Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Random Memory

Last night as I was laying in bed, I remembered a meal I had when I was fourteen.  I was at a taco stand in Tijuana with my church group.  We all sat on stools at a large counter to order and eat.  I remember being fascinated watching the chef grab a ball of dough from a huge pile of similar little balls and flatten it between his hands.  He moved quickly, barely seeming to touch the dough as he spun it around in his hands, yet it got flatter and flatter before he flung it onto the grill to sizzle and covered it in shredded cheese.

I think there was meat -- I hadn't become vegetarian yet, but what i remember most was the soft tortilla and the oozing cheese.  The tortilla had the thinnest, glassiest outer shell that shattered almost imperceptibly before giving way to the warm, soft, chewy interior, sandwiching stringy, salty, milky cheese.  It was perfect.  The homemade salsa made it divine.  The platonic ideal of a quesadilla.

After eating (and drinking my first jarritos - fresa), we walked back to the home we were all camping in.  Walking through the town square in the warm night in another country, I felt very grown up, very free, and very cultured.  My belly was comfortably full, I was surrounded by friends, I felt very warm.  My arms and legs tingled with the stars shining down on us.  My mind was quiet.

Later in the trip, we would travel to a shanty town built by flood refugees.  I remember the millions of sunflowers on the sides of the road dancing in the wind from the van as we drove by.  I remember the scrawny dogs and cardboard houses.  I remember holding hands with beautiful Cristina, who looked like Lumi Cavasos, and her cousin--two girls who were not much younger than I was, maybe 10 or 11, but toward whom I felt protective and motherly.  I remember teaching them to sing "Jesus te amo" and "Yo tengo allegria, allegria en mi corazon."  I remember not wanting to bother them with the conversion speech we had been taught.  They took me to meet Cristina's mother and invited me into their house.

Some of the men in our group built a house, and we had a picnic of hot dogs in a nearby park.

Cristina wrote to me once after we left.  I think I forgot to write back (I suck.), but I kept the letter for a long time, along with the picture of the three of us girls that one of the youth group leaders took.  I haven't thought about it since long before we moved from Pittsburg to the big, new house my dad built in Clayton.  I was 17 when we moved - I had probably lost it long before that.

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