souljourn“Okay, folks. Yeah, it’s me. Joshua T. Stoneburner.” They gathered around me but kept a respectful distance. Is this what it is like to be worshipped, I wondered? If so, I didn’t like it.

“Yeah, it is true what Magdalena says. About a year ago I was looking at a cholla cactus up the mountain behind you. In it I saw a woman who looked a lot like La Virgen de Guadalupe. I also saw an old man whose name was Lorenzo, who told me to follow her. Later I was in Tucson and I was looking at a statue of La Virgen and she came alive and talked to me, too. So I don’t think La Virgen is just up there on this mountain. I think she is everywhere. You could see her for yourself in your own house, if you want to see her. Or at the grocery store. It doesn’t matter where. Save yourselves the trip out here to Portales—it isn’t worth it to burn up all that gas. Or risk one of those speeding tickets they give you out on the rez even if you aren’t speeding at all.

“Do you know how many chollas there are out here in southern Arizona?” I continued. “Just go look at the one in the nearest vacant lot and you’re as likely to see La Virgen in it as you are to see it in one here.  And about me. Here’s the deal. I’m just a stupid teenager. I don’t know anything more about God than you do. Honest. If I had any kind of special thing going with God, I wouldn’t be nearly as confused as I am about almost everything.”

“Beautiful,”said Magdalena to the crowd. “The Holy Mother shows herself to an ordinary teenager.”

“La Virgen de San Lorenzo,” muttered a dentally challenged old man, waving his arms skyward in supplication.

“Take us to the cactus where you saw the Holy Mother,” yelled one of the people. “Please,” called out another.

Humility is a sure sign of deep spirituality, and I just had hyped my humbleness. So that tactic didn’t work.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s go up the mountain.”

It took a while to get them up the hill, since some of them were leaning on canes for the whole hike. But finally, we got to the cholla. My slingshot was still there.

As I talked to the crowd I put no energy into my story at all. I told it with a sense of clinical distance. I hoped they’d pick up on that and leave me alone. It seemed to be working until I showed them the rose quartz crystal I had found in front of the cactus. At that moment, a young Hispanic woman rushed up to me and showed me a rose quartz crystal that looked just like the one in my hand.

Every hair follicle on my body stood straight up at attention. Even my unibrow must have been sticking straight out of my face. We didn’t say a word. We put our crystals together and found that they fit. They were two parts of one mass.

The woman’s name was Rosa María Beltrán Contreras. With Magdalena translating, Rosa and I sorted out what happened to the crystal. It had been a gift to her from her boyfriend, Ángel Luis Escamilla Hernandez. Before he crossed the border as a mojado, she gave back half of the crystal to him as a keepsake and reminder that the two of them were halves of one whole. He had lost his half of the crystal when he was caught by la migra, apparently right in front of the cholla where I had the vision. He was deported back to Mexico, and last she heard from him, he was making another attempt to cross the border.

“Where is Ángel now?” I asked.

“No sé,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears.


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