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The Burrito - Michael Nuetzel

The Burrito - Michael Nuetzel

Digital Vector

24" x 13.5" x 1"


The Burrito

Cynthia D. Bertelsen


The smell of burning diesel alerted me—a Cholula-bound bus would be there in a few seconds. With a loud burp, it came to a rubber-losing stop about ten feet away from me. Exiting passengers stumbled down the worn linoleum-covered steps, clutching woven baskets filled with squawking chickens or tiny squealing piglets. Plump sleeping babies yawned, cradled snuggly in their mothers' thread-bare rebozos. Behind me, people pushed toward the bus door, eager to board and get on with the rest of their day's journey. I handed my pesos to the driver and plopped into the aisle seat directly behind him. There I had the best view of the passing scenery. And besides, by sitting in that seat, I avoided much of the unwanted attention foisted on young American women traveling alone in Mexico.

As the bus bounced from one cavernous pothole to another, my head snapped sideways from the jolts. I glanced across the aisle. A gray-haired campesino sat there. Dressed in the white pajama-like clothing of a farmer, a frayed straw hat pulled over his wrinkled forehead, he carefully opened the string bag cuddled on his lap. Swollen, work-worn fingers lifted out a packet of crumpled newspaper, began unwrapping what was inside. A giant burrito emerged, a flour tortilla the size of a dinner plate filled with bright-green guacamole, the color of new young leaves in springtime. Then, as if in slow motion, he tugged at the crinkled paper and began eating, clearly relishing every mouthful. Saliva tickled the back of my throat as I watched. He smiled at me between bites, bits of chopped cilantro flecking his upper lip. It was one of those many searing moments in life, one of those that scars your brain and lives within you forever. Guacamole. Ubiquitous. Maybe even boring? But every time I make it, eat it, or see it, in my mind, that man returns to life again. 

I now wonder what his name was, what marvels his tongue would have revealed to me. 

I wish I'd asked him.

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