Love letters in the sand

I was his English teacher, 14 years older. But on the beach in Mazatlan, love is love.

Published October 15, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Marry a kind man, a man like your father, my mother told me. And I did. But nobody saw that at the time. People only recognized our differences. Julio is brown; I'm white. He speaks Spanish; I speak Philadelphia English. Both our fathers are handsome former athletes, but my father, when he coached in the NBA, owned a Mercedes sedan. His father built brick houses with his hands, lost his front teeth in a soccer game long ago and doesn't know how to drive a car. I am a writer. Aside from Mexican school textbooks, Julio has never read a book in his life. I have a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin. He was still in high school. He was my student, in fact, and I was his English teacher. I was 33 years old. He was 19.

Julio was the reason I had shaved my legs again and started wearing skirts to school, the reason I had put away my Butch Wax for crew cuts and was growing my hair out. He showed up for class with a single notebook every day at 4. My stomach did a lively quebradita when he did. After class, he waited for me halfway down the hill in a sandwich shop.

Many of my boy students fought for the privilege of walking me home, where they hoped to be invited into my single woman's apartment, where I lived alone, a condition unknown in most of Mexican society. Only now do I realize what a tantalizing figure I cut. My students dated on doorsteps, and stole kisses in the shadowy dark part of the street where the street light didn't reach. Girls were yanked inside at 10 or allowed to go to the Jardin, the town's central plaza, to meet a boyfriend only if accompanied by a little brother. I lived unsupervised.

I had survived my first semester teaching English to several classes of uninterested Mexican adolescents. I knew little Spanish, which made me a less-than-effective teacher. This was also the reason I was dim to the fact that most male students were looking at me sideways, trying to figure out how "loose" I was, or they could get me to be. And although "loose" was something I could be when convenient, I had somehow figured out that Preparatoria Benito Juarez in San Miguel de Allende was not quite the place.

But Julio -- so shy, unaggressive, awkward, gorgeous -- Julio, fingering the edge of my desk nervously to ask what kind of music I liked, a midnight black curtain of hair falling down the side of his face, Julio I couldn't resist.

Twice he managed to utter that I should go dancing with him. One day after class he took a black string and bead cross from around his neck and put it over my head. The next time he asked me to go dancing, I said yes. I brought a friend to the disco so it wouldn't be a real date, but by the end of the night I had my face pressed against his completely hairless brown cheek. I felt like I was nuzzling a baby; his skin was so soft and the sensation so pure.

After that we walked every night to the Jardin and sat on a plaza bench, touching at the shoulders and pulling away when someone we knew passed by. I wanted more. But I couldn't bring myself to say so, and Julio didn't ask for sex. I was beginning to understand that girlfriends were worshipped, their honor upheld with fistfights. Gringas were light and pretty and willing and good for something on the side. Where did that leave me? I wanted to be willing and worshipped. But I was perceiving that in Mexican society, a woman was one or the other.

By mid-December, I was ready for vacation. A buzzy elation took hold of students as they turned in their last exams and spilled out of the Prepa and down the hill. Julio and his brother, Xavier, had signed up for a school-sponsored trip to Mazatlan, a Pacific resort town. I had turned in my grades and saw a pillowy, blissful week ahead. I would stay home, sleep late, write and have no other plans.

The bus loaded in front of El Instituto Allende, where a lot of North Americans studied Spanish and painting. That semester I occupied a teacher's apartment on the grounds. Julio and I hugged behind some plants on El Instituto's patio. He went out to the bus.

I strolled outside five minutes later, pretending I had just happened upon the group on my way to the corner store. Looky here, the school trip. And there's that Julio Garcia and his brother. Julio wore a New Kids on the Block T-shirt and looked about 15. How could he be the one to to make me feel like not only ripping his clothes off, but carving our initials in wet cement?

Blankets and boomboxes were tossed up onto the charter, a no-frills former school bus. The chaperons were teachers from the Prepa. Julio boarded, I waved and the bus pulled away.

An entire plan-less day stretched in front of me. I headed for the Prepa to collect my salary, doled out by the director every Friday in cash. Most December days were cool, but this one was warm and breezy. I walked up the hill in a pair of rubber tire-soled huaraches, feeling the sun on my shoulders through a white cotton shirt.

