Others Words for Love
Carnie had gotten used to the Mexican workers that worked in the fields beside her house. She had learned that the fence separating her world and theirs was much larger than just a few wooden posts nailed into the ground. It was fine that way. She had her place just as they had theirs. But suddenly someone jumps over the fence and doesn't just land in her backyard. He lands in her heart, too.
When I Was Younger
I asked my mother about it one day. "Mommy, why do the workers look so different from you and Daddy?"
"They were born in another country. They have different blood," she tried to explain.
I looked down at the dried blood from when I scraped my knee earlier that day. It was red. I knew my mother's was red, too, because I had seen her get small cuts before from cutting vegetables.
"Is it green?" I asked innocently. My mother looked at me quizzically.
"What? No, no, sweetie, it's red just like yours and mine. It's just that each place in the world has people who are unique to that specific place. The workers are tan because where they are from there is a lot of sun. Do you understand?"
I nodded, even though I was still a little confused.
"Good," she said. "Now why don't you wash your hands for dinner?"
After dinner that night, I snuck out to the backyard. The workers were just finishing up, most of them starting to saunter over to their beat up pick-up trucks and head off to their houses or perhaps the local bar.
I stood against the fence, watching them with wide eyes. A few of them pointed at me and smiled, talking to each other. I couldn't understand what they were saying.
"What's your name, little girl?" One of them came over and bent down to my height.
"I'm Carnie," I said.
"Carnie? Nice name."
"Thanks. What's your name?"
"Miguel. How old are you?"
I held up four fingers. "What about you?"
Miguel laughed. "I'm older than all my fingers and toes put together." He put up his hands. I could see they were weathered and worn, so different in contrast from my own soft palms.
"Carnie!" my mother called. "Come inside! It's time for bed!"
Miguel stood up and looked past me, at my mother. "Caroline," he whispered.
"You know Mommy?" I asked him. He looked back down at me.
"Yes, I knew her a very long time ago."
"I better go now. Bye, Miguel."
I ran back to my mother, who was standing in the doorway, watching Miguel walk back through the field, back to his friends.
When my mother looked down at me, her expression was grim. "I don't want you talking to the men anymore, Carnie. They could be dangerous."
"But Miguel said-"
My mother raised her hand to silence me. "I don't want to hear anymore about Miguel or the workers. They do not live the same lives as we do, and we do not need to be associated with them."
I didn't go out to talk to Miguel the next day, even though I watched him look at our house when he passed by. Days went by, and I forgot about our meeting for the most part, though sometimes I did wonder how he knew my mother.
Eventually, as I grew older, the workers blended into the background. My original surprise at the way they were different from my world faded off until they were no more than dirty, grimy field workers who swore in Spanish too much.
I listened to my mother and never spoke to them again. I learned the fence between my world and theirs was so much more than just a fence.
But I never really asked why.