i don’t know what stops me exactly except to say that the whole forest begins to throb around me like a fresh bruise. i can’t remember how long ago at what curve or how far i have strayed from the voices of my parents my sister. i have simply hiked at my own pace. ahead of the group and taken the wrong fork. i have been thinking of names los manzanos how strange to name a whole mountain range after the mealy red fruit tree. this wild stacking up around me is nothing like the polished piles of apples at the grocery store. but now as i trace my way backward the path winds ahead of me like a diamondback rattler. the dusk settles like venom in my veins and i begin to count my footsteps. i become a black ant marching and carrying all my food back to the queen. so focused on my task am i so focused that i barely hear the voices or shrieks of rescue whistles in the shadows ahead. so focused that when i run straight into mama’s arms i cry out not because i am relieved but because i have almost been free.