Strolling down again with a pocketful of pesos, I hummed please don't go, don't go-oo, from a song Julio and I had danced to in the disco. The song made me weepy when I thought of how ridiculous and precarious my budding relationship was with this Mexican teenager, and how someday it would have to end. I was an East Coast Catholic. I wore white gloves to Mass as a kid, vacationed at the Jersey shore, watched Sunday dinners prepared in small linoleum kitchens by quick-tongued, racist aunts who inhaled Lucky Strikes while they tied up the roast. He was a central Mexico mountain town boy who didn't have running water in his house until he was 10, skipped Sunday Mass to watch "Lucha Libre" -- Mexico's all-star wrestling -- on TV, and had never traveled beyond the next big town. I couldn't stay in Mexico forever, but at least I had committed to teach one more semester. I would enjoy Julio, then return to my life in Philadelphia. Having a Mexican boyfriend helped me learn Spanish and navigate the culture, I reasoned. Plus, I couldn't get Julio out of my head.

As I neared the bottom of the hill, Julio and Xavier turned the corner and trotted toward me.

"Marta, get on the bus! There's one space left!"

"Come on. Come with us!"

I looked from Julio to Xavier and could not think of one reason not to follow them to the Pemex station where the bus was filling with gas. Julio took my elbow and I let him lead me. I was suddenly ecstatic. Here I was being chosen again, albeit by a teenager with a shy smile. Again and again, I was in awe of the way he showed up -- on my doorstep, at my bus stop. After two months, I knew that even though El Instituto was locked up tight after dark, I could push open the side door and find Julio on the flagstone step, watching the slow traffic on the Ancha de San Antonio. Waiting for me.

Next thing I knew I was climbing the bus stairs and stepping over protruding knapsacks until I reached the back seat of the bus and sat on the split upholstery. "Teacher!" the students whooped. Julio collected 150 pesos from me and delivered it to Pepe, the math teacher. Pepe had grown a moustache but still looked barely older than the students. Perhaps I passed as a student, too, in Levi's jeans, bouncing on the back seat between Xavier, Julio and their friends Mono and Raul.

The bus rattled and chugged and picked up a great roaring speed. Once outside of San Miguel, the terrain quickly became dry and undernourished. Ranchero children whacked the backsides of cows and squatted in curtained doorways of low makeshift houses. We passed a sign for Pantoja, a tiny village set back from the two-lane highway, and a panic gripped me. My hours of freedom, my plans to write, a time away to shake my head clear of this foolish relationship -- I had just denied it all. We were only 20 kilometers out of San Miguel. I could ask the bus driver to stop on the side of the highway, then I could hitchhike back. Or walk.

A mile went by, then another. Julio's fingers played with the seam on my jeans.

"You can wear Xavier's T-shirts," Julio said. "He's thin." Xavier was slender but more than 6 feet tall.

The bus careened and groaned through hairpin turns. The sun shone high overhead. Kids popped up, yelled to one another over seat backs and eyeballed me wedged in between Julio and Xavier. A panic of the heart I'd tried for years to calm with busboys and booze was disappearing; a hole inside I didn't know I had, like a heart defect, was filling. I was curbing my 6 a.m. 7-mile runs and sleeping contentedly instead. My complexion was clearing.

Soon we were approaching Guanajuato. Xavier passed out small sweet oranges that had just come into season. The boys spit their seeds out the windows with great teenage enthusiasm, their faces in the wind like happy dogs. The driver pulled into a dirt rest area lined with food shacks. Mono bought five hot paper bags of frituras -- curls of some wheat product resembling Cheetos. The boys topped theirs with San Luis red salsa and I followed suit. Buses, semis and VW bugs whooshed by on the highway and blew dust through our hair. I imagined hailing a truck, climbing in and getting off at the San Miguel crossroads.

Hitchhiking was unsafe, of course. Nothing to do but look ahead. I should have been aligned with the teachers, whispering about order and plans and motel reservations. Yet all the teachers on this trip were males in their 20s. We'd never chatted on the Prepa grounds because I spoke little Spanish. They acknowledged my presence with polite smiles. I moved en masse with Julio, Xavier and their friends, who surrounded me like bodyguards.

In a corner pharmacy I bought contact lens solution and looked for a pay phone. None. Everyone crowded into a tiny loncheria and bought hard roll sandwiches, then spilled outside in a shrieking mass that blocked the sidewalk. I smiled apologetically at an old señora who hobbled into the street to get around the mob. I was the first to reboard the bus.

