A hard knock

New Jersey, October 2011

A hard knock on my front door breaks the quiet ease of my morning. Maybe a deliveryman, except they usually ring the bell. Plus, I wasn’t expecting any packages, but perhaps my wife is. I’d ask her if she hadn’t already left for work. For a moment I wonder if I should answer. A voice in my head says no, but I ignore it.

Two guys in their mid-thirties are there, dressed in regular clothes. Experience tells me this can’t be good.

“Hi,” one of them says. “We are conducting an investigation. We are from Homeland Security. ICE. Who lives here?”

Damn. “I live here,” I answer, and make a mental note to start listening to my gut.

Because of our immigration status, we’d had a lot of interaction with the authorities over the years. They knew where we lived. We’d shown up for every court date, every appointment, everything. I tell myself there should be no reason to be concerned.

Pushing away the urge to ask them to go away, I invite them in. They don’t budge. Instead, one guy pulls out a yellow folder with a half-inch-thick stack of paper inside and opens it. A picture of my son stares up at me. I now know for sure this is not like my other encounters with H.S. I feel protective, almost territorial. This is my son, after all. I want to rip the picture from the folder.

“Does Enislav live here?”

“Yes, he is my son.” My heart starts beating too fast now. Anger triggers a rush of adrenaline; the violation into my private life leaves me sick inside.

“Is he here?”

I want to say no. I want to telepathically send a message to Eni to climb out his bedroom window and go to his sister’s house.

“Yes,” I answer through a clenched jaw.

“Who else lives here?”

“My wife.”

“Is she here?”

“No, she left for work.” I say silent thanks that she’d already left for the day, but at the same time need her.

“Listen, we have a warrant for you. We need to satisfy the warrant.” No emotion. They are well-trained.

“What does that mean?” I ask, trying to outwardly maintain a steadiness I’m not feeling.

“You have to come with us to the office to fill out some paperwork.”

A third guy with a shaved head suddenly comes around and wants to know if everything is okay. Everything is okay, his buddies tell him. I feel outnumbered and realize that was their intent.

“So why don’t you go get your son and get ready,” one finally says.

“Get ready for what?” My voice is shaking a bit, betraying me with its lack of confidence. “Listen, I have never been through something like this. What am I getting ready for?” I nearly yell those last words, but stop short. Growing up during the Cold War in a Communist country, I’m well aware of what yelling at authority will get you. In Bulgaria this happened. But in the U.S? Incomprehensible.

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