The Other Side | By Karina Trejo Melendez
Cars were lined up bumper-to-bumper. In the distance, the tall pillars with the green and red signs still made Camila’s heart race. It was January—the sky, gray and unchanging. Rows of colorful carts followed by gray. Pedestrians, giving their best sales pitches, swerved in front of and around the moving vehicles. She watched them, guilty, wondering if they were scared of getting hit.
A group of boys played guitarras and tambores. The beat of the heart; the tempo of the music. The world was alive, as the car inched forward.
Camila watched an old man craftily add butter, mayonnaise, chili powder, cotija cheese, and lime juice to an elote. A true artist. They passed taco and burrito carts, blankets with large animals printed on them, hungry children, and beautiful ollas with swirls of black and white designs. The words “gorditas de azcúar” were hand painted in bright yellow on a white cart. Filled with dulce de leche or Nutella, the sweet Mexican griddle cakes were Camila’s idea of heaven touching earth.
“Mama, can we get some gorditas please?”
Her mom nodded and smiled, “We’ll get some horchata too.”
Camila could already taste the smooth flavor of rice, milk, vanilla, and canela.
“They are still hot off the comal,” her mother said as she handed Camila the gordita.
Camila held it carefully, allowing the sweet aroma to transport her back to childhood. A place of comfort and safety; she treasured its familiarity. It was perfect really. Lightly crispy but still soft. She tore off a small piece and placed it into her mouth. The creamy dulce de leche hugged by the fluffy and warm crust was all she could ever need.
Outside of the car, a little boy that couldn’t be older than 7, had one arm wrapped around a baby with sunken cheeks, and another arm balancing straw hats and a gray tin can. He trailed behind an older woman selling beaded bracelets made of purples, blues, pinks, and oranges. Camila rolled her window down and waved at the little boy. She dropped all of her pesos into his can and handed him the gordita. His murky gray eyes met hers, “Gracias.”
She sunk lower into her seat. The delicious flavor of the dulce de leche still lingered on her taste buds, but her chin trembled, and her eyes were wet with tears.
Karina Trejo Melendez is an MFA in Creative Writing student at Chapman University. Her focus is on fiction and non-fiction writing. She earned her B.A. in Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development from Cal State Fullerton, where she conducted research and taught a class at a therapeutic arts non-profit. She is originally from Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. As a first generation Mexican American and college student, she previously worked with student organizations to bring opportunities, inclusivity, and social justice to the CSUF community. She continues to advocate for these values as a Graduate Assistant for the Promising Futures Program at Chapman University.