About midnight, duffels were opened and covers pulled out. "Don't you have a blanket?" I asked Julio. But he and Xavier had packed gym shorts, T-shirts, a basketball and nothing more. I slipped one of Julio's clean T-shirts over my head. The night air blowing in the windows was cold enough to keep frozen paletas -- popsicles -- solid. Under the cover of dark, I pressed myself close to Julio and sniffed his clean boyish skin. Newborns enjoy cellular transference when held next to the mother. Our breathing became rhythmic. What wouldn't I endure to be next to him?

Eighteen hours after we had started out, dawn broke over a tropical landscape of coconut palms and bamboo shacks. At 6 in the morning, we reached the outskirts of Mazatlan.

Our budget motel was constructed of cinderblock and metal. I asked the desk clerk if I could use the phone. The only person I knew in San Miguel who had a phone was a writer named Roy. But I didn't have his number. Phones were so hard to come by in San Miguel that an American couple I knew had set up a photo of a telephone in its intended spot surrounded by flowers and candles -- an altar to their phone-to-be. I gave the desk clerk my parents' number and he dialed it.

"Mom, hi! I'm in Mazatlan. Yeah, at the beach. A school trip."

"Oh, you're chaperoning at the beach?" my mother asked from New Jersey.

"Uh-huh. It was a last-minute thing. Just wanted to let you know where I am. See you in a week, Mom."

In a week I would be at another beach, at my parents' house at the Jersey shore for Christmas. Candles, spiced nuts, a cherry table that sat 12, matching chairs with dusty rose velvet seats. The aroma of a fat Scotch pine filling the house, my father hugging a plaid bathrobe around him as he put on the Mario Lanzo Yuletide album we listened to every Christmas morning. I would leave my huaraches in my small Mexican apartment for a week. I would wear pantyhose and the winter coat I had saved, and go to Midnight Mass and pray for guidance.

I bunked with three girl students. The room was furnished with two double beds and a plywood dresser missing several drawer pulls. On the inside of the room, the concrete blocks were painted white. The girls unpacked extensive piles of ironed shorts sets and lined up three separate canisters of Teen Spirit deodorant. I placed my bottle of contact lens solution in the bathroom, looked futilely for soap, then went outside to lean on the wood railing.

The hotel was ugly and we were packed in shoulder to shoulder like chiles in a can. Even the motel I'd used when I crossed the border had provided towels.

I didn't fit anywhere. My roommates were 18 years old. They regarded me politely and chatted among themselves in Spanish. Perhaps I could have gossiped with them if I knew their language. Julio and his friends were on the floor above. They'd be showering and changing and doing teenaged boy things like flexing and passing gas. I couldn't hang out in their room. It would blow the thin cover I was trying to maintain -- last-minute vacationer, taking advantage of a cheap trip to the beach. I thought of a weekend alone in San Miguel, all the rest and writing I was missing. I tried to recall if at another time in my life, I'd done anything so ludicrous as run away with a bunch of teenagers. I decided I had not.

I asked my roommates if anyone had a swimsuit to spare and hoped they would offer more clothing. A studious, no-nonsense girl named Adriana handed me a black and teal one-piece. I put it on under my jeans and shirt and ran down the stairs, across a busy boulevard and onto the beach. I peeled off my clothing, splashed into the surf and dove into a wave. My cramped muscles began to stretch with a delicious tingling. I surfaced and reached my arms toward the sun.

Julio, Xavier and their friends came down to the beach in gym shorts and entered the water gingerly, like mountain boys whose feet only knew goat paths and basketball courts.

"Let's take a walk down the beach," I whispered to Julio just as Raul threw a piece of seaweed at his head.

"Later," Julio said. I saw the chance of getting away with Julio alone slipping away like the teasing tide that disappeared back into the sea. Julio and I would spend three days at the beach together, but in the midst of a swarm of adolescents. What had I been thinking? Only three more days and one more bone-crunching bus ride and I'd be in control of my life again. I sighed.

"Look, Julio, this is how we ride the waves at the shore where my parents live." I threw myself into a feeble wave that minced to the shore. At the Jersey shore, if you caught a wave at the right spot in its curl, arms over your head, body straight like a surfboard, it would carry you in an exhilarating bed of turmoil and foam to within inches of dry sand. I loved being swept off my feet. I loved, for a few seconds in time, having no control over my body, giving myself over to a great force of nature, trusting it would cradle me.

