Doña Natalia knew

I don't know how she knew. She just did.

She smelled of wood smoke from the small fire that always licked the comal and had a bent posture as if she had been stooping over it for centuries. An earthenware pot of frijoles always simmered on the corner, leaving room for the tortillas she made by hand each day.

I had never seen her cry before.

She hugged each one of us in turn as we awkwardly said good-bye and the tears flowed. There were no great wracking sobs, no sound other than our quiet good-byes. Soon it wasn't just Natalia's tears that flowed. I kept telling her we wouldn't be gone long. Just a quick trip to the border to renew the travel visas and then right back to Ziracua. "No", she said, "I will be dead long before you return here". The words were spoken in a matter of fact tone, the way one might say, "Once the sun goes down, it will begin to get dark".

We really did plan on coming back, too.

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