In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Ana Files
  • Bonnie Ilza Cisneros (bio)

You can’t spell Nirvana without A-n-a. Over a decade has unfolded like notes we passed between classes, schoolgirl origami with pull here tabs and song lyrics written in the margins: When I was an alien / Cultures weren’t opinions.

No matter how many theories, how many clues, I might never solve the mystery of Ana’s final disappearing act. Did she make a home for her blue moon baby, Luna Azul? Or are they maybe on the lam with Luna’s dad? Did she go back to Mexico, unidentified?

What I didn’t realize then is that all along I’d been collecting clues for the time she’d disappear like she always dreamed. I keep her letters, arrange them chronologically, analyze their postmarks like signposts marking eras, phases, chapters on our parallel-universe timelines.

The last letters are postmarked New Orleans, and Ana was on the run. Again. She had hightailed it out of state, after the drawn-out conclusion of an affair with a married co-worker, who, despite their [End Page 99] otherworldly love, could not leave his spouse for her. Not for the last time, I’d be left pondering the consequences of the love that remains after the leaving.

Back then I was just irritated that she was moving during the last semester of my teaching program. And maybe she felt guilty for letting her emotions make her do something. We were—she was—so young. She met Nick on a dance floor, in a bar off of Bourbon Street. She wrote me, told me she was so drunk he had to carry her out of the bar. Nick took care of her, she wrote, and dude, he was hot, and why not?

Let me remind myself, we were twenty-two. And for the previous ten years, we had read a lot of books between us, and we had watched never-ending hours of movies, and had listened to so much music. And it just so happened that she needed me less than I needed her.

Twenty-five years later, the songs we shared have the power to launch me heartfirst way back into my teenage Tejana grunge drama. Music and memory are best friends forever, and “About a Girl,” in particular, from Nirvana’s Unplugged session, is a beam of starlight that has traveled all the way to now, the place Ana and I fantasized about.

But let us traipse back to 1994. Let’s say it’s early in the morning in San Antonio, Texas, on the northwest side, if that means anything to you, at Round Tree Apartments, in apartment #2-D to be exact. The squared-off space on the second floor, a place where Mom, my hermanita, Becca, sometimes Ana, and I lived from 1987 to 1999. Let me do the math. That’s twelve years.

2-D, where we mirror each other, refract light that bounces back until the recent past becomes ancient history. Ana, born in the Mexican desert and brought to Texas as a child, and me, born in the Texas borderlands, so therefore a citizen, yet both of us missing the same Mexico, both of us escaping the same Mexico… [End Page 100]

…Ana and I ran parallel until we didn’t, until we grew up and had to face the reality of our origins, my privilege and her lack, most apparent in the way the school system determined our educations based on a hierarchy of native speakers over English-language learners. Still, public schools, with all the rambling silence and types of violence, are where we found each other.

Everybody has mementos, these scraps of the past. Some people toss them on purpose, in fits of spring cleaning; or they lose them accidently, maybe turn the house upside down in search of something that time has erased. Some, like me, save them for later. Dig them out every once in a while, or just feel secure knowing what’s there: proof of love, her fingerprints and pencil marks.

But how long until I stop writing about her? A decade has passed since I last spoke...