"Try it," I urged Julio. It's like love, I added silently.

The next day we were bussed through the streets of Mazatlan, a jumble of hotels constructed in the 1960s, and paint-chipped, shoebox residential dwellings. A few oyster shacks along the beaches provided the town's seaside charm.

We arrived at a small boat launch where two motorized dinghies were beached. A grizzled man with graying fly-away hair under a knit cap appeared from a shack. He motioned to the boats with thick, weathered hands. Suddenly I understood. All 45 of us would fit ourselves into two wooden vessels, which were barely larger than rowboats. The students began to step into the boats.

"Julio, where are the life jackets?" I asked.

"Se me hace que no hay," he said calmly. "It seems there aren't any."

I had been charmed by the wild West aspect of Mexican life, in which the government does not mandate seat belts or regulate how one crosses the street. I was learning to shrug and say, ni modo -- it doesn't matter -- about things I couldn't control. But I was an American at heart: I could not understand how 45 kids and teachers who didn't know how to swim could be crowded into two questionably sturdy wooden boats and carried out to sea.

"Julio, I took junior Lifesaving when I was a kid. If the boat goes over, don't try to make it to shore. I'll carry you in. You'll float and I'll pull you in like this." I hooked one arm under an armpit. "Or like this." I cupped my hand under his chin. We had been careful not to touch amidst the crowd, but this was survival. He shrugged out of my grip. "Let me carry you in. Don't try to swim. Promise?"

"Bueno." OK. He looked amused. We got into the boat and chugged out. The old salt lectured as we toured the harbor. He pointed out fishing boats and rock formations. We passed an enormously tall, smartly painted ship. High above, ropes were neatly coiled and lifeboats hung from cables. An American flag was painted on the bow.

"There's the American Navy," our guide told us. We puttered along. Seagulls squawked overhead. We approached a small, yellowing ship. Water poured from a rusty hole in its side. It seemed to tilt as if it needed a little push to right it in the water. An old commercial fishing tub, I thought. I wondered what kind of fish it hauled in.

"And that's the Mexican Navy," our guide informed us.

"Ha ha ha ha ha!" I laughed. "Ha ha ha." I was proud to have understood his Spanish, gotten the joke.

"Hee hee hee," I subsided into bursts of giggles. I turned to Julio, who sat behind me. His face was a mask. He was studiously examining the horizon. Nobody else was laughing. Julio cut his eyes at me briefly. Oh Christ, I thought. What annoyed him about Americans was loudness. What annoyed me was being censored.

Back on land, he pulled me aside. "What?" I said, defensively.

"The Mexican Navy." he said. "It wasn't a joke."

"You can't be serious," I said. "That floating pile of garbage couldn't have been anything other than retired."

"It was the Mexican Navy," he said. I couldn't help it. I laughed again. He was looking at me sternly, like a father. Then he laughed.

"Si tuvieramos un coche, podriamos irnos," Julio said, touching my shoulder briefly. "If we had a car, we could get out of here." He had used a complicated verb form and I had understood! So he didn't want to be stuck in this crowd of teenagers either.

In the evening, students roamed from room to room and noisily played in the pool. My three roommates wore eye makeup that matched their short sets. A few dozen baby bottles of Corona beer had found their way into our shower stall and boys were steadily showing up at the door. I wandered the outside halls. Xavier informed me that Julio was taking a shower. Through the door, I saw Raul making a sandwich with the supply of white bread and tins of sardines and jalapeqos he'd brought with him.

"Sandwich, teacher?" Raul asked.

"No, ya comm," I answered. I ate already -- the standard manner of refusing food, although I hadn't eaten at all and was hungry.

Bottles of rum could be seen on dressers through open doors. Pepe, the math teacher, lurched around the corner from the stairs carrying a strong-smelling Coke in a plastic glass.

"Marta!" he exclaimed, as if he'd just noticed I was among the group. "Do you give private English lessons?" He scrutinized me with slightly unfocused eyes.

"Why not?" I said. I could always use extra income.

"I want to take English lessons. Do you want a drink?"

I did. I wanted a drink. I wanted to go out for a nice seafood dinner. Pepe put his hand on my back and held his drink to my lips.

"We'll arrange English lessons in school," I said.

"Why not now? In my room?"

"Vamos." I heard it as a growl behind me. Julio walked past me, his hair wet, his eyes hard. He went down the steps.

