The Promise

Mel bolts up, her whole body shaking, and screams – breaking the silence of her still bedroom. It takes her a few seconds to collect herself, get her bearings.

She’s sitting in her bed, covers pushed down in heaps at her feet, black mascara smudged in streaks on her pillow.

She wipes the wet tears from her cheeks and tries to tell herself to be calm, to breath.

She closes her eyes, but only for a split second. Her whole body tenses at the memory of tires screeching and debris flying. Her head still pulses, dizzy from the spinning. She can feel the heat of smoke; hear the crunching of metal, the screaming, the sound of her head hitting the window.

She slowly spins her legs around, off the bed, and slips into her old, worn out slippers. She waits for a moment, just sitting there, with her feet dangling off the bed. The comfort of her slippers helps ease the anxiety she can feel surging through her body. Mel breathes – in and out, in and out.

She glances at the clock on the bedside table, 12:15.

When she stands up her legs falter a bit but she is able to keep from falling over. She makes her way, slowly, to her bathroom. Her fingers trace along the wall until they come across the light switch. She flips it on and covers her eyes from the bright light with the collar of her brother’s old Go Army tee she wears as a nightgown. Her hands brace the counter and her eyes stare straight into the mirror above the sink. A thin scar, etched from chin to cheekbone, still red and raised, stares back at her.

It’s not the scar that bothers her. Soldiers are expected to have scars.

It’s the remembering that comes with it that brings the real pain.

She remembers the scorching sun, Lynyrd Skynyrd blasting through the speakers, and Jess, sitting in the seat beside her. The details are clear in her mind but no matter how hard she tries, she can’t make sense of what happened.

A rush of emotion overwhelms Mel so she flips off the bathroom light and walks in darkness out of her room and down the hall to the kitchen. Even in the pitch black she manages to navigate her way through the twisting hallway. In the four years she had been gone, not much had changed about her childhood home. The old floorboards still creaked with each step and the smiling faces in the photo frames still felt familiar.

In the kitchen, she finds a pint of ice cream in the freezer. Vanilla was always her favorite. Her mom had stocked the freezer full when Mel moved back in.

After finding the biggest spoon she could find, Mel climbs up onto the granite countertop. She pulls her knees up into her chest, gently; her body still aches with each small movement. She pops the lid off of her midnight snack, and tries to numb her thoughts with the icy goodness.

On the way back to her room, Mel tiptoes slowly down the hall. Her eyes study each photograph. There’s the one of her and her brother on the day he was sworn in to the United States Army. It’s always been one of Mel’s favorites. That was the day she knew she wanted to follow in her brother’s footsteps.

Mel’s eyes move to the next photo. Her and Jess. They were six years old and covered from head to toe in mud. Their little bare feet hung off the tailgate of an old Toyota.

Mel jumps at the sudden squeak of the hardwood floor.

“Sorry honey, didn’t mean to scare you.” Her dad stands beside her and he sweeps his arm across her back.

“It’s okay. “ Mel mumbles softly as she rests her head on his shoulder. She was nearly his height but he always made her feel small, like a little girl he could protect forever.

“I miss her Dad.” She didn’t want to start crying, but the tears come anyway.

“I know.”

“It’s my fault.” Even though she was whispering the words seemed to echo down the hall.

“There was nothing you could have done. You can’t carry that – “

Mel lunges forward and rips the photo off the wall. Two little girls, smiling and giggling go crashing to the floor. The glass shatters and Mel collapses into the broken shards.

“I broke our promise Dad, I broke it.” The anger and pain came in a fury.

As Mel sits shaking on the floor, her father reaches down and takes his little girl in his arms. He walks down the long hall with Mel curled up into his chest. Her sobs are steady as she tells her dad about the promise her and Jess had made. They were supposed to be friends forever.

When they reach Mel’s room, he sets her in bed, pulls up the covers, and leaves her with a small kiss on her forehead.

