A moving bus. MARINA, a 17 year old girl with two endlessly long dutch braids and ribbons sits next to her best friend JOANNA whose hair has an entire bottle’s worth of gel on her head to form the most perfect bun also decorated with colorful ribbons. They each have a Jansport backpack under the seat with their long and beautifully over the top colorful skirts and ruffled tops overflowing in the seats. The Folklorico outfits are so detailed, it’s clear they are straight from the motherland herself, Mexico.

MARINA

If we’re late, I’m blaming you.

JOANNA

Honestly, that’s fine. Your mom never gets mad at me.

MARINA

Just you wait. You’re this close to becoming family and then it’s all over.

JOANNA

I’ll take it though. Better than having a mom who doesn’t give a shit.

MARINA

Hey, she’s trying.

JOANNA

Yeah, right.

MARINA waits a moment in case JOANNA continues the subject. She doesn’t.

MARINA

Are you nervous for your solo today?

JOANNA

I’m never nervous for nothing.

MARINA

Yeah right.

JOANNA

No in all seriousness….just a little bit. But a solo feels like nothing compared to where you’re at.

MARINA

I’m only here because my mom forced me to. She is the captain.

JOANNA

“I am the captain now.”

MARINA

Shut up. Honestly, maybe you could be. I sure don’t want to. So you should do it for me?

JOANNA

Your mom would kill you.

MARINA

Maybe I would rather be dead then, sis. Ever think about that? Betcha didn’t.

JOANNA

I don’t understand how you could hate this so much. I love it more than myself and you
have a whole army of people rooting for you.

MARINA

Shut up. I’m a walking cliche. Hate the dance because my mom was the star dancer
type of movie. Maybe I stand up to her and she still accepts me in the end or maybe for
once the protagonist is brown and her Mexican chancla beats my ass and tells me to
stop being a little bitch.

JOANNA

Damn, if that ain’t the truth.

MARINA

I don’t know. I’m just over it. It was cute when I was a kid, but ya no me gusta you know?

JOANNA

What would you wanna do instead? Do you still want to dance?

MARINA

I just don’t like people watching me. Analyzing every move I make. It’s weird.

JOANNA

You’re acting like they all know the intricacies of what this dance is all about. They’re
just there to live in the culture. It’s not that deep, sis.

MARINA

Whatever.

JOANNA

So what would you wanna do instead? Isn’t this all you really know?

MARINA

Yup. I want nothing more than to just run away from it. Maybe I’ll just find something
along the way.

JOANNA

That’s stupid. You need to have some sort of plan.

MARINA

My mom made this plan for me at 5 years old. I want to live without one for once.

JOANNA

¿Que dramatica, no?

MARINA

You’ve known me for how long now? 7 years? You should know I’m dramatic as fuck by now.

JOANNA

Doesn’t mean I’m gunna stop calling you out.

MARINA

Fair. Ugh I just think it’s stupid. I want to just like be normal.

JOANN

What are you talking about? What’s not normal?

MARINA

This whole thing! It’s just so extra.

JOANNA

You think being involved in your culture is extra? That’s a little twisted.

MARINA

You wouldn’t get it.

JOANNA

Why? Because as far as I know, we’ve been on the same path for what did you say? 7 years?

MARINA

I think once you’re detached from it, you start to see that not everyone can be a part of
this. You can’t explain it to some random person on the bus. They’d just be like okay?

JOANNA

And? It’s ours anyway. It’s not about them.

MARINA

It’s always about them, Joanna. Don’t be stupid

JOANNA

I think we’re beautiful.

MARINA

Yeah, well you’re naive as fuck.

JOANNA

So be it.

The bus makes a stop in Chinatown. Two people gather their belongings and get off. JOANNA silently practices the footing for her solo.

MARINA

Do you wanna use my AirPods?

JOANNA

Nah, we’re getting off soon anyway. I think we’ll make it on time.

