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Spring Break 1998
This afternoon it was a tan line, but now it was starting to look more like a sun burn. The young man sitting next to her in the sand tipped his plastic cup up and swallowed the last drops of tequila. He dropped it in the small pile of empty cups at their feet and turned to put his arm around her.
“You want to swim?” His accent was thick, and he barely spoke English, but it worked for him. The only Spanish she knew was rudimentary. It hardly mattered, though. All the workers at the resort spoke English, and the two of them did most of their communicating without words.
“Sí.” She smiled and the two of them scrambled across the beach towards the water holding hands. The water was warm, almost like taking a bath. He pulled her close to him and they sank to the sand, water lapping at their legs. His mouth was hot against hers, and the sun was hot against her back. It was like everything around her was trying to warm her, almost uncomfortably so. She pulled away and ran farther into the water. He laughed, following her. He caught her by the waist and pulled her back into himself, kissing her shoulder. They had met at the beginning of the week and she was flying home tomorrow. She was going back to her University, back to her average college experience. She did not want to leave him, but knew she would probably never see him again. Her racist mother would never approve. She leaned into him. His hands were rough from manual labor. What did he do for a living?
“Mira.” ("Look.") He motioned towards the sunset—the clouds were an astonishing array of pinks and oranges. The reflection on the sun blinded her and she squinted away. “Is beautiful, no?” He was still looking towards the sun. She wanted to tell him yes, he was. She kissed him instead. Other couples laughed along the beach and a bird she could not name flew over them. Palm trees lined the walkways and the resort truly looked like paradise in the sunset but neither of them saw it with their eyes closed. The world continued to turn around them but for that night, everything outside of them seemed irrelevant.
December 23, 1998
The baby’s skin was darker than hers. It was for this reason that her mother had just left in a fit of rage, telling her to never contact her again. Her mother had been angry enough about the pregnancy, but the knowledge that the father was not a white man was the last straw. Her father had been supportive throughout her pregnancy, and he had been apologetic as his wife dragged him from the hospital room. But her father had never had enough backbone to stand up to his wife.
Now the 21-year-old lay in the hospital alone, admiring the child in her arms. Still wrinkly from birth, her skin was noticeably darker than her mother. Even more amazing was the full head of dark brown hair—a stark contrast from the wispy blonde locks the new mother had. The child’s father had given her his physical attributes. A nurse entered hesitantly.
“Have you decided on a name, ma’am?” She smiled. Undoubtedly, she had overheard the exchange between the young woman and her parents just moments prior. The new mother’s eyes filled with tears, both angry and ashamed. She should not have to be ashamed of her child’s father. It was not fair of her own mother and father to abandon her, and it was not fair that she had no way to tell him about his own child.
“Alejandra,” she said. “After her father, Alejandro.” Tears streamed down her face.
“That’s a wonderful name,” the nurse smiled. The sleeping child stirred slightly, as if she had heard her name being called.