It takes her awhile to fall back asleep. Quick flashes of that day await her every time her eyelids close.

 

There was no warning. One second she was driving, her and Jess chatting about boys they missed and things they wanted to do when they finally got to go home, and the next second there was smoke, spinning, flipping. Her ears are still ringing from Jess’ high-pitched scream.

The potent smell of burning rubber and mangled metal overwhelmed Mel.

“I’m okay. I’m okay.” She continued repeating these two words over and over as she tried to assess what had happened.

She was on her side: they flipped. Her face was bleeding: she could feel the sting of the tiniest pieces of glass buried deep in her skin.

Jess. Where was Jess? Oh God, Jess.

 

In the morning, Mel is awoken by sunlight streaming in through her open window. It is warm, and for a second, her lips twitch up into a slight smile. She can smell breakfast cooking and coffee brewing down the hall, so she pushes her feet into her soft slippers and heads into the kitchen. Her mom has bacon and chocolate chip pancakes cooking simultaneously on the griddle, with syrup warming up in a pot on the stove.

Mel eases herself up onto the countertop and her dad passes her a cold cup of orange juice, sans pulp, and two Advil. He knows his daughter well.

“Mel don’t sit on the counter, you’re not ten years old anymore.”

Mel reaches over and dips her finger into the pancake batter. She gives her mom a look of defiance as she licks her finger clean.

“You should go shower and get ready. Take a hot one, it’s good for your complexion.”

This time, Mel ignores her. She brushes a piece of stray, greasy brown hair behind her ear, and continues to sip her OJ.

Her mom rolls her eyes and clicks on the TV.

Mel’s head snaps up. The same images, already haunting her memory, are now streaming out of the television. She used to watch the 6 A.M. cartoons before school on that television. That little piece of technology used to make her giggle and smile – now it made her want to run, hide, and scream at the top of her lungs.

CNN was the first to report on the attack in Afghanistan, then FOX, then NBC. Even now, almost one month later, the news stations find a way to roll the footage at least three times a day. They showed the Humvee on its side, surrounded by flames and fragments of the now desolated convoy. They recounted the details of the supply mission, the unexpected ambush, and the devastation that several foreign missiles brought.

The banner at the bottom of the screen was always the same.

Hometown Hero.

That was her. Lance Corporal Melanie Cade.

They called her a hero because she survived. And today, they expected her to stand up in front of thousands of people while the Governor of Texas praised and awarded her for her bravery.

Bravery. Mel scoffed at the word. She didn’t feel brave. She felt responsible, guilty, and angry. No matter how many times she heard that it wasn’t her fault, that there was nothing she could have done that would have spared Jess and the rest of the team, she couldn’t stop carrying the blame. She was driving, she should have paid closer attention, she should have done something, anything more. She tried to justify it in her mind, but telling herself it wasn’t her fault certainly didn’t erase the image that endured, relentlessly, in her mind of Jess’ lifeless body, speckled with dust and ash, lying limp in her arms.

Mel wraps her cold fingers around the two pairs of dog tags hanging from her neck and bites her lip, fighting off the tears.

They had promised to be best friends forever.

“Turn it off. Please.”

“Mel,” her mother whispers gently. “Sweetie, it wasn’t your fault.”

“I said, turn it off.”

Mel hops down to the floor, winces from the pain, and turning on her heels goes to take a shower. It would be cold.

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The Unfortunate Consequences of Drinking Tequila

In those hot summer days we spent all the free time we had sitting on the edge of the rooftop with our feet hanging over the gutters. We’d snap pictures of the sunset and pictures of our faces until the moon came out. Cigarette butts and old cigars clung to the shingles. We called it “West Coast” and that was our little escape during the sizzling New England summer.

We were now, officially, technically, seniors. When we were freshmen, starry-eyed and innocent, we looked up to the upperclassmen that lived off campus. They were independent and free and everything that we wanted to be someday. And with one quick signature we had what we wanted. That apartment was our first taste of freedom and with a place of our own came high hopes and high expectations. Unfortunately, the place also came with a crazy landlord.

