The air boiled the concrete of the market. Waves of heat rose from the ground like clear snakes rising into the sky. Jasmine followed Alma through the vendors as she shopped. Alma was glad to be in the market, haggling with vendors for a pair of new shoes. Sometimes she haggled without the intention of buying, she was just glad to be out of the house and a part of the world. The heat made Jasmine’s skin feel dry, like a sack that hung from her body. Sweat trickled down the sides of her face and down the small of her back.
“It’s hot today chica. Would you like to get a watermelon?”
“Sounds good grandma,” Jasmine replied.
They went to the fruit market where stands of mangoes, papayas, bananas, watermelons, apples, and oranges were set up. Alma walked from crate to crate thumping the swollen fruit, finally choosing a small melon. She haggled with the bored vendor, counted out her change and motioned to Jasmine. “Will you carry the watermelon?” Jasmine placed her arms around the fruit and lifted it with her belly. The watermelon did not seem so small anymore. She followed her grandmother out of the stalls as they started on their way home, stopping at stands along the way to shop. Jasmine grew tired and struggled with the melon, shifting it from hip to hip, protesting with grunts to get her grandmother’s attention. They sat on a bus stop bench to rest.
“Abuela, I’m tired. Do I have to carry this watermelon all the way home?” Alma stood, frustrated with her granddaughter. She remembered a time when she worked, carrying water to the house or digging holes in the ground to prepare the earth for planting. She softened and considered Jasmine sitting on the bench with the watermelon on her lap like a boulder. Alma took the watermelon from Jasmine who sighed as the weight was lifted from her. She placed the fruit carefully on her head, watching her shadow in the dirt to center it on the top of her skull. The fruit wobbled, threatening to smash on the ground in green, red, and black chunks. She steadied it again and slowly brought her hands down. The fruit didn’t move, as if an invisible hand held it there. Jasmine looked at her grandmother in awe as she began to walk down the street. But that wasn’t enough. Alma began to rhumba down the road, through the market. People stopped haggling to gawk at her curvy brown form flashing yellow and red around her body. Vendors stared from their stalls, drivers honked their horns, keeping the beat in their wonderment. They watched her dance all around them. She danced over baskets and bolts of fabric. She danced for her children spread over the countryside. She danced for her sister who taught her how, and she danced for her ancestors. She danced because that’s what her feet knew to do, because it was in her blood to do so. She danced because every fiber of her soul moved with the music that no one heard. However, these things didn’t matter to Alma, because most of all, she danced for her granddaughter.