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By Adrian Barraza
It was six o’clock in the afternoon, while he lost his gaze along the landscape, his dreams stirred within him so much that they fueled every wish and made his skin crawl and gave a cold shiver. He sighed nostalgically in a way that swept him away in a feeling of eternity that would accompany him to distant lands. He looked towards his father Rafael. He examined his callous hands that hard work had made, he contemplated his stern yet good natured manner, recording every detail and comprehending that that man was ready to depart from that moment in pursuit of success over many unsought battles that brewed in foreign lands. He rested in his penetrating and oscillating gaze in that desire that tormented him to understand that many days would pass without seeing him again because of the overwhelming restlessness that incited him to see “el Norte”. He slid his youthful hands along his rustic backpack that contained two pairs of dress pants and two worn linen shirts. They were not all he possessed, only that he had heeded the advice of those seasoned desert travelers who had suggested that a light pack would make it easier to travel over a harsh land and to cross those border fences, anyhow it would be easier to abandon it if such a pack kept him from crawling among the bushes. It was just before the onset of winter, but already the wind had a cold feel upon his face that made him decide to pack another pair of pants and another shirt. His mother, Julia Santana, was busy with the typical household chores and keeping a steady rhythm she kneaded the corn dough with an unusual silence, which was how she let her feelings of sorrow show as she bid her son farewell. In truth, Adrian’s parents had not yet come to terms with their son’s impending departure. The smell of freshly made corn tortillas filled the room. An old chipped pewter frying pan stirring with refried red beans rested over hot grill. A female duck with its unique wobble came into the kitchen door followed by a multitude of new born ducklings that painted the floor yellow with the color of their feathers as a group. It was six in the afternoon and the dying sun’s rays filtered thru a hand woven curtain in such a way that it sagged on the window sill that faced west and, they would splash upon an old crucifix, dusty, shapeless and pale that revealed the passing of time the Artist’s inefficiency. Don Rafael sat down as his meal was served, Adrian Tried to eat, but he had lost all taste and the waiting tormented him deeply. A yellow, skinny scoundrel of a dog whose name was “guao, guao” would reluctantly sniff any morsel of food that fell as it lay beneath the table and would ignore it quickly only to lay it’s head over it’s paws. Pablito Martinez arrived in a 55 International pick-up, honked the horn and got off to check the air in the tires. Beto and Adrian bid farewell to their parents, and hid their tears with strong hugs and between fake coughs bonded a feeling that would last forever.
They climbed the truck where Arturo Barraza, Escolastico’s son. The engine failed to start, so the travelers climbed down to help push it. Soon the engine engaged the pushing and it did start to run on its own. A journey had begun that had started in that little corner of Mexican soil. But, they had barely driven away when Senora Julia yelled as she ran after the truck, she had in her hands a small box. They drove back. Adrian did not wish to have to return so as not to relive the farewell once again. When they met with her, she handed them the box and they did say good-bye to her once more. She raised her hand blessed them as they parted. And so the journey had begun again for those pilgrims forever preserving that image of their mother blessing and wishing them a prompt return home. Without hiding his curiosity, Adrian opened the box to see what was inside, it was a roasted chicken, French rolls filled with beans and cheese and an empty soda bottle with a corn husk as a cork filled with milk and coffee. To rid himself of the worry, he took a roll and began to eat an early dinner. When they arrived at Nieves, the bus that would take them to Chihuahua was ready. It was a quiet exodus, since each one of them guarded their own feelings, as their memories reunited with the strange sensations. The bus took off along the asphalt line. Creating with its loud engine, strange chords and malefic figures that appeared in a moonlit night. Finally they were in Chihuahua. There David Barraza joined the group of pilgrims towards Nuevo Casas Grandes. The arrival of dawn and the birth of the reborn sun confirmed once again the dimensions of time and place that were separating them even more from that small corner of love where their childhood antics and adventures would remain. The young Adrian continued to relive that strange shivering that would shake his body. Hours of traveling had passed and an endless stream of newfound feelings would spiral within him. Finally they arrived In Casas Grandes where they discovered that the next part of their journey would be by small aircraft until they reach the City of Agua Prieta, it was like a bucket of cold water that was poured on all of them. There was no other way so they made their way towards the ticket booth where they awaited for yet another titanic adventure. The station manager would repeat this coarse and annoying phrase over the intercom: “Agua Prieta to Casas Grandes, over”. Luckily enough that after one hour and a half of this, a response came thru over the radio, otherwise, many there would have choked her in order to make her stop. Adrian did not know how to sit, the discomfort of those cold metal benches and the sudden surge he felt every time he realized that he would board an Airplane would overwhelm him even more. He thoughts returned to Canutillo and his patio behind his home, near the chicken and turkey coops, by the clotheslines that he himself had installed for his mother; there satisfied by the warmth of home and looking towards the Amolar mountain that rose in the direction of the small town of Nieves or admiring that other natural marvel of a mountain range called El Puente or the Bridge, that precisely derives its name from the communicating bridge that was built to link both mounts that were separated by a river called Florido. He saw himself walking in the streets and into the small town until he went into Lupe Burciaga’s store in Canutillo or in Domingo Borrego’s other store
where he often went to buy provisions for his mother. And how can one forget the other stores of Lower
Canutillo, like Chente Renteria’s store. He felt attended by the good natured Merchant while he asked for half a kilo of chorizo. He handed him the money and waited patiently for change. As he walked out, he admired every item that was for sale in the shelves. He saw the large rubber bands to make sling Shots and with the change, he bought marbles. He was six when all this took place, but he relived each moment as if only a few minutes separated the present from that event. He breathed deeply and shifted himself in his seat. The small plane had arrived and he notified Arturo. That is how it was, the deafening sound the engine made left no doubt about it. The necessary arrangements were made in order to board the flying craft. Every one formed A single line behind Arturo to board, behind him was Beto, David and
young Adrian. Adrian would look at the small plane with fear as he got closer to it, His feet would tremble with panic and his eyes would open widely as if he saw some monstrous apparition. He boarded and was shown his seat. He wanted to exit running but strength left him with the slight less effort. He
watched the Pilot arrive and he felt that he lost control of his bladder and that he soaked his underwear, he was sure of this and so he sat sternly in his seat. Unfortunately, the flight was to be more complicated than usual. He could hear the pilot yell from the cockpit that: Don’t worry, they are air pockets, and besides if we fall, we won’t go beyond the ground itself. Those remarks were not at all funny to Adrian. It was the worst moment he had lived to date. The small plane was shaken violently and the stupor kept him from feeling the warm liquid that soaked his seat and his pants completely. Someone said that there was a hail storm.
Adrian Barraza was born in Canutillo, Durango, Mexico and now lives in Mesa, Arizona where he works coordinating his construction company; this text is a fragment of his book titled “Clouds and life pass by as we do other things” now in production.
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