Bella doesn’t know the word for blisters. She points her finger at her lifted boot to illustrate how she had no sole. She says,
“I walk like this for a month.”
I listen to Bella’s story while my dogs pull on their leashes to sniff the creosote and sage bushes for a lizard or mouse. The sun is low in the east. It is morning.
Bella is standing on a pile of stand where my dogs and I turn every day on our walk back home. She looks taller than me, but she is not. Her black hair cropped to her head like a man’s. Dimples make divets in her dark skin above her mouth. She is smoking a cigarette as if she is waiting for me.
“Morning Bella,” I say.
I have learned her name in the months since the wind washed her on a plot of land near me. She has learned mine. I tell her I speak Spanish; She wants to learn more English. We make fun of the Spanglish words Mexicans use.
“They say rente!”
It is really aquilar.
“They say lunche!”
It is really almeurzo.
We howl like the coyotes hidden in the land surrounding us. We become friends. Our conversations grow more serious. I never ask her where she is from. She volunteers one day,
I tell her I’ve been to the airport there. The only airport I have been in where the water in the bathroom didn’t work. She smiles.
“Yes, it’s poor.”
I ask her about the women there. She frowns.
“We are not free.”
I tell her I learned about that in Bolivia. Bella has tears in her eyes. She says,
“All my life I want to be free.”
“My mom hit me. I wasn’t free, so I got…”
She doesn’t know the word for pregnant. She moves her hand over her belly to show. I ask,
“You have children?”
She holds up two fingers.
“Are they in the US?” I ask.
She shakes her head no.
Bella spits on the ground.
“He didn’t make me free.”
“What man does?” I joke.
We laugh until a blast of gunfire comes over the hill surrounding this desert floor. Bella is scared. She asks,
“People shooting their guns.”
“Are they fighting?”
“No, they do it because they can.”
She is stunned and says,
“That’s not what I will do when I am free.”
I ask her if she is a citizen yet. She shrugs and says yes,
“But that doesn’t make me free.”
Bella snubs her cigarette into the sand and wraps the butt into a paper towel. I ask,
“What would make you free?”
She doesn’t answer me. Gunfire distract us as do my dogs who’ve found no life to kill.
She waves to me as she moves through the creosote and sage bushes like the wind that blew her in. We will talk again.
My dogs and I walk the road to our home. We arrive. I take off their leashes as well as my boots. I realize I don’t know the pain of Bella’s blisters. Sometimes the strangest things wash up upon this desert floor.