El Valle: Letter to Mami
These are the streets we know as home, Mom. The burnt grass because rain never reaches us, the white yucca in blossom, the burning of sugar cane. These are the streets we walked, we rode down, we moved down and up countless times. In March the orange blossoms, at first sweet, but finally nauseating. This is where you moved us into- little houses with beat up fences, torn and bent. This has been home for 20 years now, Mom. The intersection at Closner and Sprague finally has a light. They even put in a left turning arrow. Remember when I avoided turning there to go to your apartment? I would just go straight through on Sprague and turn on 12th Street, 2 streets extra but I hated the traffic, Mom, I could never get over my fear of this. The streets always seemed too narrow with no dividing lines in the middle.
I hated driving. I drive more now, Mom. I have to. I drive for work, and I drive, drive, drive-endless streets, and empty towns. A few weeks ago, I can’t even remember what town I was in, and I had this feeling of-not exactly loneliness, but it’s the same exact way I feel when I’m home, Mom.
This city is empty for me. Driving in, I could have been anywhere. I drove by your apartment; of course, it’s been rented now. I also have a confession to make Mom, I never did send in that key you left me to mail to him. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. Silent defiant act, I guess.
I get that you never got used to this weather, you were raised in Chicago, and the hot sunny disposition of Texas has weathered you. I get it. I get it, that you moved to where the trees grow tall and wide, not afraid to get burned by the sun, where there are actually four seasons, where the grass is not always burnt. I get it. But you made this home; you made Us make this home. And now, we are anchored here. We can’t get out. And there is still no shade for us, no snow, no seasons.
I am looking again, for a house to rent. Brooke wants one with a pool. I am deathly afraid of pools. Remember that house in Mexico, the one dad bought, where it used to have a pool in the back yard and a boy drowned so they started to rip it out of the ground but they never finished. And there stood half a building, without a roof. An improvised door where someone had taken a sledgehammer to, maybe an angry and grieving parent. And it never came down. We played in this makeshift playhouse, out there behind the orange trees and tangerine trees, hiding underneath the Cerralvo sun. I went back a few years ago, and they had finally made it into this sort of house, with a roof and windows and a kitchen. A one-room house. Dad said they just built on the old pool foundation.
I don’t know how to build on foundations Mom. Now that you’re gone-this town is empty and not my own. Roots, roots get uprooted and successfully start growing again when they are planted somewhere else. But you didn’t even say bye, Mom. I want to tell you how it looks now, this city you made into our home more than 20 years ago. University Drive busier than ever. I make tortillas, arroz con gandules, Cream of Wheat-but Brooke says yours is still better.