Old Philomena didn’t like “West Coast.” She’d leave letters under our door that reminded us it was against our lease agreement to smoke on the roof. We looked it up though, and we were, in fact, in no way violating our lease. We told her this, and she said it was in the fine print but I doubt she could even read the fine print. Her dark green eyes were hazed over with cataracts.

We were trouble for that old woman. She told us one day that we were the worst tenants she had ever had. She lived under us, and we were no strangers to the sound of the broom banging through our floorboards. Sometimes it would get lost in the beat of the music pumping through the radio, and other times we just responded by stomping around in our bare feet, echoing the thumping of the broom.

When we first moved in she tried to take us under her wings. She went full-scale Italian grandmother on us. It was charming for a while, but eventually her temper-tantrums got old.

“Only wayward whores let guys sleep over.”

“You’re going to get pregnant wearing shorts like that.”

“You are too pretty to be with a boy of color.”

According to Philomena, we weren’t allowed to have a couch or chairs in our apartment because then people would stay over and that violated the fine print of the lease. So we rolled our eyes and snuck a love seat upstairs and tiptoed our friends in and out.

Occasionally we would get drunk and play pranks on the old woman. My personal favorite was when we snuck into her apartment and poured jalapeño juice in her glass of denture cleaner. They were always, mostly, harmless.

After the summer ended, we didn’t see Philomena on the front porch anymore. Maybe she just gave up on us two heathens. She started sending her daughter to collect the rent money and fix the clogged drains and broken stove. The only sign of life in the apartment below us was the occasional lamplight left on and the old granny-panties hanging from the line on the porch. We didn’t mind. This just meant that we were able to go about our days wearing whatever the hell we wanted and bringing whoever the hell we wanted up to our apartment, where they could sit on our loveseat and stay the night if they wanted to. It was a grand time that fall. We had people over for tacos and we would even throw parties.

In November, when the weather started getting too cold for much fun, we decided to end the glorious days of warmth in style. Friends came over and tequila was passed around. We went through the usual routine of blasting music and responding to Philomena’s annoyed bangs through the floorboards. Our spirits were high, that is until we saw the blue lights flashing outside the window. This was it, she had finally had it with us and called the cops. We chugged water, turned off the radio, and tiptoed downstairs. We painted on pouty, innocent faces, and hoped that the cops would be easily persuaded.

When we reached the end of the stairs and our heads poked around the corner, we didn’t find an angry Philomena shaking her finger at us. Instead, we found a pretty quiet Philomena being rolled out on a stretcher. She wasn’t moving, but she wasn’t covered with a sheet either. The cute EMS responder said she had fallen, but she’d be okay.

Despite what we had just seen, we couldn’t help but giggle and joke as we climbed the stairs back to our apartment. In our minds she wasn’t dead and she wasn’t going to die. We turned the radio back up and made up ghost stories about dead landlords and haunted rental property.

A week later some people showed up and started moving all the furniture out of Philomena’s apartment. Little kids came and sat in the driveway and wrote “I miss you grammy” in colored chalk. We were smart enough to know what it meant and our suspicions were confirmed when we Googled her name and found her obituary.

We threw our last party that weekend – a farewell to Philomena. We wore relatively modest shorts and said no to the boys who wanted to stay over. When our music got too loud we listened for the thumping on the floorboards, but the ghost of our landlord didn’t want to stick around. So we danced and laughed and drank tequila to forget about the fact that maybe, just maybe, our dancing and laughing and drinking were responsible for the untimely passing of our Old Italian grandmother.

