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Natalia Trevino

Two Blessings

        You in my arms a heavy weight, asleep, your light snoring murmuring with the warm hum of the bus engine. We’d escaped. The sun still under its blankets. I watched the gray moonlit signs grow large, then disappear behind the glass windshield. The words and the pictures on the signs— bottles of sodas in all colors, the Sabritas potato chips yellow frightening smile face saying “Open the bag and crunch the chips inside!” The red, white and green signs with big, black letters I could not read. I decided reading would become important—had glimpsed in the signs what I would buy for you. I knew that prices for food were in numbers and written under the shelves where the food was stored. I knew when I arrived that someone might ask me for directions. I should know the street names, and if I knew how to read, I could find places myself. I would need to write my name somewhere, for someone one day.
        Vallarta crooned like a woman at the edges of the mountains. It had a pretty sound to it, vaya.  A command. And it had valley in it too, a port to a valley, the moist ground between mountains where rivers pooled quietly and low.
        I thought about money. The wedding money almost all spent on the bus ticket. But an infant did not need any purchased food yet, and to feed you, I only needed a place to sit. A place to lay down the sarape for sleep. I would blend in and keep you alive.
        Standing after the long bus trip hurt my legs, although I knew this was good pain, pain that healed after it tore my muscles. The shark guest in my belly, asleep, floating imperceptibly now.
        I imagined my hair long in bands of reddish and light yellow, and when I touched to check it, I could feel it thick from the humidity, and I knew Doña Hermalinda would say I looked slovenly— my dress too big, falling off at the shoulders and tied down by a belt I had stolen from Elferio. Thief. But no one called me thief.
        The thick smell of gasoline, fresh. A forest of bus engines running at the same time, waiting to fill with the smell of humid passengers.  I saw a poor woman sitting next to a metal table. It was sheathed in a red flower print table cloth, plastic. Her skin dark as burnt cumin, her face crinkled like bark and speckled by raised pools of birth marks. She was old. But in the crook of her arm, a baby swaddled and nursing, chewing, eyes fluttering, not days older than my child, drunk on happy milk-fat and moving its plump arm as if swatting the flies. The woman’s face was tired, her wet, black hair parted perfectly down the center, an embroidered rose-colored cloth covering most of it. The morning was cool on my skin.
        A tall, slightly rusted metal pot stood on the table. Three hard plastic plates stacked clean and ready to use. A translucent green container cradled a handful of napkins. It was made of insect legs or waterlogged flower stems, or plastic I could not tell. A small box for collecting money. I smelled butter, tortillas, and musky barbecued goat meat. There was a sign with numbers and letters on it. I had money, did not know how long it would last, and I was not terribly hungry like I had been on the bus. But this steaming meat waited for me, and it would turn to milk for you by the next day. I reached into my bag.
        The woman lifted her hand to swat at me. “Nada, mi’ja,” the woman said, “You need to eat for that baby. Take two tacos. Keep one for an emergency.”
        I did not understand. This food was free? The box, the napkins. The work. This is because I looked poor. The lady knew I had an emergency sleeping in my arms.
        “Please let me give you something,” I said. “I can’t take your food like that.”
        The woman flung her arms into the air and smacked her mouth. She had no teeth. “No, no. Vas a ver, you’ll need your money. Take what is given to you because it won’t happen anywhere. But now.”
        This woman, her cracked skin with age and sun, but feeding a new baby. Someone had put it in her not long ago. Slugged his back into her.. I had felt sorry for her sitting there, before dawn, waiting for travelers to give her money. They would buy the tacos she folded right there with her dirty hands. And it was me with the emergency, no place to sit, nothing to sell.
        I took one taco, not two. I told her, “Gracias, Señora.”
        I wanted to say that I would pay her one day, but decided that I could not promise what I did not know I could do, and so I promised myself I would pay this woman when money came. I felt the small, moist taco, wrapped tightly in a napkin, only slightly warmer than my hand.
        I looked down to find a clean place for it in my bag, and my I felt spears going through my dress by my shoulder. A black animal crawling to my chest. I flung it to the ground and I jumped. My heart pounding. It landed feet on the ground, only a cicada, and I worried I had broken it. I had never seen one so close. Its brown head glowed like a dark a river, waves of color starting at his protruding black eyes and swirling toward his transparent wings. Some rocks I had seen before with this glowing movement of color. No animal or bird though, and certainly not a screaming cicada had let me come this close. He was stunned, unable to move. I was still behind the walls of the bus station, and no trees grew there, and so I decided to pick it up and walk it outside. Its sticky legs woke and poked the top of my hand, but it would not fly, holding on to me with tiny knives at the end of its legs.
        I tried to flick it off again gently this time. It started whirring in my hand, making a sound I had heard in the jungle, vibrating directly against my palm, a chorus of leaves being crushed all at once, and then again. A high pitched hiss. A crunch. A song. Outside the bus station, this sound was coming from every tree. Loud then quiet. All of them singing together. Swarming the trees, thousands of them. Flying unsteadily from branch to branch. Clinging to the barks of the trees. This cicada thought I was a part of them.
        It had mistaken me for a tree.