La Bella Banana
An exclusive guest essay from Albuquerque Bus Stops
Her heroes were all fabulous: Verónica Castro, Thalía, Susan Lucci, Lucy Lawless (the most bella of the bellas). She tried to follow in their footsteps, modeling and schmoozing in the world of entertainment. But it was a truncated emergence, both for her and for Albuquerque, and before long the window to stardom had shut. “Beautiful sixteen year-olds are born everyday, and how do you compete with that?” she says, at peace now with her resignation to less fab fates.
Bella had enjoyed working at the South Valley school where I first met her, but she felt she did not fit in. She and the other office staff used to sit together at lunch and chew the fat over low-grade public school pizza and something like lettuce salad, but one day, a discussion of real and dream weddings drove a wedge between them. Irene had gotten married in a Best Western hotel room. Janette’s parents forced her to marry her Juanito after she got pregnant at sixteen. Erica was at New Futures at thirteen, and being far too young to marry, simply never got around to it. Bella, on the other hand, had bigger plans:
“When I get married,” she told the girls, “I want a 64-carat Chanel diamond ring, a Vera Wang vintage wedding dress, and oh my God, the wedding has to be somewhere just perfect, like the Sistine Chapel!”
“Tu te crees mucho, eh?” (“You think you’re all that, eh?”), the humble-dream girls chided. A nasty sort of ideological abyss soon left Bella sitting alone at lunch. It pervaded more than just the feelings of the girls, for its implications weighed on the futures of the children they were there to serve.
“It’s okay if you don’t want anything special for yourself,” Bella told me. “But it’s not right to teach the kids that they shouldn’t dream big.”
Michael Jerome Wolff created albuquerquebusstops.com to get intimate with the lifeline and underbelly of the place he calls home. With critique and compassion, he explores public space and those inhabiting it through photographs and real human stories.
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