Kids of the Country

She started her morning off bright and early, seven AM.  The sky was barely awake as she stumbled down from the top bunk. As she made her way down to the kitchen, she caught a glimpse of a sunrise behind the dark, silhouettes of the mountains.  Her eyes hung sleepily, and a cup of coffee and some stale bread did little to wake her up, but she had already grown accustomed to running on little energy in the morning.  Here, in the town known for its relaxazation and laziness, she seldom found herself fully relaxed or rested.
The kids kept her going full speed, morning to late afternoon.  Even after she said her goodbyes for the day, kissed their cheeks, and made her way back home, a few hours of work always awaited her.  Of course, she wanted a social life too, so going out for tea or a game of basketball always took precedence over sleep.
This morning in particular, she opened her eyes, already longing for a midday siesta she knew would never come.
Saturday’s were the hardest.  From 7 am to 9 pm she kicked soccer balls, wrote math problems, and poured into the hearts of at least two dozen teenagers.  It was this that made the hard work worth it.  She know she could call in sick or cancel a bible study or two, but as tired as those couples hours made her, she couldn’t think of any better way to spend her weekend.
So as she stumbled onto the micro, eyes half shut and body trudging along, the thoughts of smiling kiddos and hearts changed for Christ gave her more energy than any cup of coffee could.

One-Way, Two Worlds

Annie sat staring at her computer screen.  There it was, her one-way ticket.  She wished she could hold it in her hands and tangibly hold her future in between her long, delicate fingers.  That ticket was the proof that her life was about to change from order and schedules and memorized routines into something wild and crazy and beautiful.

Houston to Tijuana, three words that marked the beginning of the greatest adventure of her life.

Yet, she thought, smiling to herself.

The only thing standing between her and Mexico was two months of work, school, and the New England cold.  March was halfway done, but Annie still had to put on a coat every time she walked outside.  She had also began a new job waitressing.  It was new, fun and her wallet was already stuffed with tip money after a mere five nights of work.  Annie had never waitressed before, so she found the go-go-go atmosphere energizing.  But there was something about working at a high-end restaurant that made her feel uneasy.

This was a world where a casual Thursday night meant spending $40 on a steak and only eating half of it, and splurging on that $150 bottle of wine.  To Annie, her world had already become shredding chicken for mole tacos and splurging on horchata.  In her hands she held a bottle of wine that cost more than the doñas make in a month.

It certainly helped keep things in perspective.  Annie no longer had the urge to buy that cute pair of shoes, or treat herself to a $4 cup of coffee when there was coffee she could make at home.

If she were being completely honest, Annie would rather be working in the kitchen than on the dining room floor.  The dishwashers and cooks all spoke Spanish.  Her favorite part of the night wasn’t chatting about the latest Clinton scandal with the customers, it was polishing the silver at the end of the night with the kitchen staff.  They would laugh and joke in Spanish, and talk about Guatemala and Mexico.  In a way, it reminded her of her kitchen conversations with Grant and the doñas.

Annie left the restaurant each night both hurting from missing them and smiling from knowing that she’d be back in the kitchen pulling chicken and mixing leche con chocalate soon enough.

But for now, all she had was a one-way ticket and a list of things to do.

Van A Ganar

Annie sat, eyes glued to the small television.  Her right leg was nervously bouncing up and down, and her dirty finger nails were down to stubs.  The tension in the tiny cuarto was already strong, and grew with each passing minute.  Twenty Mexican niños and one American sat – crammed onto beds, torn up couches, and metal chairs that squeaked with each movement – and watched the Mexico National Futbol Team battle it out on the pitch against the Netherlands.

Spirits were high, everyone wanted the boys to pull out the win.  They had done so well in the 2014 FIFA World Cup so far, against all odds, and they were playing their hearts out in this tough match.

Annie looked around and the sea of green and red jerseys overwhelmed her.  She smiled, wiped her sweaty forehead off with the collar of her own Mexico jersey, and fixed her eyes back on the screen.