I took a quick gulp of Pepe's rum and Coke, ducked out of his grip and ran down the steps.

I found Julio at the corner, waiting for the traffic light to change. I caught up and we crossed the street to the beach. Julio looked angry.

"What's the matter?" I asked. He shook his head. We walked down to the water. The strip of hotels faded into distant lights. The ocean drowned the highway sounds in the still night.

"Wait, I'm going to take my shoes off." He stopped and watched the horizon. I left my huaraches in the sand.

"Julio, how do you say 'seaweed' in Spanish?" I asked as we walked. He was watching the sand in front of him now. He stopped and picked up a broken seashell. He wrote ALGEAS in the wet sand.

"How do you say 'sand,' and 'seashell,' and 'tide?'" I asked. He wrote ARENA, CONCHA and MAREAS.

"Waves?" I asked.

He wrote OLAS.

"Upset?" I asked. "Angry?" He looked at me, and I felt what had intoxicated me from the beginning. Julio saw me. He didn't glance at me while finishing a meal, or look over my head while running off to basketball practice, or gaze at me late at night after I had fallen asleep, like my father had when I was a girl. Or fix lust-filled eyes on me until I agreed to sleep with him, like my last 20 boyfriends had.

Julio's hair had dried. It fluttered around a brown cheek.

"Pepe doesn't want English lessons. He wants to be with you," Julio said, staring at me intently, almost accusingly. Not my fault, I would have retorted to any other boyfriend.

"All the guys want to be with the gringa. You should hear how they talk."

"What guys?"

"Not my friends. The teachers." Julio was threatened. By Pepe, who looked like a 5-year-old in his father's moustache? Just as well I hadn't made any effort to align myself with the teachers. "I'm not ..." I began. The major piece of ass everybody thinks, I wanted to say. But I could see it the other way. I was a blonde American, close-up. Much later, a Mexican co-worker would explain to me that Mexican men rented American porn videos and dreamed of aggressive blonde women with great sexual hungers. They believed porn stars represented the common American woman who was constantly in the state of sexual readiness, and would do exotic things Mexican women would never even imagine. That they only needed to find the right way to trigger a gringa's frenzy.

I picked up a seashell and drew a heart in the sand. Martha and Julio, I wrote. I felt like a caricature of a teenager, like a bikini girl in a Frankie Avalon movie. I didn't care. Julio drew an arrow through the heart. We walked until a big outcropping of rock stopped us, then we turned back.

Kiss, I wrote in the sand, even though I knew the word in Spanish. BESAR, Julio carved with a sea shell. And he kissed me, sandy fingers at the back of my neck. I tugged his T-shirt out of his pants and urgently ran my hands up his smooth chest. What would he do if I wrestled him to the sand and took his clothes off with my teeth? Would I only prove I was the sexually abandoned creature Pepe suspected? Was I not supposed to be, even with my boyfriend? Wasn't two months a long time to go without having sex? I hadn't dated like this since I was 16. I didn't know the rules anymore.

Love, I wrote, and shivered. Was I being too bold? AMAR, QUERER, he scratched high up in the packed wet sand. I knew all about sex but not about love.

Ten years earlier I thought I had loved a fellow reporter. Big personality, a funny guy, always on stage. I got tired of being his audience. Since then, I'd had a series of month-long relationships based on desire, often with young guys so I could be in control. But I wasn't anymore. Without sex, I wasn't controlling anything. Julio had said, come, and I had followed. All the way to Mazatlan. For what reason other than I was falling in love? With Julio, I didn't feel like the teacher at all.

As we approached the motel, I spied the teachers in lounge chairs on the far side of the pool. Julio dropped my hand. The teachers tipped sloshing plastic cups at us, then stared with raised eyebrows. Appearing together from a late-night walk on the beach was cause for gossip. Pepe looked at me knowingly, as if we had already been together. I threw him a contemptuous look. Julio walked stiffly. I remembered the anguish of teenage insecurity. I grabbed Julio's hand and with pounding heart, held on as we walked past the pool.

The next day I woke early, extracted myself from the sprawl of teenage girl bodies and stepped over empty beer bottles to pull on my Levis and white shirt. On the street, the sun warmed the pavement. I walked until I found a hotel with fresh flowers in the lobby. I sat in the empty dining room and ordered hot coffee and eggs with frijoles, relieved to be free from high school drama. This was the person I was supposed to be -- an adult with a newspaper and a meal I could pay for.

