My Last Day with Laura

Laura and I only had half a day left, but this didn’t stop us from planning the last of our moments together. After planning a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Monday downtown, we saved the National Museum of Mexican Art for the last day. Once again, props to Laura for finding a free art exhibition I had never been to. We stopped by the Howard Washington library on the way there to print her tickets, and admired its impressive size and modern feel.

We boarded the pink line all the way to Pilsen. I was a little wary since I heard mixed reviews on the safety of the neighborhood, but this particular area was quiet, sunny, and suburban. I have to say the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago presented my favorite display of Mexican art outside of Mexico. We saw colorful clay pieces of the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve, and a cheerful grinning La Catrina. We saw family portraits, religious paintings, and an exhibit on the “House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros. Though I had read the book, I hadn’t realized she’d grown up in the barrio of Chicago. It was amazing to see her typewriter and a beautiful traditional floral dress. Other rooms had more modern pieces– a neon sign that said “Make Tacos not War,” a pink motorcycle, a photography series by Karen Miranda-Rivadeneira called “Other Stories.” The captions that went along with the photos really compelled me.

The caption that moved me the most was: “You only visited me at 6 am, half an hour before going to school. Your visits were always short but constant, constantly trying to sell me your best albums, to pay for your addiction. Last time I saw you, you showed me your ‘homemade’ tattoo. I never thought how important you were, I guess I was too young or embarrassed. Thank you for seeing someone that was still not there. For you Tonzo, who lived on Cobra St.  (they did find you in your favorite place) RIP 1981-96″

Something about that was so hauntingly beautiful and sad. There were of course other pieces, such as a wood sculpture collage, mini house scenes, and a windowpane with traditional Mexican embroidered curtains, but Tonzo’s photo with the caption was the one that moved me most. From there we moved to rooms with more traditional art, traditional wind figures and old woman archetypes, to another room filled exclusively with religious paintings and relics that smelled of the Catholic church. We made our final stop at the gift store before a loud group of students entered the museum. “We came at the right time,” Laura said. I couldn’t agree more.

On our way back I eyed a colorful food cart, filled with colorful fruit bowls. The man handed a girl a large chicarron topped with aguacate and mayonesa, con chile encima. It looked delicious.

“Do you want to go?” Laura asked, teasing me.

“Yeeeeeess,” I whined. I stood in line for the rainbow colored fruit bowl, while a woman talked to the vendor for five to ten minutes and handed him a twenty. I was nervous because I didn’t have too much cash on me.

Cuanto es?” I asked when I finally got the chance.

“Tres con cincuenta,” he answered. Three fifty! That was the exact amount of cash I had on me, it was all too perfect. I happily handed him my money in exchange for a delicious bowl of fruit.

Cual quieres?” he asked.

“El de arco iris,” I said happily. I told him sin limon, sin chile, even though it didn’t feel very Mexican of me. Laura saw the big smile on my face when I walked back with a bowl filled to the brim with pineapple, watermelon, melon, canteloupe, and grapes.

“How much was it?” Laura asked. I told her.

“Well I wasn’t interested, but now I’m very interested,” she told me. “I’m going to get one.”

She kept saying “it was a steal, I feel like we were robbing the guy,” over and over while I kept saying “three fifty!” We raved on and on about the fruit even as we sat on a bench on the train platform. We decided that this was the new highlight of our day, and this was another Ferris Wheel moment. When we got home we bought Italian food at the “Half Italian” deli in Logan Square, and brought it to the backyard along with out fruit to enjoy from the comfort of the lounge chairs in the sun. Our last moments were spent recalling what an amazing three days it had been, and what adventures we’d had. We had a bit of stress because her bag zipper broke right before she had to take the train to catch the plane, but in the end it all worked out. We hugged and waved at each other through the turnstiles. I had enjoyed a long 5 day vacation, and soon I would have to go back to work for another three days. But until then I treasured those last moments with her, before the next series of adventures to come.


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