesn’t change at the border, but we breathe different air. Spanish diphthongs and mariachi and sidewalks all sing Mexico. Grackles call out in their native tongue. Our bodies know.