(Note: I submitted this short story to a literary review but never heard back so I thought I would publish it here. As it’s rather long, I’m going to publish it in two installments, much like they did back in the day.)
She has no itinerary. When the man at the ticket counter asks her ¿adonde vas? she tells him “no sé” because she truly has no idea where she is going or should go at least. He gives her a funny look as if he thinks she is una loca (a crazy person), but lets her be since there is no one else waiting in line. He goes back to watching the telenovela on the small grainy television that had so captured his attention before the woman had appeared in front of him.
She had decided to go on un viaje, a trip, when everything in her life had come crumbling down around her, all at once it had seemed. Her marriage had failed, her job had ended (budget cuts they said); she had nothing. She had thrown out or donated most of her material possessions feeling that too many were bitter reminders of the life she no longer had. When it came time to make a decision on what she should do next, as her mother informed her that it was no longer “acceptable” to spend her days wallowing on the couch, eating frosted shredded wheat straight from the box while talking back to the television, she decided on a trip to Mexico. A place she had only been to once, but had a marvelous time when she was there was a teenager, a place that was before the crumbling down of what had used to be her life.
Her mother had neither approved of nor understood her Mexico decision, thinking instead that she should have been applying for a new job, and rejoining the legions of single women anxious to land a guy. When she had booked her one way ticket to Mexico City she had hoped she wouldn’t have to make a decision for a long time, as deciding to go there had been mentally exhausting enough. She had hoped that her next “step” would just come naturally to her, that she would acquire a voice in her head telling her where she should go next. After the man at the bus ticket counter asked her where she was going and she heard no such voice telling her a destination, she realized she was on her own…again.
“Cuernavaca” she said. The man looked up at her surprised to hear something being said, thinking perhaps she had left a while ago since he had become so engrossed in the Spanish soap opera he was watching. “Quiero ir a Cuernavaca.” She paid for just a one way ticket, unsure when and if she would be coming back to Mexico City.
Armed with a bag of chicharones, a salty snack made of fried pork rinds and a bottle of coca light, the Latin American version of Diet Coke, the woman sat on a chair in the bus waiting area and took out her slightly outdated but hopefully still useful Mexico guidebook. Her encounter with the man at the ticket counter made her realize that she was extremely naive in thinking she wouldn’t have to make any decisions, and so it wouldn’t hurt to have some laid out plans during her viaje.
The bus ride to Cuernavaca was short, less than two hours. She had sat next to an elderly woman who, although dressed like she was from a bygone time, had been on a mobile phone the entire ride, speaking at such a high speed that the younger woman was only able to understand she was returning from visiting family in Texas.
She hadn’t minded the loud talking of the woman beside her. She was captivated by the scenery outside that was rushing by, almost becoming a blurred illusion; slick roads against a backdrop of soaring mountains. Her guidebook had said that the central part of Mexico was approaching the end of its rainy season, accounting for the lush greenery that was everywhere.
To be continued….