My Oaxaca — Leaving Betzi

The last time I saw Betzi I expected to see her again soon. I never imagined how mistaken I could be.

The day was hot and the dust from the road was rising despite being a couple of weeks short of spring. Tensions were high between Betzi and her mom. Normal teenage stuff – school, friends, the cell phone. I was flying home the next day and had come to say goodbye. I always hated leaving because I never knew what awaited me when I returned. This day was the worst. Amid the heat, the familial stress and a growing global pandemic, I felt something slipping away – a tenuous grip on an education, on a chance for Betzi to be more. More of what exactly didn’t matter. Just more than what she was born into.

Betzi was abloom with adolescence, a wildflower of a chica, all legs, attitude and desire for independence. I wanted to fence her in, to protect her against the predatory poverty that destroys such precocious blossoms. A suffocating heaviness befell me, realization of my impotence, of my powerlessness over her fate.

When a cab to the city came for me, I hugged Betzi and told her: “Don’t worry. I’ll  be here with you. See you in July.” I didn’t know I wouldn’t be back then and I don’t know when it will be possible to do so. Whenever I return – if I do – the Betzi I said goodbye to, the girl with the best grades, the rapid wit, and the smile that touches your soul, will be gone.

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