Walking back, I found the boys at a food cart on the street, piling catsup and chopped onion, tomato and jalapenos onto hot dogs. The cart's hand-painted sign advertised Hoot Doogs. I giggled and pointed it out to Julio.

"That's not a joke, either," he said sternly, then smiled at the mistake too when the hot dog man reached down into a steaming cabinet.

"Otra," Mono said and pointed to me. The seqor handed me a weiner. I ate it slowly and entirely, not wanting to reveal I had bought myself a meal, that I had money in my pocket because I had a job, that I could set myself apart from them when I chose.

On this, our final day, we were bussed to a remote beach. My spirits were high. I had discovered a washing machine, put on my best smile for the desk clerk and been granted permission to use it. My jeans were fresh; my shirt, white again.

It was too cool to swim so we kicked a soccer ball around on the beach. The seafood feast I'd dreamed of was being prepared on grills made of halved oil drums. Butterflied shrimp sizzled, and rice and fresh peas steamed in a huge iron pot. Sand crabs scuttled at the water's edge.

By late afternoon I was hungry again. We ate perfectly grilled shrimp and gulped down iced Coca-Colas. The hours ticked away. Soon we would be going home.

At night, we walked several blocks to a disco. Forty-five of us -- teens and teachers -- filled the cocktail tables and dance floor. My roommates wore shiny dresses and elaborate hairdos. They walked erect, balancing self-consciously under their coiled hair. We danced against the backdrop of a giant screen that showed us dancing. There I was, in the same pair of jeans I'd worn for five days, dancing with Julio. I watched us, to see if we looked terribly absurd. Not noticeably. I stood out because I wasn't dressed for a cotillion.

When my mother told me to find a man like my father, I know she didn't have a Mexican teenager who hadn't finished high school in mind. "Your father is a good man," my mother reminded me often. So good that when someone offered him money to have his college team shave points, he spent the night vomiting. So good that he coaxed me down a grassy hill on my bicycle again and again when I was 6 until I learned to keep the two-wheeler upright. So good that he took my brothers into the locker room after each of his games while my mother, my sister and I waited outside. During my entire childhood, I watched the man I hero-worshipped disappear behind a door that kept me out. Most of his time was spent as the central figure in a great male culture that would never include me, or become decipherable to me. Love became associated with intense, unrequited longing. Men were unattainable figures. I never expected men to love me back, so that when one did, without any effort on my part, it felt suspicious. It also felt like being reborn.

"Do you want to sit down and have a Coke?" Julio asked. In Philly, my date, or casual friend -- it was never defined -- would have disappeared to do a shot with friends and left me at a table, left me on the sidelines. Julio kept his hand on my back until we reached our table, then pulled my chair out. Every thoughtful thing he did almost made me apologetic, as if now it was my turn, and I should be pulling his chair out for him. I watched Mexican women accepting attention from men regally, as if their birthright. I wanted to learn it. But there was a confounding set of rules governing Mexican male and female behavior: You can touch my hand if you carry my books. You can take me to the outdoor market if you buy me an ice cream. You can, maybe someday, maybe, not a promise, maybe touch me underneath my blouse.

Mexican women were taught to withhold, withhold, withhold. From a distance, the rewards looked lucrative. Men hovered around in agitated states, eager to please with gifts and flowery attentions. I found it all exhausting. What I wanted was the profound comfort I felt next to Julio. I wanted to preserve it so badly I decided I was glad I had come to Mazatlan.

Word would fly around now that Julio and I were together. Cecilia, a pouty-lipped girl in one of my morning classes, had breezed by, whispering into my ear, "I'm going to dance with Alberto. He's hot." Cecilia was indeed dancing with Alberto, the physics teacher, swaying her large hips and looking at him with hooded eyes while Alberto held her by the waist. Students were after teachers. Teachers were after students. There was the veneer of proper behavior among teens, like America in the '50s. Then there were human passions very near the proper surface. Garcia and the English teacher were inseparable. The news might reach the administration. Perhaps I should have been worried, but for the moment, I did not care.

By Susan McKinney de Ortega

Susan McKinney de Ortega has been a high school English teacher, publicity writer, life-drawing model, bookseller, travel guide writer, massage therapist and television news reporter. She has published short stories in the San Miguel Writer and is at work on a novel. She and her Mexican husband have two young bilingual daughters.

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