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Under the shade of a large fig tree, Ramona unbuttoned her green knitted sweater, pushing the large buttons through their ojales with one hand, while searching her backpack for the black top she had hid there. When she found it, she tossed both her sueter and mochila on the ground and pulled over her narrow shoulders the white polo-shirt she was wearing, the one abuelita had neatly pressed that morning. Underneath it was a white sports bra that wrapped around her breasts and crisscrossed in the back. She covered herself quickly by slipping into the black crop-top she pulled from her bag, a short sleeve, crewneck that exposed her ombligo to the world. Ramona then raised the hem of her pleated plaid uniform skirt by folding the waistband into itself a few times, as she had seen her friends do before at school but had been too embarrassed to mirror then. She liked the way the skirt hung from her hips and swayed with the wind, as she took-up pace toward the compound’s front gates, backpack hanging over one shoulder.

Ramona made a scheduled stop at the Abarrotes La Ventana, one of the compound’s first-floor apartments turned convenience stores. She pulled on the tinsel chord that ran through a small opening near the top right corner of the window frame. It hung and moved quietly over the white iron ventana bars as Ramona waited for an answer. On the other side of the window was La Doña—as everyone called her—who must have been making almuerzo because when she answered, the smoke of fried meat streamed through the barred window and dissipated into the humidity of the October morning. Ramona asked for a water bottle, spearmint gum, and a bar of Carlos V chocolate, then handed La Doña the exact amount in pesos before hearing the total. Ramona had an itinerary to follow, and she didn’t have many minutes to spare.

On the outside, Ramona began to feel different kinds of prying eyes, but she pushed the discomfort aside to review the day’s route on public transit. This was her first time going to el Zócalo without an escort and had intended to venture the day with her friend Tania, who backed-out at the last minute. Her friend was scared, but so was she. Ramona had weighed her options and realized that she feared the consequences of living an ordinary life more than the consequences of ditching school and venturing into the city to meet a total stranger, alone.


The pesero’s brakes screeched before reaching a complete stop near Ramona’s hailing arm. She climbed onto the metal bus and grabbed the first handrail within reach. The driver’s foot fell heavy on the gas pedal and, within seconds, the bus had recovered the speed it had lost.

“Does this bus go to el tren ligero?” Ramona shouted over the sound of the bus’ rattling bones.

“Where are you going?” he said.

 “El Zócalo. I think I need to catch el tren at Textitlán or Registro Federal stop. But the closest one is fine,” she said.

 He nodded without taking his eyes off the road. The bus shook and creaked as it accelerated and decelerated through the city’s congested streets. Ramona felt the invisible forces of speed and motion that she had learned about in física tug on her body, and, for a quick moment, these forces almost tricked her into returning home. She recognized that she didn’t have to travel the 24 kilometers to the meeting place Sebastian—a total stranger she could hear Tania remind her—had chosen for them. The universe had set the events and bodies into movimiento that had gotten Ramona to this specific moment in space and time, and it was her duty to see this through.

“I can get you to Registro Federal. You’ll have to walk a block and then cross el puente for Tasqueña,” he told her, turning his head in her direction without taking his eyes off the road. Ramona thought she heard notes of challenge laced into the driver’s tone as he gave his directions over the clamor of the wind rushing through his rolled-down window. Even though she did not quite understand what he meant, she nodded as if she understood. She wrapped an arm around the metal pole behind the driver’s large seat for safety and then retrieved her wallet from her backpack.

“Cuanto?” she asked, leaning forward with a cupped hand of coins.

“Siete pesos.”

She paid the fare and waited for the clanking bus to slow before making her way toward a seat by a window, so that she could read street names along the way. There were more people riding the bus than she had expected at well-past 9 a.m.

Ramona’s fingers grazed the textured plastic tops of bus seats as she made her way quickly toward the rear exit. She wanted to avoid reaching overhead for the yellow loops for handles. Although she had put serious thought into what she would wear this day, she suddenly felt self-conscious of her stomach and how the top revealed her flesh. She caught stares from riders, some scanned her legs or hovered over her waistline, but was unable to stop them.

