San Antonio turns out to be warmer than I expected, even though I previewed the weather on the internet and intentionally ditched my winter coat in my trunk at the park n ride by the airport. I can see The Alamo from my hotel room, one block away. It appears through the veils of trees, the golden stone popping out amidst the green, and looks like a small, squat block in the midst of skyscrapers.
I'm here for a conference, and during my lunch hour, I stealthy sneak out and stroll over to my destination. I pass a cantina, the same one I hear music drifting from until the wee hours of the morning, situated in a small, recessed valley with intentional waterfalls, the water glowing a soothing, Caribbean blue. Now, it is quiet, and the only noise escaping is the water loudly hushing me as it falls upon itself.
I approach the road leading to the Alamo, a wide stretch of cobblestone, where a horse pulls a cinderella buggy festooned with lights for when the sun drops and couples want to pretend they are living the unattainable fairy tale. After I cross the street, I explore a statue to my left, large and imposing, made from granite or marble, etched with words babbling something about fire, heroes, and the state.
The main building of the Alamo proves itself as small as I imagined from the floor to ceiling view in my hotel, the rough exterior cobbled from cut rocks, with carvings and ornate detail surrounding the arched, double wood doors that feel out of place next to its ruggedness. It looks like a short, fat man against the grey sky, whipping his Texan flag around with fervor to distract from the imposition he's missing.
To my surprise, the main attraction is merely one part of a compound, and I venture into a miniature plaza hidden by a rock wall with a huge, gorgeous tree sitting in the middle of the stone walkways, its branches reaching out in all directions, the arms thick and inviting. What I wouldn't give to curl up on one of its biceps and daydream the afternoon away.
Under a portal is a long house, filled with a variety of historical objects and placards that dole out the history leading to, and describing, the battle of the Alamo. In the first room, it describes how the building was built by Native hands, ones eventually bound as prisoners as other colonists arrived and claimed what no one really owns as theirs. I lose my appetite and merely drift through the remaining spaces, watching the throngs of people, noses pressed to glass, intently absorbing narratives that were written from a centrist view that likely excludes someone’s truth. I am glad I haven't eaten.
I escape the long house, peeking in an end room partitioned by a glass wall, so you can see the makeshift hospital but cannot explore it. Closing my eyes for a few seconds, I try to imagine how many died or developed infection from the rudimentary tools and not yet known methods of medicine that might have preserved their lives. The beds are narrow, wooden frames lined with simple, white cotton sheets, and there are only two. 'How did anyone survive', I question internally.
I emerge back into the plaza, and detour through the gift shop. Instantly, I find candy cleverly fashioned after buckshot and musket balls, and grab two for my younger children. The thick crowd envelopes me as children run everywhere, screeching and playing with fake weapons and raccoon caps. I saunter to the book section, finding Davy Crockett's autobiography for my son, and an easier reader about the same for my daughter. The line to check out snakes around three sides of a square, and as I patiently wait, I watch the father in front of me as he continually removes the faux rifle his three year old keeps hitting his brother with, threatening to remove and return it, but the kids know, as I, that his promise is nothing but empty air. Finally, I reach the counter, and they try to get me to buy a tote bag, but I politely decline, paying for my gifts and escaping back to the soft heat.
I've had enough at this point: of jostling crowds, group photographs, skewed history, the boom of muskets, the screech of children that remind me of those from whom I am estranged. My boots smack the stone as I quicken my pace, clenching my bag, finally coming full circle to the front of this monument representing our thirst for conquering. I throw a glance toward my right shoulder, catching one last glimpse of the tree with its arms thrown open to the world, and I wonder how something so gorgeous can emerge from earth soaked with fear and violence. How closely it resembles this country, one arisen from feeding on the bloodshed of so many, thriving best in its own oblivion.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...