Los Mexicanos

 They alighted the train at 125th street. Not the type who enter at Grand Central. Not unusual. But today I noticed the family.

All tiny,

Three kids, woman,


Speaking Spanish

Probably Taino Indians

Probably not

It doesn’t matter.

The woman and three girls sat down, not together, scattered across the train

In the sparsely available rush hour seats.

The husband remained standing.

La familia primera. 

The woman commanded, “Sientate ahi!”, motioning to the empty seat beside me.

He approached me and stood. 

“Would you like to sit?” I asked.

“Si,” he muttered, tired.

He reached his strong hands across to brace his tired body into the seat, revealing charcoal black nails, a glistening “Estoy mi familia” manicure. 

“Cansado,” he melted down to rest,

As I got the first


of his cologne. 

The scent grew stronger I inhaled deeply.

He smelled of hard, hard work,

thick milky sweat,

cast-iron pain,

some soldering maybe,

mixed with hints of frustration and steely defiance.

He had climbed a skyscraper today, saved his amigo from getting impaled by a crane. He had been seeing too much these days, scrubbing affluent windows, more than most people ever see in a lifetime. But his abuelita en Huamantla was ill, muy enfermera, and there was a new baby on the way, who Esmerelda hadn’t told him about yet. It was a girl, una mas aprobacion de Dios.

He was probably too tired to notice me heaving and sighing, my lungs filling with his air, purposefully trapping each breath, fully engrossed in his story, continually misting the essence all over me.

As he floated off to sleep, I glanced quickly at his face, which had been etched with wrinkles, gridlines imprinted by the passage of time. He wasn’t as old as he seemed, but there had been la frontera, followed by loss and trauma, and more loss.


Eduardo, who had been born too soon, but who now lived a full life con las estrellas. He wrestled desperately daily with dark thoughts but his girls needed him.

I took one final breath, that I hoped would last, but the conductor interrupted my dream by announcing my stop via the loud-speaker. One train ride too short.

As I exited past his wife, I wanted to tell her in the weirdest, most complimentary way that her husband smelled so good; but she, too, was having dreams of her own.

But from the corner,

her youngest hija,

una estrella in her own right,

peeked up at me

and smiled a smile

so wide,

that I smiled back,

and we both knew everything

was going to be

just fine.

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