Mass Transit Epistle to Monica Valenzuéla

Greggory Moore

Greggory Moore

Mass Transit Epistle to Monica Valenzuela was accepted for MSU Library's Short Edition call for submissions The American Road, in coordination with Broad Art Museum's exhibit Interstates of Mind (2020-2021).

Monica, I'm sitting on this train, on the Red Line from Union Station, and I've just left you. The kiss was quick when the train came because it doesn't wait around, and I took a seat at the back of the car. I've been riding with my head down, elbows on my knees, smiling, trying to hold back tears of joy. At Civic Center this couple boards, the woman's pushing this big baby carriage. They must be under thirty, but hard living makes them look older. They're in the middle of an argument, although it's just the man who's talking. His face shows anger, disgust, and he's speaking to her in clipped phrases, gesturing. My Spanish isn't good enough to comprehend the details, but he's talking about respect, about her attitude, about something she was supposed to do but didn't. The child appears vacuous. He looks at me without seeing, his eyes are watery glass, unreal, switched off. The woman is wearing a black T-shirt with a lot of words. Most of them are too small to read from where I sit, but some are larger. I AM A MEXICAN! it proclaims. I AM NOT HISPANIC. I AM NOT AN AZTEC. ¡YO SOY MEXICANO! The man is standing above her in a sleeveless undershirt and drooping jeans, talking down, his anger flowing steadily, and again I hear something respect, respeto, about her responsibility to him. He is becoming louder, gesturing more violently, and other passengers are noticing. I am afraid he is about to hit her, and I'll have to do something.

Monica, I'm a coward, I've never been in a fight and never wanted to be in one, but I'm the closest to them and clearly the most physically able to intervene. The man is almost yelling now; the woman has yet to say a word. She shifts in her seat and turns the carriage, and now I see it is a double, with a sleeping infant behind the benumbed boy, and again I'm about to cry.

And then it's over, they exit at Westlake/MacArthur Park, and I realize I've ridden one stop too far. I duck between the closing doors and out onto the platform. I catch sight of the receding family, and there's nothing to be done. And so I'm waiting for the eastbound train while feeling the world as a loveless place of strangers and the unknown, a place where I can do so little.

But Monica, mi corazón, I can speak to you, I can tell you of the miracle, mujer de mi corazón, I can tell of how my inner world sometimes seems so safely sealed from the cruelties of life, sealed off from the inside by this miracle that in precious moments seems to heal my wounds and fill up the places of emptiness, this miracle of you.

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