MARINA puts on her AirPods. She takes a deep breath and looks over at JOANNA who has her eyes closed while counting her steps. She presses play on her phone and closes her eyes. The song “La Mariquita” fades in as JOANNA taps her way into the aisle of the bus. She swings her skirt and squares her shoulders perfectly as her face goes from focused to absolute joy. She dances up and down the bus occasionally mouthing lyrics or counting her steps. She slowly makes her way back to her seat and breathes heavily as she sits with pride for finally getting it right. She takes a moment before she realizes they are no longer on route for Olvera St. She aggressively taps MARINA.

JOANNA

Are we on a fucking detour?

MARINA

What?

JOANNA

Move!

She runs to the front of the bus and approaches the driver.

¿Ya pasamos La Placita?

The driver points at a sign next to the pay machine. It reads. “DETOUR TODAY: Following the Chinatown stop, this bus will be on the same route as BUS 486. A shuttle will be made available at Union Station at the end of the detour.” JOANNA runs back to MARINA.

Did you see the sign up front??!

MARINA

What sign?

JOANNA

Marina, I’m not joking. Did you see the sign?

MARINA

No.

JOANNA

You’re lying.

MARINA

No, I’m not.

JOANNA

You’re the one who said we were going to be late.

MARINA

I said “if” .

JOANNA

You brought it to existence!

MARINA

Okay?

JOANNA

Marina. You fucking knew. Stop playing.

MARINA

And if I did?

JOANNA

Then fuck you.

MARINA

Whoa.

JOANNA

No, Marina. You knew how much this meant to me.

MARINA

I mean you could’ve seen the sign too. It’s right there.

JOANNA

Well, I didn’t.

MARINA

So that’s my fault?

JOANNA

I understand that you could give two shits about this, but why would you bring me down
with you? That’s fucked up and you know it. You CHOSE to be a bad friend right now.

MARINA

Well, if you weren’t here I would’ve done the same thing. You just happened to be here.

JOANNA

So then why wouldn’t you like, I don’t know, adjust accordingly???

MARINA

Because I don’t want to be there.

JOANNA

But I do!! What are you not understanding?

Beat.

You selfish bitch.

They sit in silence as the bus comes to a screeching stop and “Jalisco Guadalajara” begins to play. Lights fade on the surrounding passengers as the music gets louder. JOANNA stands and aggressively dances in front of MARINA who stares at her annoyed. MARINA mocks her dance moves as JOANNA continues to dance seriously. They go back and forth a few times as MARINA continues to lazily respond. After a moment, she begins to dance with her, perfectly in sync as they swing their skirts at each other. MARINA smiles at her menacingly and JOANNA focuses intensely on keeping up. MARINA’s footwork gets faster and detailed as JOANNA starts to slip up. MARINA forces her to sit down and watch her. JOANNA watches her every move. When she’s finished, she confidently sits next to her without looking at her. JOANNA is defeated. The bus continues and the passengers “unfreeze”. MARINA is hesitant to speak but she finally does continuing to not look over at JOANNA.

MARINA

Just because I’m good at it, doesn’t mean I love it. I know how much you love this shit. If
I could give you my feet and my ears, I would. I feel like they chose the wrong soul.

JOANNA

Whatever, Marina. I don’t give a fuck about your philosophical bullshit right now.

MARINA

I think I’ll tell my mom that you can have my part. You practiced it with me anyway. I
know you can do it.

JOANNA

No, I can’t. I’d make a fool of myself. Ya cállate, por favor.

MARINA

We can say it’s my fault we’re late.

JOANNA

It is your fault.

MARINA

I don’t know what you want from me.

JOANNA

Que te calles.

MARINA

I don’t want to shut up.

JOANNA

That’s too bad because I don’t want to hear you.

MARINA

No, that’s too bad because you’re going to.

JOANNA

I love being respected.

MARINA rolls her eyes.

MARINA

I’m trying here.

JOANNA

Don’t.

Long beat.

