La Luz Del Dia makes about four thousand seven hundred and forty tamales at Christmas time. Squat at the end of Olvera, the oldest street in L.A., they were still selling them at eleven-thirty when Rhea walked past. The mist had turned to light rain and the smell of carnitas, masa and chilis – for a second – distracted her from her pain. She was hungry. And the thought of a two buck tamale with green salsa was as soothing as re-written history.
Before Rhea could reach La Luz’s door, she was pushed back by a small procession following three priests swinging orbs of frankincense as they led a Christmas posada up the worn brick road. Rhea stayed where she was; she did not join in. Her eyes searched the procession of Angelenos for her sister, hoping she would be there. But she wasn’t. Rhea tagged on to the end of the procession as it made it’s way to a courtyard where a life-sized Nativity was built on the elevated floor of a gazebo. The holy family had found it’s home. After carolers sang of newborn kings and silent nights, there was hot champurrado and Pan Dulce for all. Rhea asked for an extra piece of the sweet bread “For my sister.”
She ate her piece, drank her champurrado and tucked Aggie’s piece into her pocket. Two hours later, the courtyard was empty. Rhea sat on a cement bench and tried to pray for her own Christmas miracle. For sixteen years, her Christmases had been good: Faith. Light. Family. Food. But there was a silence in this night and it wasn’t holy. She climbed into the nativity and tucked into the straw in the manger. She held tight to the ceramic baby Jesus. But it was cold and comforted her not one bit.