The smoke from her harsh and scrap-wood fire burned my eyes as I stood there and watched the dark-skinned woman roll and mash the little balls of flour and water and what-not, pressing them, flattening them so, and then laying them gently on the griddle that sat on three stones, black from use. I moved to the other side and upwind from the fire and the breeze changed directions to meet me again. Without looking at me, she smiled and said, “Sientate alla,” as she pointed to a tumble-down chair next to the shack…sit over there.
She had dirty hands and wide hips, large and loose breasts that swayed with her movements, a musky and smokey scent and broken teeth, shoulder-length hair with frayed ends, and lines around her brown-black eyes and mouth in her young and old skin.
Her brown and scarred hands reached over the fire and turned the tortillas, flipping them gently, brown eyes watching, absently or admiringly, as they sizzled for a second and then raised, doubling in height, growing from thin to thicker and brown and rich and falling again in their cooked flatness. In the same movement from turning the tortillas, she reached for a ladel and stirred the beans and ham-bones in the pot, black too, that sat on the ground with the fire on its side. Steam and the smells of wood-smoke and chilis and beans rose from the little cauldron and ran into the air and caught in my senses…where they remained for the day…along with the images and sounds of the morning there with the weak light slowly brightening through the trees of the wood…chickens pecking the dirt around broken-down cars and trucks with their rusted doors and bumpers, flattened tires cracked and gone in seasons passed and passing.
The woman moved around the fire, sitrring and flipping, this way and that, avoiding the smoke and the dog that lay nearby. She watched me in my looking around, in my watching of her and her hands, her hips, her eyes. As she brought me a plate with her morning fare, she looked directly into my eyes and said, “Ten…somos pobres, pero somos ricos, tambien…ricos en las cosas de la vida, la humanidad…y amor….” Take it…we’re poor, but we’re rich, as well…rich in the things of life, humanity…and love….
Gracias, Yaneli…de veras…. It’s true….