I walk into the market with my mind barred and alert, trying to avoid sensory overload. People trickle like a river and we seem to be walking into them like salmon. I hold my camera, itching for a moment to use it.
“That sign says to watch your belongings,” Josiah says. Now I am gripping my camera less for use, more for security.
I try to appear tough. I am five foot tall. I am huggable, as my tall friends say. I have never had resting bitch face, despite various attempts. I have the same cheeks I had when I was five. I try to appear tough.
Chantal leads us between two ordinary stalls and suddenly we are inside.
“Now I will show you the real market. This is Guatemalan.”
The abrupt darkness and smaller space that comes with a ceiling should make me feel claustrophobic. It doesn’t. Chantal takes her scarf off and tosses it over my camera.
“You should hide that until you need to use it.” I suspect that I am no less obvious, but remain alert anyway.
We pass a tiny store for icees. The shops seem random to me, but Chantal tells us that this is the “clothes area; up ahead is the food.”
I see school backpacks, a wall of shoes, a mannequin in jeans and a bra. Further, stalls teem with mountains of fruit. Bags of grains and spices line tables that double as stores. Slabs of beef hang from hooks above tiled counters.
Petra and I stop to take photos. To stop is to become a stone in the stream; the river continues around us. I worry about my backpack, and swivel my head owlishly. I know that I stick out like a sore thumb, and more so for my rubbernecking. A woman walks past me with a grocery bag, and something on her face tells me that I am an obstruction, not a target. I live in a tourist town; I know what it is to try to go about one’s daily life with gawkers thrown in the mix.
“Disculpe,” I say quietly as she passes, and she has not heard. I screw my head into a fixed position, take my photo, and move on.