"But I didn't drop him," Papa says when everybody stops giggling.
They all laugh again.
I don't think Papa would've dropped me. I trust him.
"So you were there, too, Mr. Romero?" Sedge asks.
"Oh, yeah, I was there," Juan says. "It's good, too. Who can say what would've happened if I hadn't been. After all, Emilio dropped the baby."
People who get immigrants across the southern U.S. border are called coyotes. Juan had kind of been an unofficial one for my parents, helping to lead them across. He had experience crossing the desert and was a lot cheaper and safer than trusting a real one.
"He was mostly ordering us around," Papa says.
"Telling them where to go," Juan says.
"No kidding," Papa says.
"So you didn't get lost. I was trying to hustle my sobrina along, hoping she'd make it to civilization before Alejandro came out."
"But they didn't make it?" Sedgwick asks. "Alejandro was really born in the desert?
"Uh-huh," Juan says.
"Oh, that's so sweet," Sedge says.
Not so sweet though. They always told me it was on the wrong side.
"I carried him across that desert," Papa says, "past the saguaro and prickly pear cactuses, keeping him away from king snakes and cottontail rabbits, all the way in a sling. He was naked against my chest, without a diaper. There was nothing to catch his pee."
"Or poop," Juan says. "I had to keep telling Emilio where to turn, urging him not to stop, and reminding him of creepy crawlers: poisonous scorpions and rattlesnakes, sidewinders and centipedes, Gila monsters and tarantulas."
"I don’t remember," I say.
"It wasn't fun," Mama says. "No doctor or midwife. Only Emilio and Tio Juan. It's lucky you even survived, Aljehandro."
They usually don't tell about being nervous about la migra—the Border Patrol. Not to people like Sedge, anyway.
"At least Alejandro was pequeño when he came out," Juan says. "But he sure didn't stay little."
"He came out early," Mama says, "that's why he was so small."
"He was a niño when you wanted a niña," Juan says. "And right off he didn't cooperate."
My grandparents and parents agree, nodding. Mama had wanted a girl. She still does.
And of course they had wanted an American. A girl and a citizen, that's what they had wished for.
"He still doesn't cooperate," Sedge says. "I wanted him to do my Spanish homework, and he wouldn't."
Everybody laughs still again.
"I just wouldn't help you do something wrong," I say. "Besides, you need practice."