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  • Writer's pictureTatiana Rodriguez

El Paso's Heart

By Tatiana Rodriguez

Within El Paso's heart

It can't hide

The shape it's in

Not even in the shadows

It's the one who really knows --

Jennifer dropped her pen into her journal and slammed it shut. No matter how many times she read her poem, she couldn't think of the lines that would follow. She slid her journal beside her on the bench as she saw Joseph approaching across San Jacinto Plaza.

"You still working on that poem?" he asked, handing Jennifer a chai tea latte.

"Yes, I don't know why I'm struggling so much this week," she replied.

She took a sip from her chai tea. "Gosh, they make this so good at the Coffee Box!"

"I know it's your favorite," said Joseph, as he laced his fingers in hers. "I remember you saying so and just knew I had to get you one. But why don't you take a break and walk with me? I can only imagine how long you've been out here."

"You're right. I've already been out a couple hours. I thought the words would come to me easier if I was actually in El Paso's heart."

Joseph lightly planted a kiss on Jennifer's hand. "Maybe. I know you'll find the words in time."

They stood from the bench and began to make their way across the plaza to Main Street. Jennifer gazed around at the trees surrounding them with the lines of lights enveloping them.

Joseph enveloped her in an embrace. "How much time do you have? I want to stay out with you so we can see the lights come on."

"As much time as we need," Jennifer said, allowing herself to be pulled in closer. "As much time spent with you."

They reached the intersection with Oregon Street. Joseph pulled himself away and walked toward the BCycle station.

"Have you ever used one of these?" he asked, gesturing toward the parked bicycles. "For my history class last semester, we went on a bike tour around the murals of Segundo Barrio. It was such an interesting, peaceful experience. Just being so immersed in the space and learning about the history of the murals."

"That sounds great!" Jennifer exclaimed. "I've never gone on one of the tours, but would like to one day."

"Maybe we can go together next time they have a tour."

They then turned onto Oregon and passed a restaurant in the plaza blaring the Sunday Oldies radio show. "This is DJ Guerrero and coming up next after the break we have Brenton Wood, Sam Cooke and Miss Etta James!"

"Oh, that's a good lineup they're going to play," said Jennifer as she wrapped her arm around Joseph's. "I love the Oldies. It reminds me of the Sunday afternoons I used to spend as a little girl dancing with my Grandma in her kitchen. I remember she would make beef tacos for dinner seasoned with comino just how my Aunt Teresa likes them."

"That sounds so delicious!" said Joseph. "I bet no matter what your grandmother cooked was sure to amaze you and your family."

"Definitely. Those were the days. Those were the days before she got so sick. I wish I could relive them again just one more time."

Joseph held Jennifer close as tears began to stream down her face. "I'm sorry," she said, burying her face into his shoulder. "I don't mean to get so emotional."

He pulled himself away and began to kiss the tears away. "There's no need to apologize. These are memories that you'll always hold close to your heart."

"It's just I haven't acted this way in a while."

"Healing takes time but the warmth and closeness you felt with your family will stand the test of time."

Jennifer sniffled. "That's it! Thank you so much! I love you."

She leaned up for a kiss. "I love you too, Jenny, but why are you thanking me?" he asked with a chuckle.

"For what you just said!"

"About standing the test of time?"

"Yes! That's what my poem needs. Let's go sit across from Los Lagartos. I like watching the water's reflection on the statue."

Jennifer clasped her hand in Joseph's and they rushed across the plaza. She pulled her journal from her bag again and the words began to stream.

"Wow Jenny, you sure are churning that poem out!" said Joseph.

"Yes, I know exactly how this poem should end now," she said, placing her pen in the spine of her journal. "I should have known. If I'm writing about El Paso's heart, it's only natural that I write about time. Time stands in layers in the space we are sitting in. What you see now in the plaza and the buildings surrounding us are not what they once were. You might not be able to see some of the histories of San Jacinto peeking through the layers but this is El Paso's heart. It will continue to beat for the test of time."

Jennifer picked up her pen again and wrote until the trees' lights came on.

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