Facing south on Mile 7 is La Homa—a snake of a street stretching towards the concrete highway, which can take anyone anywhere if they weren’t held back by unsuccessful job hunting of well-paying work.
South from Mile 7 and La Homa’s intersection, little wooden houses along the road sometimes host Sunday night fiestas for no reason other than to play music and be surrounded with friends and family, ending only when the food and Bud Light runs out.
Slabs of marinated fajita, baby back ribs, chicken wings, and onions wrapped in aluminum foil are placed on the grill, the smoke wafting towards nearby foldable tables and chairs where women and children sit.
Coughing and fanning their faces with their hands and unused paper plates, mothers and older women share family gossip and news from both sides of the border, gasping when one of them receives a call and announces that they would need to stay the night at someone’s place because of some balazos that just took place near their house back in México.
As they discuss sleeping arrangements for the now-frightened guests who dare not cross the border until morning’s light, the men circling the grill and sitting near ice chests full of knockoff soda brands splutter in buzzed laughter while songs like La Sonora Dinamita’s “Mi Cucu” play from pawnshop-purchased speakers.
On dry patches of grass molding into dirt, where no chairs and tables are set up, couples and energetic teenagers dance freely to the music, everyone fitting together no matter the different shades of skin.
At around 1 in the morning, when toddlers are passed out in their mothers’ arms, kids and teens sleepily complain to each other about how boring the Valley is with its brown grass and There’s nothing here, and the old perverted uncle is making up drunk bachata moves, the party members scatter, taking with them Tupperware filled with leftover carne asada, pico de gallo and mashed potatoes.
If they drive, mothers and fathers carry their kids to their cars and depart, passing Mile 5’s taquerias that serve tacos de trompo and frijoles a la charra until midnight. Sometimes the children wake up during the drive, glancing at the large signs announcing specials on sincronizada combos and saying, Ma, quiero tacos.
To which the mothers would say, I’ll make you some mañana.
If they walk due to living close to the party’s location, some families walk to their houses just a street or two away despite the lack of sidewalks and stickers in the tall weeds. When they cross the street to the other side of La Homa, they warn their children: Look both ways and run. Some pendejos may speed and won’t see us in the dark until it’s too late. Run.
As all these families head home, they pass by dark houses, most made of wood and surrounded by junk cars and bushy mezquite trees in their yards. The growl of car engines alarm Chihuahuas chained to doghouses, making them bark incessantly and beginning a chain reaction throughout the rest of the neighborhoods, creating a choir of dogs howling at each other and their owners yapping, ¡Callanse!
When all the families finally reach their homes, they settle for the night, regretting not having left the parties earlier to rest for Monday’s responsibilities. At sunrise, fathers leave for work, stopping by the Stripes gas station for breakfast tacos before following the highway. Mothers feed their children and drive them to their chain-link fenced schools, passing by random horses tied to trees and grazing by La Homa, the rubble once known as La Kebradita Bar, and Los Compayitos—a Mexican hot dog place along the edge of the street known for its hot dogs wrapped in bacon and topped with grilled onions and chile.
The smaller children are dropped off at the elementary schools, where they are kissed and given the sign of the cross before exiting the car and marching to ESL or regular classes. Preteens and teenagers wait for their designated buses on La Homa, wondering if their bus driver could hurry up so they can get to homeroom on time.
And trailing behind these late school buses, most parents slowly follow the south end of La Homa and take off on the highway to drop off relatives or head to work, wondering if someday their kids will use it to drive away from home as well.