The deck rocked as the boat swung in toward the dockyards. Newcomers crowded around railings in anticipation. The water shone, dirty aqua, this crisp emerald color that for a fleeting moment turned into distant hills and moors instead of bumping waves.
The terror was over. Europe, the Atlantic, Ellis Island, poverty, all lay behind him. The golden land rested in front. Sparkling towers shot out upon the horizon like the rays of a setting sun. The lady of freedom with her thorny crown stood frozen in posture nearby.
It was odd, he expected a golden silhouette to appear, but instead it was this half stained creation. A giant slowly rusting in splotches, growing green, fused with a brown mold. With optimism, he smiled. Images of home flooded back. Perhaps the figure was better this way, it reminded one of the sod-covered fields of his own land.
They arrived onto the pier. Men, women, children, and families amassed pouring off the boat. Shouts sprang from those on land, chanting and swearing. Bottles were thrown, men were spit at. Over the noise of the city they demanded, “Go back home!”
Slurs were hurled at Dubliners and tussles started on the mainland. He observed this from the deck with shock and confusion. A stranger next to him laughed, bitter and cold.
He wrapped himself deeper in his own coat. “Who are they?"
”“Them?” The stranger glared out at a growing field of bodies. Immigrants clashed with protesters. “They’re the Americans.” Then he laughed some more.
The immigrant clutched onto the railing, body numbed. He had exchanged one sod-stricken hell for another, and there was no going back, not how he came. ‘The Land of Milk and Honey’, that’s what was promised. But perhaps the milk curdled. And the honey; well he had always been told honey can’t sour. But perhaps they were wrong about that too, or perhaps there never was any honey here to begin with.
Violence ignited in a new fury below. He willed his foot forward. The wood that had been his world upon the sea continued to shake and rot underneath him, and he did the same.
He must leave the boat to start his new life in the crowd. But he was afraid, awfully afraid. He longed for America’s freedom, but there’s very little freedom in fear.