Friday, April 27, 2012

Inside out

We’re in the Zocalo, having a beer and botanas with some friends at one of the outdoor restaurants.  I’m dressed (at the insistence of my school’s principal, and to Ibis’s great amusement) as a China Oaxaqueña, in a flouncy red skirt, soft white blouse, green shawl, braided hair with ribbons—we’ve just come from the Calenda, the parade-cum-dress-rehearsal, for the traditional dance festival some of my students will participate in the next day.  Isaias is dancing up a storm alongside the table, admiring the balloons, and eating spicy peanuts.   

I see the girls—I always see them—the ones in shorts and sport sandals, carrying woven bags stuffed with water bottle, journal, camera.  I was one of them.  And there’s one—there’s always one—in the company of a local boy.  I know they’ve just met, because of the way she watches his lips when he talks, and nods even when I can see in her eyebrows that she hasn’t understood.  Because she’s so obviously exhilarated.  Because I can see her pride when she orders an esquite in Spanish.  I was her.   

There were two local boys.  One became my husband.  One was a bad guy.  I look at this girl, and wonder what’s beginning for her.  I wonder what she would give to be on the inside, to be wearing a flouncy skirt and beribboned braids, to be Nena  to her husband, and Mamita to her child, and Doña Somebody to her neighbors.  I wonder what I would’ve given.  I wonder if I gave it.

As we’re heading back to the car, we run into Rosy, on her way to the late shift at the pharmacy.  She double-takes at my outfit and cries “Qué guapa!  Qué guapa!” as we hug and kiss quickly.  An older woman I don’t know stops me to ask what time the dance festival will be held the next day, and I tell her.  Being on the inside feels good, but not as transcendent as I imagined it would when I was that girl.  Less transcendent, in a way, than being on the outside, and longing. 

And the things I never imagined: running up a perfectly, boringly, familiar street, long skirts swishing, holding my husband’s hand, chasing after our son, and suddenly catching a whiff of the Mexico Smell, whatever it is, or was when I first defined it: Fabuloso cleanser and tacos and exhaust and old buildings and boiled corn.  And instead of exhilarating, it’s comforting: it reminds me that I was onto something, when I was that girl. 


  1. Hi! I just happened upon this site - from reading your comment on (betterinreallife) laurens blog (my best friend, shes rad right!?) and I totally feel like I hit the jackpot with a blog like yours. I cant wait to delve in and see your unique life - one that you so awesomely share :) thanks so much for making my day!

  2. This is so beautiful and makes me really happy.

  3. Awww...thanks, you two. Now you've made MY day.

  4. I can so relate! Oh how this makes me miss Oaxaca. Hugs from Dallas, Kelly

  5. Your writing and observations are delicate and so perfect. Just beautiful.