I stumble gracelessly into the minibus, joining the row closest to the door. After me ambles in a wrinkled though highly regal woman, under her arm a mutinous looking duck. She is over me, standing tall in a cabin that clears her woven headpiece, and her torso is pressed to against my face. Also, the duck. The duck is at eye level and wary. I wonder if it will peck at my face and so I put on my sunglasses. She brushes potato chip crumbs off of her chest and onto my lap. A cloud of dust swirls around and swallows me as we lurch forward into the mountains. My knees press painfully into the metal of the row before me, and I clutch my backpack on my lap to keep my fingers occupied. I always get an adrenaline release from this. With every speed bump and grinding halt and revving of the engine, my head bounces off of the belly of my standing neighbor. Her shirt feels like it is woven of smoke and salt.
Body odor is infused into the stale air of the cabin, all windows stubbornly far away from my reach. The infant next to me looks unabashedly at my almond eyes, pale skin, and blue jeans, questions forming in a mass. She is tied tightly to her mother’s strong back, eyes wide, fingers in her mother’s hair. I think that she is about to say something to me, and then, she turns and vomits into her mother’s neck. The indelicate curve of the roads is ever-tempting our steel boned transport to kiss its crumbling edges. It dashes recklessly between A and B, a yeehaw emitted from the exhaust pipe each time the engine revs.
I bob my head mindlessly to the driver’s playlist and then notice him trying to make eye contact with me in the rearview mirror. I look out the window. The right side of my face is pressed against the same belly, and I hear her intestines groaning. I let the unfamiliar sounds of Ixil flow unbarred from one ear to the other, like some sort of comforting static. The sky eases into a cold fog during the ascent, clouds hanging low over the mountains, hugging the cornfields. The bus weaves through, its nose to the ground, only gaining speed as it nears home. The door opens and we tumble out, and I inhale the convoluted air of a Guatemalan town center, all grease and exhaust and wet dog with a subtle tone of delicious pine. My knees purr and stretch as I rise to full height.