She stood at the windowsill, even this morning.
Back in year twenty-seven of her Search for Love, Herlinda decided to become an entrepreneur. She opened a hair salon partly because she believed the town could use some color, but mostly because she was lonely. Her new business did little for the latter. Granted, Mexican women usually opted for their standard hip-long braid and found no use for a hairstylist. Throughout the twenty years that the “OPEN” sign hung on the door, her only costumers were lice-ridden children.
There are places in this nation where time is warped; it is unreliable. Like creases on the foreheads of people who’ve seen too much, the years fold into each other in no specific order. The only constants are the tarnished windowpanes and the people who stand behind them.
It is the elderly, who, looking back with rose-colored glasses, bore children with stories of a Mexico that was honest and hardworking and full of potential, stories that were never quite true. They sit inside houses painted in faded oranges, maybe blues, draping blankets over their frail bodies because the heat of the dog days is no longer enough to fight the unearthly chill of imminent death.
Like many others her age, Herlinda spent her days looking out the window. She was svelte for her people and her face oddly neglected to show her years (a product, no doubt, of never having to cope with the worries of motherhood). Shiny skin, pasty with three coats of makeup framed her filmy eyes. The convergence of her brows conveyed anger rather than nostalgia as she gazed at the street from behind the glass. At times she’d curse the unpaved roads, the stray dogs and most especially, she’d curse those who walked aimlessly, the wanderers. They stroll in a way that is so characteristic of Mexico: slower, heavier, lento; they drag their feet and wallow in their inconvenience. But Herlinda could not understand how they could saunter like they belonged nowhere when they’d never set foot anywhere else. In a 50-acre town, she simply could not understand where the hell they were going.
Judging by her personality, Herlinda might have been one of those stereotypical widows; but instead of grieving for a love long-gone, she waited for a love that never came for sixty-three years. There was a time before the years made her bitter when her youthful beauty would’ve made any man want to marry her, had she not arrogantly rejected every prospect. She refused to go out with the handsome-but-divorced man because it was ungodly. She considered a warm-hearted and financially stable fellow until she discovered he was two years her junior--he’d make her look old. With every pair of eyes on her, she’d walk through the square, parting crowds like Moses parted seas, craving the limelight. When she was twenty-eight, the maternal instinct finally kicked in, but by then her reputation kept every man away. And so, her cross-generational search for true love began.
There was this one man who made a brief appearance thirteen years after the Search officially commenced, before she even opened the salon. He’d visit from the North of Mexico once a month and wait across the street from her house until Herlinda left for daily Mass before sunrise. Sometimes they walked side-by-side in silence as they completed the pilgrimage to the hilltop church. One time he brought her flowers: dahlias, her favorite. Even today they remain in a vase at her bedside, withered and dead like her. Sometimes he kissed her hand before he left her for the month, leaving behind the echoes of promises of a future that both of them knew would never come. At forty-one, their love was bitter because the family they mutually dreamed about was plagued with age and infertility. It was impossible for him to love someone who skewed his chances of leaving behind a legacy of greatness with his last name. One of the last days of summer, he left and he took the season with him. It was a cold winter.
The roads are still unpaved and still home to desiccated dogs under the unforgiving sun. The lice-infested children Herlinda once treated, who so blindly laughed and ran with their faces and hands sticky with the yellow remains of handpicked mangos, are now the wanderers, the vagabonds with bloodshot eyes and glue on their fingers. They have always been walking in no direction, headed nowhere. But Herlinda stares beyond them. Sixty-three years later she is still alone.
Two streets over, another lonely woman peeks through her kitchen window. Yet another one over in Madero Street watches from above her kitchen sink and another in Juarez as she leans on the crystal and fogs it up.
No, nothing will change by just pining away from behind the glass.
Everywhere else in Mexico, the windowpanes are wise with knowledge. Weathered by the years and the tears, they observe so passively as stories with endings all too trite, unfold in front of them. From the safe side of the window, these women watch everything, including their lives, pass by. They dwell in a place that is not really the past, but where they envision their lives actually meaning something.
Herlinda stares out the window at a group of children using an empty can of soda as a soccer ball. They absentmindedly scratch their heads.
Vivi Vargas is a psychology student hailing from one of the most violent border cities in Mexico. She's a kindergarten teacher for the lack of a better thing to do. Her mother urges her to stop writing because it "confuses" her. She drinks exactly three glasses of chocolate milk every day.