Agustin had been set to start school the following September. At the time, many teachers could reserve their positions for their family members and retire as soon as their child graduated. She wanted her son to move to the city and live in an apartment located in downtown; an apartment financed via his mother’s teaching pension. All the apartments lined up along that street looked identical with bright white facades and two concrete steps that led to the front door.
Each apartment had a patch of fern green grass to claim as its own. Every Saturday morning at 7am, hefty trucks drove by. From the roof of the trucks, a microphone blared a song that announced the weekend arrival of gas. But Agustin made summer plans that did not involve the blares of gas trucks nor the yells of the local panadero on his bicycle. He made the thirty hour bus ride with his cousins to Tijuana with a promise to return in a month’s time.
Past the streetlight and the large bronze bull statue was the park and Los Portales. Los Portales resembled a strip mall with restaurants, coffee shops, a bookstore, and shops with souvenirs or what the locals called chácharas. Surrounding the park were parking spaces with meters. El Paso’s meters were adorned with stickers with the Visa logo. Tlaxcala expected Agustin to dig through the ashtray for change. A space was vacated and he pulled in. He only had bills and the meter flashed “¡Violacion!” A traffic ticket could be easily avoided by offering fifty pesos to a police officer.
Whenever he visited Mexico whether it be in the mercados or out on the street, passerby stared at him as if knowing he was now American. If questioned they would say it was the way he dressed and the way he spoke Spanish. While Agustin’s Spanish was good, he no longer carried the Tlaxcala accent.
“Pásale, güero,” shop owners would say. Güero was a word used for light skinned
Mexicans or gabachos—foreigners.
Agustin only walked the path of the park once before finding shade at Los Portales. A bookstore only had the word librería painted on the front in bubbly schoolgirl font. Pushing the door open, a bell chimed. A woman sat at the register, she smiled and told him to let her know if he needed anything. The bookstore seemed to be a puzzle with missing pieces as he could not find rhyme or reason to the order in which the books were placed. Large books sat nestled between miniature books giving the whole place a disjointed look.
After a few moments of scanning the shelves for the name Ramón López Velarde, he asked the woman at the front if they had a collection of his poems. She said she’d take a look and disappeared behind a black curtain. As Agustin waited, he walked further within the bookstore and eyed a mustard yellow journal, small enough to fit in his pant pocket.
“No lo tenemos, señor,” the woman lamented with a small shake of her head.
It began to rain as he exited.
It had rained the whole week before he had married.
Driving home, he had the radio turned off. In the glove compartment, his father only kept tapes of ranchera artists and show tunes. Dilapidated buildings advertised bicycle repairs or snacks and candies or pulque. The rain had slowed and the sun hid behind the clouds as he pulled up to the zaguán.
Outside there was no one to greet him but the adopted mutt. The only sounds after he shut the engine off were that of the sheep and chirping birds. The kitchen sink was empty of dirty dishes and María was not there. It was mid-afternoon and Agustin presumed his mother had gone down the street to the church to help set up flowers for the upcoming celebration of a saint whose name he had already forgotten.
The bookshelf in the living room still showed the emptiness reserved for a mouth without molars. On the top shelf, his father had lined up figurines of Cantinflas, a popular Mexican actor of black and white films. His mother interrupted as she burst past the kitchen door with bagful of pomegranates and she solicited his help in peeling walnuts. Sitting at the dining room table, they both had an aluminum lemon squeezer in hand that they used to crack the hard shell. They littered the garbage can first with the shells then with the thin skin.
“Hijo, the city hasn’t changed has it?”
“I’m leaving tonight, mamá.”
Saying goodbye to both his parents, he gave them a final embrace with a promise to return for the last posada. He made the walk alone to the bus station located on the street Revolución.
The station offered a one-way ticket for the price of a college textbook. Duffel bag in hand, he donned an unshaven face as he took a seat at the back of the autobús. The bus whistled and whooshed, signaling its departure.
Agustin flipped to the first page of the mustard yellow journal.
Adrianna Sampedro is a writer who presently resides in New Mexico. In the Spring of 2014, she received her Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She draws inspiration from her Mexican heritage. This is her first publication.