The clock read 2 minutes 45 seconds, Mexico held the lead 1-0.  Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper, was a brick wall.  The portero was making save after save, not letting anything past him.  Each time one of los jugadoros in orange took a shot, all of Mexico inhaled sharply and each time Ochoa blocked the ball from sinking deep in the goal, all of Mexico would exhale in relief.

At just about the two minute mark the niños were starting to get antsy and excited, Mexico was going to win!  Annie finally allowed herself to ease back in her seat a little, and she smiled – how cool would it be if she was IN Mexico when they won the World Cup?

Suddenly, eyes widen and groans filled the room as one of the Netherland players headed a corner past Ochoa.

“Noooooooooo!”  The niños exclaimed in unison.  Hands flew up to cover mouths and eyes.  Disbelief.  Annie stood up and her jawed just about dropped to the floor.

“Es bien, es bien.  Van a ganar!”

“Yeah, they can still win.” Annie told herself as she sat back down and leaned forward with her sweaty palms gripping her knees tight.

Over time began, and every person in the room remained motionless, holding their breath.  The quick talking commentators were the only sound breaking the silence.  All the boys needed was one goal, one goal.  They could do it, they could do it.

“Let’s go Miguel.” Annie whispered under her breath, silently cheering on Miguel Layun, whose number 7 she wore proudly on her back.

The clock ticked by slowly.  Suddenly, a whistle blew – Marquez had taken down one of the Dutch players in the area.  Penalty Kick.

Annie shook her head, back and forth, trying to mentally reverse the call.  Nola let out one of his infamous high-pitched squeals.  No one dared take their eyes off the television screen.

The player in orange stepped up, took his aim, and fired.  The ball was in the air for all of a second, but that second could have been an hour.  The sound of twenty or so young fútbol enthusiasts simultaneously sighing out a long “NO” filled the room with devastation and disbelief.

They lost.  Mexico lost.

Annie had to remain still for a few moments; her mouth hung open.

All around her niños were hanging their heads in their hands, filled with heartbreak at the loss.

In the distance the auditorium bell rang and slowly and silently, green jerseys filed out of the room, leaving it eerily empty.

Annie followed them out and watched as they ran down the dusty hill, already laughing and smiling as if the excruciating loss had never happened.  By the time she reached the bottom of the hill, the boys had already started up their nightly routine.  As she trekked through the golden dust Mateo looked over, smiled his cheek to cheek grin, and beckoned her to come and join the game.

A Memoir of Mexican Gold

Ella and I clamored onto the bus, ungracefully made our way through the crowded aisle, and sat down.  The bus was just an ordinary school bus.  The seats were small and the leather that covered them was torn, exposing wood and nails underneath.  We were both excited, bouncing in our seats; this was our first aventura into Tijuana, away from the orphanage.  We weren’t alone, obviously.  Even if the directors would allow us to leave by ourselves, neither Ella nor I felt comfortable walking around the streets of downtown Tijuana without someone with us.  We were two white girls: loud, obnoxious, and we stuck out like a sore thumb.

For this trip, Pedro accompanied us.  He got a kick out of seeing our eyes light up at the most mundane things.

As the bus swerved its way through heavy traffic, dodging pedestrians and the occasional stray dog, I wiped off the dirty window and peered out through the streaks- taking in the city around me.

“It’s like a city built into the desert.”  Ella said, describing the way the buildings were built with no order, just clumped together, surrounded by sand and sun on every side.

The disorder was what made this city beautiful.

Our first stop was La Plaza Pajarita.  It was just like the small, outdoor mall in my hometown.  As Ella, Pedro and I weaved our way around the locals my eyes jumped from one thing to the next, trying to capture every detail.  A mariachi band played in the center courtyard next to a fountain while little niños danced around their feet.

We stopped in a fabric store, and Ella and I lost ourselves in the sea of brightly colored cloths and scraps.  I could feel the eyes of people nearby, burning into the back of my skull.  They seemed friendly enough.  They would mutter an “Hola” and keep walking.  I guess since this is Tijuana it’s not too strange to see Americans shopping around.

