Me and Pablo just met and we’re both depressed. I’m depressed because I don’t have a visa and I don’t know where I’ll sleep next month. Pablo is depressed because his pot business is too small and he’s scared he is going to get caught.

His real name is not Pablo.

My parents spent a lot of money on a fancy Ivy League education in New York for me. My J1 is about to expire and soon after that, if I don’t get an extension I’m bound to go back home to Colombia. Pablo is from Colombia too but that’s not why he sells drugs. He sells because he’s hanging out with the wrong crowd and he likes easy money. He likes meeting new people every week, too. That’s how we met.

“Fumas?” He asked at a house party in Crown Heights.

“I do now,” I answered, taking the cigarette from his hand.

While I took the first hit, I thought about RCN showing the marihuana cultivos being burned to ashes in the 90’s. I thought about the other Pablo and his reign of violence. I thought about the eight-year-olds selling drugs in Medellin on the streets. I thought about me swearing papi I would never smoke. I thought about me promising it to God when I was little at Catholic School. Pablo interrupts my thoughts:

“That’s not how you smoke. You have to inhale the smoke and hold it until it burns as it tries to get back out.” I thought for a second about papi and god but the thought in my head doesn’t last long. The burning in my throat does.

After we met that night, Pablo and I start hanging out almost every day. We both work mostly at night. He sells his stuff and I think about what will happen if the visa doesn’t get here in time and I will have to go home. I think about where home is. I think about not having a country. I think about how there’s no end in sight. I don’t sleep, and Pablo doesn’t sleep either. So it works out.

“That’s why I’m bad at this business. I’m too scared.”

“I am scared too.”

“And that’s why you don’t do anything. Maybe you should come with me tomorrow.”

The next day we get together to do his round. We speak to all of his clients and smoke with his favorite ones. The last couple of the night offers us chicken. Pablo lights up a joint and says:

“I know what I said yesterday, but you shouldn’t do this. It’s too dangerous. I would rather have you not do anything.”

I imagine the land under my feet splitting in two. I hear my mom’s voice “Come home. You’re spiralling, mija.” I hear the voice of my therapist: “are you sleeping?”

“It’s okay.” He says like he could read my thoughts. I wonder if he can.

Pablo gets caught the next day selling but he doesn’t stay in jail long because it turns out his par-ents have money too. It also turns out his real name is Pablo.

He calls me from prison telling me that he misses me. The week after he comes to my room in Bushwick and kisses me. He kisses my arms, my hair, my forehead and my sunburned chest. In that paisa accent of his, he tells me that he loves me.

“Pablo?” I ask but he doesn’t respond.

Pablo holds my hand. He says he’ll go back to go school for real this time and I don’t say any-thing because I don’t have a plan.

“Pablo,” I say, “Pablo, don’t fall asleep.” But he does.

And I think that Pablo and I don’t have a country but we have something better together, his snores go quiet and all I can hear is the noise of the sirens outside. I hold Pablo’s hand not caring about waking him up. I squeeze his hand harder and prepare for the road ahead.

He wakes up and tells me to go to sleep but I can’t close my eyes. I can feel the land opening up and swallowing me like it does every night. I feel the warmness of the earth and the mud. Except this time, I’m not scared. All I can see is the light.

That motherfucking light of love.


Maria Alejandra Barrios is a writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has lived in Bogotá and Manchester, where in 2016 she completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester. Her fiction has been published in Hobart Pulp, Reservoir Journal, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Her poetry has been published in The Acentos Review. Her work has been supported by organizations like Vermont Studio Center and Caldera Arts Center. She lives in New York and is currently working on her first short story collection and her first novel.