A Storyby Kirstin Valdez Quade
O. Henry Prize Stories, 2014
There is a picture of me standing with my cousin Nemecia in the bean field. On the back is penciled in my mother’s hand, Nemecia and Maria, Tajique, 1929. Nemecia is thirteen; I am six. She is wearing a rayon dress that falls to her knees, glass beads, and real silk stockings, gifts from her mother in California. She wears a close-fitting hat, like a helmet, and her smiling lips are pursed. She holds tight to my hand. Even in my white dress I look like a boy; my hair, which I have cut myself, is short and jagged. Nemecia’s head is tilted; she looks out from under her eyelashes at the camera. My expression is sullen, guilty. I don’t remember the occasion for the photograph, or why we were dressed up in the middle of the dusty field. All I remember of the day is that Nemecia’s shoes had heels, and she had to walk tipped forward on her toes to prevent them from sinking into the dirt.