The back row of seats was raised but it felt like a refuge. She crossed her legs at the ankles and squeezed the mochila against her chest for both balance and protection. She fixed her sight on the lulling traffic, trying to distract herself from the awkwardness she felt among the other seated bodies. Ramona reminded herself that challenging moments in pursuit of dreams, like these, were only temporary and would not matter mañana.


The bus sped over rain-filled potholes and past stops at intersections passengers had requested, and Ramona quickly realized that the camión was being driven by the kind of conductor who scorned slowing. She worried she’d miss her parada.

She scanned the streets for something familiar and, even though the view was mostly obstructed by vehicles on the carretera and blinding light reflections, she eventually was able to recognize storefronts—the ones she and Tania had walked past many times on their way to the new mall. The distinct street-facing white brick façade of Galerías Coapa came into view ahead and, for the first time, she noticed its grandeur and how it hovered over the surrounding buildings, people, and the rest of the city’s moving parts. Ramona was relieved, though, to have found herself in the city.

They flew past el Nuevo Bazar Pericoapa, the outdoor marketplace where a cute tattoo artist wearing a fitted white V-neck camiseta and large black boots had almost convinced Ramona to mark herself permanently. Her abuelita would have committed her to a convento if Tania had not shaken Ramona from the spell she had been under. Ramona scribbled her phone number on a wide-ruled piece of paper that she had torn from Tania’s binder, still in Tania’s arms. When the cute guy took the piece of paper, he squeezed Ramona’s hand. She waited for his call that entire weekend, but he never called, or maybe he did, but abuelita hadn’t delivered his message. Within a week, she had forgotten about the cute guy and was only now, months later inside the muggy bus, remembering the way he had smiled at her and made her feel wanted in a different way than the boys from school did.

She knew her stop was nearing when la Prepa 5, the national high school she hoped to transfer to the following year, came into view on her right. A confidence emanated from the comportment of students hanging back outside the campus’ walls; the way they gestured comely with their hands as they spoke or crossed their arms when they listened. They had the liberty to come and go from campus and free to make it to their classes—or not—without the disapproving look of school attendants. They also didn’t have to follow strict uniform rules or take evening classes, if they didn’t want to. Ramona wanted that for herself.


When she stepped on the light-rail’s platform, the city turned upside down. Right became left and left became right, and the remaining certainty she had carried all this way was gone. She looked at the signage overhead and it disoriented her even more. Xochimilco? She’s been there many times before with abuelita and her tías, but it didn’t signal the way now. If only she had paid better attention when she traveled with them and had not wandered into ensueños, she’d probably know the city by now.

She walked closer to the black rounded-edge sign that read “Xochimilco” in thick white sans-serif font with an arrow pointing downward, signaling the rail’s dirección, when a second sign emerged from behind the platform’s middle concrete column. In the same type it read “Tasqueña,” and the bus driver’s words returned to her like oxígeno and she felt her body begin to steady after spinning wildly.

Now that she knew which way to go, the next leg of her trip would begin here, at Registro Federal, and conclude when the tren ligero reached the line’s final stop where Ramona would have to hop onto the city’s subway system and arrive at el Zócalo and her destino.


On the light rail, Ramona was able to relax. She opened the bottled water and chocolate bar she had bought from La Doña that morning and enjoyed them both. The train wasn’t flurrying in chaos like the bus had been and it allowed her to think about what it was going to be like when she met Darren Hayes for the first time. She thought about what she was going to say: “I knew I loved you before I met you.” As cursi as that sounded, it was truly how she felt. She remembered the time she first heard Savage Garden’s music on MTV and experienced déjà vu, while watching their video of “Truly Madly Deeply.” The feeling was like vertigo, making the world spin fast but slow at the same time. It was an out-of-body experience, where she felt her spirit connect with all her past lives, and she knew instantly that she and Darren belonged from before current times.

