We had to wait for several days before we could enter America. There wasn’t much to do, but there were a lot of people. To make time pass, I observed these people. There were so many types; tall and short, big and small. I would look at tiny differences like bushy eyebrows or skinny ankles. I could call myself a professional. Most of them spoke languages I couldn’t recognize. Sometimes I would watch a small family for a long time and imagine their background and future.
There was a family that caught my eye and I watched them as long as we stayed on Ellis Island. There was a mother, a father, a brother, and a sister. The father was carrying a big sack which looked like it was all they owned. They didn’t talk much together — nor with anyone else. Their clothes appeared very dirty and they probably hadn’t showered in a long time.
Maybe they were forced to leave their home country, on account of the looks on their faces, long and pale like a ghost. Their bodies were skinny and their skin was rough. They looked hungry. I would give them some food if I had any for myself. While the rest of the family were sleeping, the father would stare into nothingness with a blank expression. Sometimes I wanted to go over and ask what he was thinking about.
Down With The Robber Barons!
I opened the door to the balcony to be met by a large herd of people shouting and carrying signs. They were all looking up at me chanting something that sounded like – “Down with the robber barons!”
I ran back inside and told my father about the riot on the street. I escorted him to the balcony to show him. I heard the crowd shouting.
“It’s him! The greedy man that’s been stealing our money!” Now they were going crazy. Was this about Daddy? What if they’re looking for him like an animal hunting for its prey. I asked my father what was going on.
“Business stuff. Now go to bed, boy.” I noticed sweat appearing on his forehead while he was rushing us back in. Quickly, he locked the door, but I still heard the people’s voices.
A Place to Stay
My back always hurt when I woke up. I had picked the shortest straw. There were ten of us living together in a rough tenement. I didn’t know the others very well and most of them I had never seen before. I met two of them on the ship to New York and three on Ellis island. They said I could hook up with them and I was mighty happy because I had nowhere to go.
In the tenement, there was a total 4 beds – two homemade bunk beds that looked like they could fall apart anytime. We could fit one maybe two on the top beds, and two on the lower beds. Then there was one old mattress that fit half a person. Nine people would take up that space if we were lucky, which would leave one unlucky person with nowhere to sleep — Me. I was still happy, at least I had a place to stay. A place that would be my new home. I would have to get used to it.