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Bridges

Crossing Over

MEXICO | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 | Views [83] | Scholarship Entry

We meet in the bus terminal, both of us cramped and exhausted, and when he offers to walk me across the border I am suspicious, but only at first. His name is Scotty, which doesn't fit his face – tufts of gray hair sprout from his ears and upper lip – he’s older than my parents, but younger, somehow, too, in his corduroy jacket and wide smile. The dingy, grey, early-morning El Paso air crowds us, thick with garbage and exhaust. Scotty winks, blows into his hands, “Need me to slow down, kid?” I shake my head; straighten my spine a little more against the drag and gravity of 8 months pregnant, and soldier on. I am proving something, here; proving that I am still an I, despite this new soul lodged inside of me. There is no time for slowing down. The bridge slopes up slightly, surrounded by crosshatch wire, roofed against the early morning sun. The cement beneath our feet is slick from years of use. It is 8am on a Tuesday and there is a rush of day workers crossing into Texas, moving as a mass, pairs of curious eyes flicking over us; each person a story on their way to the page break of scrubbing floors, washing dishes, mowing lawns. We're the only ones headed into Mexico, Scotty and I. The air on the other side is just as thick, but brighter, noisier. Vehicles are stacked, haphazard, a never-ending line of rust and bungee-cords pointed north, but I don’t smell exhaust, here. I smell hot grease and lilacs, though the sources of both elude me, and it makes me hungry. Little boys, nimble and smudged, weave and bob amid all the dull metal and glinting glass, spray bottles and crumpled newspapers in hand, vying to clean spotty windshields for a few pesos. Scotty ducks, leading me, into a tiny café with a low doorway; I eat a double order of huevos a la Mexicana, avocado and rich, brown beans on pillowy tortillas. Scotty raises his eyebrows and goes to pay the bill. Outside he hails me a taxi – we ask the driver to click a picture of us on my disposable camera; me with my goofy, tired smile and striped scarf, him in his corduroy. I am bumped and jarred all the way to the Juarez Airport, squinting through the dust, the strangeness, the bright white sun. At a stoplight, I put a hand on my belly and feel the high keen, the groundless weight of my aloneness. I am an invisible pin in a very large map. I look up, out the window, at a looming billboard advertising the latest fast-food creation. It reads "Unidos Por el Destino." Inside me the baby gives a slippery kick.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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