The busses of Guanajuato, Guanajuato Mexico run underground.
In the subterranean space between the center of town and San Javier lies a menstruating woman. No one seems to mind. She reclines gracefully against the uneven surface of the tunnel. We meet night after night as the bus rolls to a stop at a Y shaped intersection without a stop sign.
This woman is naked but for a small, white cloth covering her loins. Her hand and the cloth are both covered in a telltale red that appears to be seeping through the cloth in the same way she appears to be seeping through the thick stone wall.
Her other arm is outstretched above her head in a pose somewhat like you would typically see if a woman were at rest on a chaise lounge. Yet it also has an active quality as though the woman is reaching out for something.
Tonight, as the bus comes to a stop, my eyes meet hers.
There is an unmistakable liveliness there, an unexpected sparkle that seems somehow out of place and yet exactly right. In her outstretched hand I sense an invitation to touch, to know, to enter her world. I close my eyes and place my hand in hers. Suddenly I am no longer on the bus, but standing beside her.
Gone are the harsh surfaces of the rock and the dark, soot stained walls of the tunnels. She is comfortably arranged on an altar with a pile of straw to cushion her body against the sculpted clay that supports her. A banquet table stands nearby.
It is nighttime here. Everything is peaceful and quiet. All of life lies still beneath a scarlet moon. The desert air is cool and crisp. The mountains are dry. The rains have not yet come this spring. It isn’t quite time!
There is a fireplace behind this beautiful menstruating woman. It gives the earthen altar a hearth-like quality. I feel welcomed by the woman and by the dancing firelight.
I take a long deep breath and sort of settle into the stillness of the night.
Certain expectations form. I am imagining an ancient fertility ritual, a celebration honoring the fecundity of all women.
Yeah right! This is Mexico and Mexico seldom conforms to expectations!
Just about the time I think I have a fix on this narrative, something breaks the silence tearing the soft serenity and stillness of this night to shreds. The interruption sounds like the needle scratching across the vinyl on an old style record player. This woman of mine smiles a wry smile like she knew it was coming all along.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of an old silver haired grandmother.
But for the glistening strands of her hair, she is hidden, cloaked by unruly moon-spun shadows. For a moment I am not even sure she is real. Then I see her hands move. I watch them bring a powerful beat to life.
A low bass sound slithers down my back.
The old woman is tapping out the kind of beat that invites you to shake and shake and shake. My body obeys her call.
I have happened upon a ceremony alright. But this is no fertility celebration. This menstruating woman is here to preside over a release.
The drums are beating faster now.
The music is almost frenzied.
I am dancing as fast as I can!
The woman has come down off her altar. A crowd of dancing women has assembled. Like me they have seemingly arrived from nowhere.
We dance for what feels like hours.
We are wild and panting.
Our feet pound the earth.
We weave and writhe as the radiant scarlet moon makes its way across the sky. There is a kind of urgency draped over this night and so we dance with the kind of fervor I had forgotten I could muster.
I am nearly exhausted when I feel something finally give way.
I stop and I watch as it etches its name in this bare desert land: AMBIGUITY.
In an instant, this word turns to molten silver. It burns its way through the earth until every last drop disappears.
I stand naked, beads of sweat glistening in the light of the fading desert moon. As the sun is beginning to peek over the horizon, the woman approaches. She extends her hand again. As I take it, I watch her silent message flash across my mind:
Suddenly I am back in the bus. I hear its breaks squeal. We grind to a stop. As I open my eyes, I take in the familiar sights of this familiar road. Somehow I remember to stand and to exit.
I am home.
Previously published in Bella Mia Magazine.
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