D and Third, San Bernardino
The city employees making their way to one of the six floors at City Hall knew it.
Papá cradled me in the crook of his forearm,
nestled against his chest, my almond roasted skin collected the scent of bundled alfalfa,
scattered hay, and weathered leather from his Wrangler.
The snap button from the left breast pocket
brushed my flushed cheek as Papá gazed into my eyes,
yearning for the Mexico he left behind.
The business owners detected it driving west on Third and north on D,
past the big banks that could one day ruin them. They catch a glimpse of Papá
lifting me in a repetitive motion
slightly so into the air. His calloused hands, rough from lariats,
breaking horses in Rialto, gently hold me from my underarms, the tips of his fingers
meeting securely at the back of my column. I squeal each time I feel the descent.
The residents doing business that day sensed it as they observe
Papá strolling beneath the jacaranda trees in front of the Mexican Consulate’s
on the hottest day in San Bernardino. Separately,
the struggling contractor on his way to the planning department,
the recent widow visiting the social security, the vato renewing a dog license,
and the poet buying passport photos notice as Papá draws me close to his face,
our foreheads touch, his bristly moustache grazing my chin,
a fluttering of eyelids each time we meet.
From his post at the door, the guard at the IRS office sensed it, too.
Keeping watch of the line, the weather, and the tempers, he spots,
from a distance,
Papá blowing sweetly across my face and torso,
a tobacco laden delight. The red Marlboros and heat are
Although I will not remember this day,
one day, like the witnesses moving past D and Third Street
on the hottest day in the Inland Empire, I too, will know,
many years from now,
because my body will remember.
Papá loved me once.
Laura Araujo S. was born in Guanajuato and grew up in Southern California. While completing her undergraduate education at UC Riverside, she swore she would never live in that city. Twenty years later, she finds herself residing in the beautiful city of Riverside raising a family. She is a high school teacher.