Tuesday, November 5, 2013


"Any interesting news?  ¿Noticias interesantes del fin de semana?"  I asked my quintos, my fifth graders.
"Mi cabello quedó atrapado en el mezclador y los bomberos tuvieron que venir" a small, transparent girl with blue veins on her forehead answered triumphantly, reading from Google translate on her Ipad.  
"Hijo de la gran puta, your hair got stuck in a mixer?  What kind of mixer?"
"You know, the big Kitchen Aid".
Holy shit.
"It got all tangled up and my parents had to call 911". 
I noticed the bruise on her forehead.  She's lucky her hair wasn't ripped out at the scalp.   
"Definitely a weekend gone wrong...".
She nodded enthusiastically, blue eyes and veins radiating from her face.   

"Shit, I need to try to get some work done....." Alicia mumbled, holding a stack of papers that she intended to grade in front of her while we both sat on the ground, ducking beneath student desks with the lights off.
"Oh God, I forgot my phone...." I responded, refiling through my "intruder alert" packet of colored cards and escape route maps.  I could barely fit under that desk.
"My lower back is killing me..." she responded, bent over and Indian style in an attempt to fit under the desk.

It was quite a crowd.  I love the Grant Park children's Halloween parade.  My niece used to be in it before she could barely talk.  But wow, so many kids now.  I walked down and watched from the sidelines.
A couple of kids starting waving and their mom brought them across the street.
"You look amazing!"
"Thank you, look!  I have short hair now!" one of my former lovelies responded, removing the hood from her costume.  They crossed the street and got back in line for the parade, amid the sea of new, unknown children.
I felt like a ghost. 

Halloween finally came.  I passed out candy at my sister's house, dressed in my Bearded Lady costume.  I could not tolerate the mustache attached to the beard, and ended up looking like Amish bearded lady. A large group approached the house.
"Trick or Treat!!!!"
"Here you go, here you go, take that....hey, are you okay?" my sister asked a heavy girl that looked a little off.
"She just having an asthma attack" the adult of the group responded.
"Her mom told me that she'd be able to walk this!".
Holly has asthma.  She brought the girl her inhaler in an effort to help.  The girl slid down on the front steps.
"You guys go along," Holly instructed, "she can rest here".
They went about their trick or treating.
"You're okay, just relax.." I instructed.
I was surprised when she rested her head against my shoulder and gripped my arm.  I instinctively cradled her head and looked up at the the stars.
"It's okay, honey.  It's okay".

"Hey, what was the first step?  I remember 'evade' and like, attack, but what was the first step?"
"Escape" Alicia answered, looking at her notes.
"Fuck, well, I guess they are assuming we didn't escape.  Do you have your weapon?" I asked, looking at the scissors I had grabbed, along with my packet and rosters.
"No!  Well there must be something in here..." she responded, grabbing a plastic pencil box from under one of the desks and opening it.

"What is your name?"  I asked the girl, while sitting next to her on the couch.
"Umba..." she responded faintly, eyes like slits.
I ripped of my beard, imagining how unsettling it must be to be barely conscious and in a strange house with a bearded woman in front of you.  She could barely speak.
"More...cold..water.. please...."
I got it for her.
"Are you in middle school?"  I asked, thinking I was undershooting her age.  
"Fifth.." she breathed.
Fifth grade.  Her weight made her look so much older.  Fifth grade and abandoned on Halloween.  I put a cold compress on her forehead.
"You're safe.  You are safe..."  I kept repeating.
"I can't... walk... back there...."  she wheezed "I can't make it...."
A younger member of her group came in.  
"I wanted to check on Umba.  Umba, you okay!?"  I was glad someone cared.
"She can't walk back.  I am going to give her a ride home.  You guys Trick or Treat.  Umba, where do you live?".  I handed her a piece of paper and pen, to write the address.  She couldn't write.  Her eyes remained slits, her breathing heavy.  The boy wrote it down.  Hank Aaron, right by the stadium.   

There was a slight tapping on the door.  Should we open it?  Was it for real or some sort of trick?  Alicia and I looked at each other.  This stupid drill had been going on for over a half an hour.  We sat still, crunched under the desks. 

"Hey, we go with her!" the adult chanted, cheerily.  I hadn't anticipated loading six people, including a few really little kids, into the car.  I mean, really?  Umba was sick.  This wasn't a free fucking taxi.  "Her Umba, you ride her on your lap" the adult instructed, putting a child on Umba.
"Umba's sick.  Someone else needs to hold her" I responded and instructed the child to the back seat.  They crammed in.  As I was starting the car, my brother in-law ran up.
"I got this" he said, instructing me out of the car.
I watched him pull out, carefully dodging trick or treaters.  And then they were gone.

I stared at the marigolds, the pretty colonial buildings, the altars.  I have never been to Morelia before and have been wanting to go for a while.  When I stepped off the plane and walked across the runway and through the sliding doors of the airport Friday afternoon, I was surprised how comfortable and happy I was just to be in Mexico, if only for a couple of days.  

I felt bleary. A week had passed in three days.   I loaded my work bag into the car Monday morning, having returned to Atlanta a few hours before.  

I paused.  There was a little pile of candy on the floor.  Where did that come from? What?

And then I remembered Umba...