She loved sitting in the late-afternoon sun in the street outside the bodega. The orange-yellow light of the sun draped the dirt street and the plaster walls in an even browner, oranger tone than they natively possessed. She didn’t mind the boys who would walk by and give her long looks and short smiles as they tracked home from school or work, a contrail of dust in their wakes. But she’d loved this time even before she attracted the boys’ gazes; even before she’d cared what the boys thought. This was the time of the day when the Earth, like the people, settled down. It began to cool off from the noon sun, radiating away heat like someone sweating. Most days, her face was sticky from dried sweat by this time, her hair sticking up of its own accord, and she’d have to blow it out of her face or tie it back. She also took a guilty pleasure in glancing at her reflection in the shop window at times like these – she felt the honest work had made her beautiful – not in the way of a princess at a ball, but a more real - more desirable, really - beauty that didn’t wither with time but bloomed. The way she saw her mother’s beauty blooming in the wrinkles around her eyes when she smiled, and coming to full ripeness after cleaning the shop, or washing the dishes, or digging in the garden. This was a hearty kind of beauty that wasn’t at risk of being blown out by the wind or washed off in the rain.
Today she stood in the doorway holding Miguel, her nephew, and in him too she saw this kind of beauty. He was a happy child. He rarely cried and was content to sit with her for hours, sometimes, just amusing himself by watching her, or a spider in its corner web, or a lizard on the wall.
Tonight she would go out, she thought. The work week was over and she hadn’t had time to herself in days. She would go wash up – “working pretty” was fine for the afternoon, but it didn’t hurt to fancy up for a night out every now and then – maybe put on her short olive green summer dress and go look for Marisa and Bobby in the square, where she could watch the boys dance and sing and juggle and fight and in general make themselves look foolish trying to win some attention.
Boys...boys were still a novelty...