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Anhelo

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My footprints were lost the instant I made them, cold water rippled. Red dust, deeply engrained in the material of my shoes did not wash out. The flat outsoles contained no treads, only the craters of too many shuffles. Too many attempts to keep my head low, my face unseen. My brown skin was not accepted here, but winter kept it covered.
I half-heartedly kicked at one of the piles of snow that lined the sidewalk at regular intervals. The reverberating shock that traveled up my body discouraged me from trying again. I took a deep breath, the air swirling around my lungs cooling my anxious thoughts. The street was empty, but windows that still managed to glow repelled the white glare of the sun. They assured me that there were still people occupying the street. Marigold, I think it was called. A bus, heavy with its nearly solid blanket of snow and ice roared in the near distance behind me.

The loud blue and red paint on the sides of the bus looked out of place in the street, harshly illuminated by the sun. Five passengers swayed impassively, shuddering with the bus at each gear change. It crowded by me, spraying slush. It did not feel so bad. In the brief instant that the bus passed me, I was not the brightest object in view, and for that, I was grateful. The bus finally reached the speed limit and the roar of the engine gradually faded away, carrying with it the five passengers.
Exhaust smoke briefly mingled with my own exhalation of breath as the bus faded into the distance. I could hear the sounds of lunch being served within the homes that lined the street, sounds of family muffled by the thick panes of glass. Slush gathered next to those same panes, attracted to the warmth emanating from the fireplaces inside.
Rosa entered my thoughts, but the thought of my hometown was as ephemeral as my clouds of breath. I did not miss the town as much as I had thought I would, but the brown mud seeping up through the large piles of snow reminded me of the mud that the children would play in after rain. In Vermont, the children did not do that. The puddles were too often, too cold, and too deep. I felt old after that, but I reminded myself that I had not yet even graduated high school. I could not even remember now why my mother had sent me to the cold boarding school.
I passed shops, widows seemingly frozen. Bare windows offered me only my reflection as I clomped by. I stopped at one of them. The window read “Perfect Nails Salon”. It was closed and dark, my eyes sliding over pink lettering to my reflection. My sweater was bright, even in the dark store windows. I stepped closer, hoping to avoid myself. I wanted to be on the inside of the glass, to be able to look out. The sudden desire was quickly expelled as I came close enough to see inside the salon. The chairs were empty. Who would want to be in a nail salon right now anyway?
The door opened, and a woman came out. “We are closed.” I nodded in her direction. Her smile was fake, pink lettering on dark glass. I stood there until I began to smell her. Cheap tropical shampoo did not cover the smell of day old cigarette smoke. I gently turned and began walking. It was about a minute until I heard the door ding shut, and the dark storefronts resumed their silence, stretching smoothly down to the end of the block.
I reached a stoplight and turned right, my black rain boots adding just two more prints to the ugly slush before I entered the brick post office. I stomped my feet well, wet unpleasantness sliding off of the slick surface. I took off my sweater, slightly embarrassed that the swollen wool was now dripping. I wrung it out, taking a deep breath while standing on the wet gray steps. My hands could not shade my eyes from the bare fluorescent lights that ran from one end of the long room to the other. I followed the lights to my mailbox, small and gray. The paint was chipped, but it was otherwise devoid of personality. I slid my key into the lock as smoothly as I could, but the shriek of metal on metal still grated on my ears. I felt self-conscious when I felt the plump middle-aged woman at the front desk turn her attention from her bright magazine to the sound of my key. My cold fingers rasped against the seal of a tan envelope, and it took me a couple of seconds to open it. I read Florida State University in the first line, and “We would like to welcome you, Alejandro Sierra to the Florida State University class of 1967” on the next.
The gray paint of the mailbox was cool on my forehead as my weight pressed against it. My blurred eyes tripped over each word in the letter as my emotions welled in my eyes. Drip. Mamá estaria orgullosa. Drip. I cannot return to Rosa. Rosa was my family, Rosa was my summer, Rosa was my pair of shoes stained with red dust. I was going to college, but Florida was no closer to Rosa than Vermont.




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