After the fabric store we went to a small shop selling pottery.  The clay pieces were beautiful, intricately painted with greens, reds and whites.  I bought a little cup and a shallow bowl.  Ella and I both left the store with smiles on our faces, excited to put our new Mexican ceramics to use.

The three of us, two gringas and Pedro, walked around for a bit longer before making our way back to the bus stop.  We crammed ourselves onto an old bench, green and wooden, the paint was peeling off and splinters stuck out in every direction.  We sat, waiting for the bus, and watched the traffic.  Pedro kept us entertained with outlandish stories of life in Tijuana, Ella and I kept him entertained with our vain attempt at Spanish.

Suddenly, an old man sat down on the bench to my right, causing the whole thing to shake with the added weight.  He was American, but he looked like he had spent the past four months living out in the scorch of the desert.  He was dirty, his white shirt lay limp on his shoulders, spotted with holes and streaked with dust and grease.  Sweat rolled down his forehead, carrying with it a stench that made my nose crinkle.

“Stupid Mexicans, am I right? These damn wetbacks.  Look what they did to me, look at it.”  His voice was scratchy and muffled.  He pointed to his face, purple and swollen.  He continued to explain, viciously, how he was attacked and mugged for “no reason at all” and his jaw was broken.  I tried to smile and offer him condolences, but to be honest, the way he was talking about the people of Mexico was making me angry.

Pedro just sat to the side, giggling and shaking his head.

After a grueling five minutes the bus pulled up and Ella, Pedro and I stood up.  The look on that man’s face when he realized we were with Pedro.  He was disgusted at us.

Even though I grew up in Texas, where racism was rampant, seeing the judgment he held against this culture was shocking to me.  They did nothing to him – he picked a fight, ran his mouth, and got beat up.  The same thing would have happened in Houston.

I was happy to get back to the orphanage.  It was about three o’clock, which meant it was time for everyone to gather down by the playground.  The girls took their place running around, braiding each other’s hair, and exchanging jokes and gossip.  The younger boys played with their toy trucks and a few began a game of tag.

Ella and I sat down on the world’s most uncomfortable rocks and watched the older kids play fútbol. It was all smiles, laughs, and boys being boys. These soccer games had come to be my favorite part of the day. Before dinner, every night, the boys would rush down the hill to their makeshift soccer field and start up their partido. Half of the field was a concrete slab covered in dust, and the other half was sand….covered in dust. This golden dust was everywhere and coated everything it touched. It was beautiful – the way that the sun broke through the trees on its final descent behind the hill and the light sprayed through in scattered rays across the soccer field. The action of the boys playing would stir up the sand, and the light would catch it just right. If you looked closely, all you’d see was feet and a ball, and Mexican gold wrapping around a dirty pair of sneakers. And then just like that the ball would be passed, the boys would chase after it, and that beautiful swirl of cloudy dust tinted gold by the sun would settle and be gone.

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La Cucaracha

The two young missionaries had had enough.  They had only been there three days and they were already thinking about packing up and calling it quits.  Not because the kids were trouble or because they had eaten eggs and beans at pretty much every meal so far; no, they actually enjoyed those experiences.  What really set them over were the cockroaches.  Las cucarachas.  The two girls woke up to the disgusting little creatures crawling up their silky sleeping bags, they dodged families of them on their way to the showers, and now, they were hiding from one of the beastly monsters.

This one was a big fella’.  Annie first saw him as she was reaching for one of her black Vans; he was sitting right on top of the shoe, perched on the white laces like those were his stomping grounds.  She lurched back, let out a glass shattering scream, that sounded like nails on a chalkboard and scurried into the bathroom, muttering a long string of choice words.

This cockroach was huge.  He must have been a good two inches long and his hair like antennae added another three inches to his total length.  You could see his thin, spindly legs as he raced across the dirty tile floor and under the bed.