You wanna know what your problem is? You’ve been given this gift that lets you take up
so much space in a culture that has been surrounding you your whole life while I have
to beg my mom to let me come to practice just so I can be around brown people for a
day. You sit here in complete embarrassment to be seen in such beautiful colors while
this is my favorite day of the week because I finally get to wear them. Just because
you’re tired of being Mexican doesn’t mean you have to force me to be too. The part
that I love the most is that no matter what you do with your life, you will always be “and
Mexican”. Grow the fuck up and stop letting white people make you feel less than.
Maybe then we could be real friends.

MARINA

I thought we were real friends.

JOANNA

Yeah, I thought so too. You said it yourself. I’m naive as fuck.

MARINA

I never said I was tired of being Mexican.

JOANNA

You didn’t have to.

They reach Union Station and get off to wait for the shuttle.

MARINA

I think I’m just scared.

JOANNA

Of what?

MARINA

I’m scared that I’ll never be able to do anything more than this. That I’ll never be able to do something real.

JOANNA

This is something real.

MARINA

You know what I mean.

JOANNA

Yeah, I do. You think that you could never compare to a white person in a white person
job. Which really has nothing to do with dancing. No one said you had to do this professionally.

MARINA

I think I just want to prove that I could also get the highest score on a math test if I wanted to.

JOANNA

And you can. And you can still dance here if you want to at the same time. And you could still be Mexican while you do it.

MARINA

I don’t think I’ll be taken seriously if I do that though.

JOANNA

Well, there’s nothing you can do about it, sis. Next time try being born into a boring culture less white family and see how it goes.

MARINA

In another life I guess.

JOANNA

You’re gross.

MARINA

I’m having an identity crisis. That doesn’t make me gross, you bitch.

They laugh.

JOANNA

Dramatica.

MARINA

Para siempre.

They point at each other quickly as they reference the song “Para Siempre” by Vicente Fernandez.

MARINA and JOANNA

“Paaarraaa Siieemmpreee”

JOANNA

See? If you were white, you wouldn’t get that.

MARINA

How sad.

JOANNA

Bitch that’s what I’ve been saying!

MARINA

Oh really? I didn’t get that.

JOANNA

You suck.

MARINA

I know. I’m sorry.

JOANNA

There it is mi gente! Let me hear it one more time. Tell me more.

MARINA

¡Lo siento!

JOANNA

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

MARINA

No, really. I’ve been acting so shitty and I’m a terrible friend.

JOANNA

Yes, tis true. But honestly being brown comes with its sexy perks and piel canela while
also holding in this curiosity for listening to Spanish through ears that don’t understand
it. What it would be like to look upon yourself from the eyes of someone who has no
idea what we’re dancing.

MARINA

So poetic.

JOANNA shrugs.

JOANNA

I’m just saying. I mean have you tried our food? You’re acting like you could go even a
week without these tacos. Like okay girl, have fun with your cauliflower bullshit. Catch
me at that place on the corner, Cielito Lindo, eating the good stuff. Your ass probably
wouldn’t even step foot in La Placita. You’ll be sitting there not even knowing it exists.

MARINA

Could you imagine?

JOANNA

No, sis.

MARINA

Me either.

The shuttle arrives and they hop on as a mariachi band on the bus plays “Cielito Lindo” for tips. The girls each grab $1 from their Jansport backpacks and place it in the hat that lies in the aisle. One of them tips their hat thankfully and they sit. MARINA looks at her phone and sighs in relief. She gives JOANNA a thumbs up and rests her head on her shoulder as they listen to the band play.

Photo by, Xicana Indígena Photographer, Textli Gallegos

Amber Barrios is an actor/playwright originally from Los Angeles, but now NYC based. Her focus is on plays that center the Latine experience whether that be through writing it herself or bringing her own take on characters already written.

More of Amber’s Plays in Mixed Mag:

AMARILLO (A Short Play) (Issue 5)

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