Even at stops, the motions of the train were synchronous and calming. People stepped onto the platform before those on the platform stepped inside, and then the train would catch its speed and leave its resting state with ease. It fascinated Ramona how all of this felt like magia.  

No matter how many times Darren and Ramona fell in love with each other in her daydreams, her thoughts kept returning to the moment that she would knock on his hotel door, and he’d answer. It was unreal that this moment would happen today. What was she going to say? She knew she had some time to figure that out.

Sebastian said that he could take her to meet the band, to the hotel where the band was staying in México City and Ramona had agreed to meet him. She and Tania weren’t even supposed to be at Six Flags when they met Sebastian; they were supposed to be at la secundaria.

Savage Garden was touring for their Affirmation album and were having a show at the amusement park that Ramona was visiting for primera vez. Meeting Sebastian had been also a casualidad. She and Tania had noticed the posters just outside of the barricaded amphitheater inside the park. They were both oohing and aahing while leaning over the three-foot steel barricades when Sebastian walked over to them from the other side of the fence. He donned a windbreaker with the word “Security” in yellow letters, stitched over his heart. “To answer your question, no, you can’t stay to listen,” Sebastian said to them. “They’re playing here tomorrow night, after the park closes.”

“Can you get us in, Ramona heard herself asking. Tania shot her a look but didn’t say anything.

“Desafortunadamente, no,” he said with a grin.

They said thank you and began to walk away. Ramona felt crushed. She had gotten her hopes up in the few minutes that Tania and she had imagined going to el concierto and finally meeting Darren Hayes, the lead of Savage Garden.

“I know where they’re staying. And if you want to meet him, I can take you,” Sebastian shouted after them.

If el universo had conspired to bring this opportunity to her, Ramona needed to take it.


When the light rail arrived at the end of its route, it joined the underground Metro system. Ramona had fallen asleep with her head pressed against a windowpane, but something had awoken her, and she quickly rushed across the train’s sliding doors before they closed her in.

If the subway system was the veins of the city, pumping citizens through its entirety, Ramona was only a couple of stops from the heart—el Zócalo, close to where the Palacio de Bellas Artes was located. She just needed to find the Blue Line, and she did, quickly.


Once at the palace plaza, Ramona considered turning back. She had come this far but was fearful of the impending end of her journey and what it could mean. If she and Darren didn’t reunite in this lifetime, could she endure living it? And if they did, could she leave everything that she knew behind?

The sun had burnt off the remaining cumulus clouds from the previous days’ showers and the palacio’s blue-grey marble glowed enchantingly under the clear blue sky. Ramona had never been impressed by shiny things like gleaming stones or large sculptures, but today felt different. She felt her life on the cusp of change, of a different form of maturity forged by life experiences.

She wove through the crowd, tourists mostly, and reached the steps of the palace. She climbed them, heart-beating faster with each step. She thought she’d find Sebastian near the front doors when she reached the top, but she searched many faces and didn’t find his. Ramona glanced at her white-gold wristwatch, the one abuelita had given her for her quince since she had refused to have a quinceañera. It was early still.

Ramona found a pilar to lean against, one facing the front plaza where the Pegasus sculptures stood stoically. Foreigners posed in front of them for pictures and, for some reason, this act softened the resolve she had clung to before she reached the top step of the palacio. Ramona undid her folded waistband and wrapped her arms over her exposed belly. She leaned comfortably into the pillar and smiled at the couple kissing on the bottom steps. Coming from Avenida Juárez, Ramona heard the familiar chugging sound of the microbús’ engine and its screeching breaks. It might have been the sound of adventure that called her, or the moments of people’s lives she was witnessing from the height where she stood, but Ramona’s future looked different than how she imagined it when she rose in the morning. She dropped her bag from her shoulder and carried it with one hand, as she bounced down the palace’s wide marbled steps in the direction of its sound.

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