She had been sitting inside a grounded plane for three hours. There was fog over LAX so they had been forced to land in Ontario. Ontario, California is an actual place, she quickly learned but had a hard time believing.
They were waiting for the fog to lift so they could take them back to Los Angeles because there was no immigration personnel on site in Ontario and so an international flight should never actually land there, let alone let people off.
This apparently black and white argument flew for about an hour and a half, at which point everyone holding a blue American passport began to shout civil rights at the flight attendants and was eventually let off the damn thing.
So she was left with a couple of other Mexicans, about twenty five Irish frat boys who had been winter breaking it in Puerto Vallarta and a Japanese family who looked ready to burst into tears from confusion alone. She tried to read but they shut down the lights to make everything seem less horrible. The Irish boys attempted a whispered version of 101 bottles of beer on the wall (apparently they thought it was sacrilege to begin the count below 100), but they had barely reached 98 when they were viciously persuaded to stop.
It felt like a decade later that she was in LA showing her visa to the sweetest immigration officer she would ever encounter.
-Where are you going? – she asked her.
-Home. I go to school here.
-And how long where you in Mexico?
-Two weeks. I went home for the holidays.
The officer stared at her. Yeah, she had said it and it sounded just as weird to her, so she really hoped she wouldn’t be asked to expand on it.
Her DS form had the wrong date on it because she had diligently filled it out the second she boarded in Mexico city and now her travelling time had amassed so many hours that it had reached the next day. She looked at it and began to resign herself to the fact that she was gonna have to go fill a new effing form and go back to the end of the line. But the sweetest immigration officer she would ever encounter took one look at her disheveled face, corrected the date with a fantastically heavy marker and waved her by without scanning her fingerprints. So much for homeland security, god bless her.
An hour later her bag came and she was boarding a cab outside LAX. It seemed impossible to her to remember that she had begun that same day having breakfast in her house with her parents and brother; a little later, lunch with her sister’s blissfully curly hair.
It had become too late to do anything: unpack, write, think. Ralph's would be closed by now. She had been craving something sweet since forever, something like watermelon or someone else’s mouth. But now it was too late and she was going to go to bed with nothing but stale airplane air hovering around her tongue.
She was heading downtown, driven by an African cab driver who had the whitest teeth in La La land (which really is something to have). He spoke two or three undecipherable sentences into his cell phone and then turned to her.
-How are you doing tonight?
-Great – she answered. Because she really was too exhausted to tell the truth.
-Where are you from?
He took a while to process this incredibly common fact, then went right on.
-Where in Mexico?
-Uh-huh, big city – he said. And he used that tone people use to comment on things they will never have the urge to experience.
- Biggest city in the world – she answered.
The words hung in the air for a long while. And for some reason (she couldn't find one) they made her cry.