right hand pointing



Jackson Bliss




My kids know the rules.  Roberto and Emmanuela went off to school, dressed in doll clothes that still shrink in the sun, discolored and diminutive like nicknames.  As for Juanita, that little brat, she had until seven.  If she was late, helping Samsona Stagado with her chores, she’d have to stay with her for the night.  That’s the rule, and she knows it.  The truth is, she tries to be late.  We have our own problems and she's sick of everything, like moving the coche before night falls.  You see, the streets fill up with patrol cars, borrachos and cowboys, and men don’t understand silence the way undocumented women do.  The weekly move keeps us together.  We roll down the windows and listen to music as we drive up Morando Hill or through Bakersfield Commons, passing million dollar homes with fountains and trimmed hedges and TV commercials flashing through bedroom windows.  I admire how well kept people’s sidewalks are, the way they make their homes so pretty, adorning porches with wicker baskets, little benches made of birch and banana wood, pots of prickly pear cactus that come from the Mexican desert. And I love the way California smells at night.  Reminds me of flour tortillas, the kind you buy back home when the roads shut down during traffic jams as old Mayan women sell you pineapple tamales wrapped in corn husks that look like burlap ponchos, and for fifty pesos, you can get a bag of twelve, piping hot, and passed to you right through the open windows, fogging up the glass like new lovers.  By the time you’re done eating, the traffic has cleared and the bus is moving again.  

I hope Juanita is strong.  Her absence makes my stomach hurt.  And I feel guilty for rolling down the windows, it’s just that the air smells like a valley in the Yucatan, like a clay oven in Campeche.  If Juanita was here I’d tell her about her cousins that sleep in library stacks and study in bus depots, that dance in outfits made from silver curtains.  Someday I will tell Juanita all about Mexico, about the only country that loves you like a lost girl.



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