for the first time in a good while. She talked with him for an hour. I did not see either of them that day after the interview. The following morning I asked her about her thoughts. She said, “You were right, Art. He is an incredible person.”
“The man is a saint,” I replied. “There certainly doesn’t seem to be any justice in what life has thrown his way.” Alina agreed.
She had advised Régis that the only way to begin to help himself was first to prove the validity of his residency in this country. Once that was accomplished, she could arrange for him to get temporary financial assistance and a clinic card, which would allow him to receive medical care. He said that if he went to the INS, he would surely be arrested and deported. Furthermore, if he was sent back to Haiti he would most certainly die. She persisted that this was the only way we would be able to help him. He said that he would think about it.
I saw him weekly, mostly to test his mental status and reassure him that he was not deteriorating. He seemed to depend on these visits for his sanity. I got the impression that the people in our office were the only people in the world with whom he shared his secret. He would always have a few words with Amal while he waited and then would visit at length with Alina when I was through with him. I was grateful that she had relieved me of major responsibility for his emotional support. He was so articulate. To hear his thoughts and fears and not be able to do anything about them left me drained.
The more we pushed Régis to go to the INS the more he resisted. He seemed more afraid of returning to Haiti than of being destitute and dying in this country. I wondered if he was in trouble there or if there was something else he was hiding from. Alina thought the explanation was simple: If he went back to Haiti now, his whole life would be a failure. He was not ready to face that prospect. He chose instead to try to survive from week to week, hoping, with some encouragement from Amal, for a miracle.