I was not able to snap a photo. As soon as I made that "click" sound, everyone in the van was gasping and shushing urgently at my naivety (to put it lightly).
"Don't take their photos!"
"Not unless you want your phone confiscated!"
We were at the Mexico border check point which is a novelty. In my previous trips, I was told no stopping was required, in fact the freeway didn't even have a barrier, a simple sign informs from the side of the road that you have just flew out of the country at seventy miles an hour. Changes in the social climate however, have brought checks into this direction of the traffic recently.
With no one speaking truly fluent Spanish among us, and loads of food and water in the van, we held our breath nervously awaiting the inspection.
The border guards dressed in camouflage uniforms did not seem much older than high school students. Though the top half of their heads were hidden in their over-sized helmet, their dark eyes peak out from just under the rims with a sternness years beyond their age. Yet I could almost see them stepping out of their heavy boots and play a game of soccer just around the corner, or lay down their heavy guns held barely off the ground, and go to the movies holding hands with a girl friend.
I could see them wiping the tears off of the cheeks of a younger sibling, carrying her to school, to a shop, or simply to play. I could see them doing homeworks, eating tamles, watching a game, or helping out a parent whose load has twisted her back and stripped her hands raw.
I could see them sing songs, dream dreams, praise praises, dance, jump or run but most of all, eagerly stepping out and growing up one day to put away their childishness, and put on the heavy armor of adulthood. Though some do, but not all are worn out by this burden, as a proud spirit rooted in their hearts had followed them and given them a straightened back and a heartfelt smile in the face of hardship and uncertainty.
I saw them, as I drifted in my thoughts, walking towards us, face full of innocent tension, a serious smile hidden yet not quite, a heavy handed tenderness in the arms that kept the guns pointing to the ground, I lowered my head in a silent prayer, and put away my camera phone with a heavy sigh of relief.