“ELLA! We have to kill him! We have to crush him!” Annie yelped out, her body and voice still shaking.

When Annie was little she had the unfortunate experience of having a beheaded cockroach crawl up her leg.  Something like that scars an eight year old for life.  She hated these crusty little bugs more than anything.

Ella, who had jumped onto her bed when Annie screeched, slowly crawled her way to the edge, and bent her head low, trying to peer under the bed on the opposite end of the room.  Suddenly, la cucaracha sprinted out and raced straight towards Ella.  She jerked back and slammed her head into the wall, letting out a loud howl.

“Where did it go?  WHERE DID IT GO?!”

Both girls were screaming and crying and prancing around in sheer terror with shoes in hand, waiting to smash the repulsive insect to bits.  Ella was down on all fours, looking under blankets, clothes, and bags.  Annie was perched on top of her suitcase, keeping her bare feet off the floor, when she noticed a flash of black out of the corner of her eye.  The vile creature was crawling up the wall!  Her eyes grew wide, and fear bubbled up inside of her as she watched the insect clamber up the wall like it was Spiderman, effortlessly dodging chipped yellow paint and old, rusty nails.  A low growl erupted from the back of her throat when la cucaracha began inching his way onto the ceiling.

“He’s above us, El, he’s above us!”  Her voice cracked and trembled.

The two girls had no idea what to do, except yell loudly, which they did like they were experts.  If anyone was outside listening to this, they probably thought a murderer was hunting down the two Americans.

La cucaracha just sat there, silently, staring with beady eyes at its prey.  Annie and Ella’s minds were filled with horror images of the bug dropping down onto their heads and causing death on the spot.

In a burst of courage, Ella tossed her heavy shoe up at the ceiling.  She missed her target, but succeeded in getting the cockroach to drop back down onto the floor.  Both girls cried out as they watched the black speckle fall from ceiling to floor.  At least he was a bit more manageable down on the ground.

Annie stayed pressed into the far corner, her feet doing a bizarre dance as she hopped around in fear.  She had tears in her eyes as she yelled and hollered at Ella to finish the little sucker.

The horrid bug made a dash for the hallway but Ella was faster as she collected her shoe and once more chunked it at the insect.  If both girls hadn’t been screaming so loudly, you could have heard the squish of the bug beneath the shoe, as its crunchy shell was flattened.

“I hit it! I hit it! I hit it!” Ella exclaimed with excitement.

Las Americanas cheered and celebrated their liberation from this monster, jumping up and down and shrieking like girls do.  But their excitement was short lived when they saw the slight twitch of the spiny legs and antennae.

Taking Annie’s sweaty hand, Ella made her way over to inspect the black mush that now sat in the middle of one of the dusty tiles.  Annie followed and both girls bent down to see if the insect was truly dead.  When it twitched again, Annie leaped back, both feet completely leaving the ground, and Ella scrambled for something, anything, to contain the creature.  It was still alive! It was smushed and practically cut in half but the little guy was still going!

Quickly, Ella found a cup and trapped la cucaracha inside.  Carefully, she slipped a piece of pink construction paper under the cup and used it to lift the bug up.  Annie opened the door and Ella tossed the whole contraption outside.  Wiping her hands on her pants with disgust.

Annie closed the door and both girls, out of breath and with tears in their eyes, leaned against the wall, looked at each other and laughed.

Such is life at a Mexican orphanage for two gringas


This actually happened.  This past summer, Rachel and I spent about twenty minutes hunting this one cockroach and I KID YOU NOT it went on the ceiling! I still remember it’s beady eyes staring me down like it was out to get me!  Eventually, Rachel and I became cold-blooded professional killers of these things – we would be brushing our teeth, spot one, reach for a shoe and smash the little guy with no hesitation.  Needless to say, Mexico helped me conquer my fear of cockroaches.

I mean, you can only scream like a little girl so many times….