Sal and I watch as the smoke drifts from the peak of Volcán Pacaya. Muffled voices and music escape the cracked windows of the drivers’ radio. We sit patiently in the back of a pickup truck, which tumbles through the pothole ridden streets of Antigua. As we rumble through the winding roads, I contemplate the reason I’m here. Tired, dirty, cramped, free. All of the essentials—stripped. The perpetual cycle of hangovers, rice and beans, physical labor, and tequila, is all I live for now. A life this simple and carefree was previously unknown to me. My mind frantically tries to hold onto those memories floating away with every passing second.
I brush my teeth and stare at myself through a Dora the Explorer mirror. Sal sings to the tune of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ as he steps onto the cold linoleum tile beneath the rusty old shower head. Cement crusted shoelaces, acrylic stained jeans, and heavy—moist gardening gloves (which, if I may add, fail to protect the wet—helpless skin from tiny shards of penetrating glass). Telma prepares a feast—a smorgasbord—of Eggo waffles, rice and beans, and Sunny-D. Our Latina mother for the week.
Sal and I sit at ‘Café Bistro’ awaiting the call from our new friend we met at the bar. The dare devil in us—salivating. To our surprise, we find ourselves riding through the streets on a motorcycle, passing around a brown paper bag of what tastes of urine and salt water mixed with masterful precision. I read a banner hanging from the rafters of this unknown house, “Feliz Cumpleaños, Pablo!” A birthday party? Sal is already stripping down to his boxers—eagerly waiting to dive into the pool. My confusion is soon replaced with a ping pong ball and red solo cups. My mind once clouded, but now... blurry.
I think about the families. Real families. Not the ones engulfed by social status, but the ones who embrace me as if I am one of their own. The ones who speak in a tongue that I can only understand when replayed in slow motion. Because of them, my ability to love has matured. My previous perspective—destroyed.
Back to worrying about pointless endeavors and sentence structures. Back to calling for my mother rather than Telma. Back to speeding down Eisenhower rather than the bumpy roads of Antigua. I see Sal walking the hallways talking about Pre-Calc rather than singing with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Here, I have everything I could ever ask for—but all I want is nothing. Simple as that. I am still lost. Trapped between two worlds—two versions of myself. This division leaves me so...so vulnerable that my identity is built upon foundations so weak that one puff from the Big Bad Wolf and poof! Gone. But even with all this indecision, I feel connected. Connected to this love—a feeling so strange to me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.