I usually don't pull back the curtain like this—my musings are more metaphysical and reflective than descriptive—but I'll let you know from where I am riffing to give you a sense of my moorings on this Thanksgiving Day. Spoiler: I'm thankful. I am in an orange rail car, hurtling precariously under the streets of Mexico City. There's San Pedro de Los Pinos. Salsa music from the modded backpack of a street vendor floats through the car, with brakes and gravity jolting passengers in concert with the 1-and-3-and of the backbeat. San Antonio. Another vendor offers barber scissors for ten pesos, projecting her pitch from the base of her throat to cut through the noise and the weary countenances of commuters of every shade of white and tan (OK, I'm the only white one). Mixcoac. There's candy for sale on the floor; my back is damp from the evening chill-turned Dutch Oven in the railcar's still, rubbery air. The lights flicker like they always do at this juncture of the trip, each of us hiding in our dark reprieve for three seconds. Barranca del Muerto, and we're off.
I climb five flights of stairs, sweat pooling at the crest of my shoulder blade where my bag rests. I'm glad to elevate my heart rate, though, and my thoughts clear as I am finally able to occupy the tiny transition from work to school, my moment in the wild. I wave to a taxi, my consternation over hailing them off the long line in the street long past.
It's midterm week, and study sessions jockey for space in between work to-do lists and late-night episodes of The Walking Dead (it's subtitled, which means it's still educational). My cab driver shoots a death glance at a black SUV who cut us off, then straddles the nonexistent middle lane to finagle the tiny highway entrance. Periférico, the city's main highway artery, fully oxygenated with red brake lights from four until ten at night. It's stop and go from here. This city is mythically huge.
I think about my family and our traditions, how I never knew their particularity until I became a man—hardly anyone eats fried chicken for Thanksgiving, I've learned. All of theidiosyncrasies and kitsch DIY ornaments and stories we recall every year surrounded me so totally , I think as we finally grab a bona fide lane, that I never considered how I could miss them until I had to catch an early flight back to DF last weekend before we put up the tree. Years of silly pictures of me hanging the perpetually moribund velvet angel atop polyester branches, Mom holding he stool I've stood on side I was a little boy, would take a furlough this year. I chose to give it up, not quite knowing or thinking of ceding this memory to the past when I accepted the Fulbright. No rolling sausage balls with Mom, no Black Friday people watching with Aunt Bee, no wrapping presents for Mam while she cooked obliviously in the kitchen. It's still spring here, and Mexicans wish me a happy thanksgiving with novelty. I already had a mini-feast with those I love, a cadence amid the bittersweet transition to adulthood, but it doesn't make fully redeem this time. Am I permitted a little mourning for what I willfully chose? The thought tugs as I realize that my cabbie has somehow failed to have any change for my 50-peso note.
I'm in the cafeteria now, with the smell of enchiladas and outdoors filling my nostrils. I have a few minutes until my midterm, then a playback of the past hour to arrive at home, where I will try to drum up polish and confidence for my director's meeting tomorrow morning. The evening will likely include Frank Ocean, an episode of The Walking Dead and a bowl of granola. It will be my homage to what still is, despite all that I know going on holiday this holiday. I will thank God for the immense blessing of my senses, of all the gifts he has given me so that I can marvel at the oddness and beauty of this place. I will thank him for the key to my apartment, for Guanajuato, for patient neighbors and friends, for Skype, for Zucky's cookie kiosk, tacos al pastor, and all the safe passages I have been shown in the past three months. I will thank him for Flannery O'Connor and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the taxi driver who first picked me up from Benito Juarez and welcomed me so profusely to this foreign land. I will thank him for incredibly faithful friends from all stages who have acted like I'm not a world away, for WhatsApp, and for free ATM withdrawals with my bank. And as I drift off, I will thank him that good has been promised to me, and that I serve a God rich in showing forth evidence of the surety of that promise. Giving thanks is much like everything else in my travels abroad: offsetting, necessary, purifying.
I claim my loose mooring and my fragmentation and offer thanks for even those, for they point to coming wholeness stronger than anything else I know in my days here. So with turkey slices and cranberry soda to sate me this evening, I wish you and yours Happy Thanksgiving from DF.