Mary Beth Meehan

Delmi – Providence, RI

Delmi – Providence, RI

When Delmi’s husband moved out, she had to find a way to support herself. They had both come from El Salvador and married here, in Providence. Al principio era bonito, “At the beginning it was nice,” she says. But then he got involved with drugs, started treating her badly. In 2012, he left.

At the time, she’d been dabbling in making pupusas – thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese or meat – and selling them. She thought about all the Spanish-speaking men who worked around the West Side, where she lived. She figured some were single, and wouldn’t make themselves a proper breakfast.

Now she gets up at 3 o’clock in the morning. She turns on her kitchen light and puts on her apron – pink, trimmed with lace, which she brought from El Salvador. She boils oatmeal – mosh, she calls it – prepares meat and rice, eggs and beans. She’s sublet her second bedroom to a woman, whom she’s since enlisted to help with the work.

When the cooking is done, Delmi’s housemate joins her, and the two women portion the food into containers. They pour the mosh into large Styrofoam cups and spoon the rest into small boxes. They pack everything into insulated chests. By 6 a.m. they’ve filled the back seat of the car and are rolling. In the early darkness they drive to an auto shop, a factory, a car wash. Delmi hops out of the car and the men approach, telling her what they’d like. Delmi waits for them to finish their meals before she collects her money. The sun starts to rise.

If you’re lucky, you’ll see her sometime, darting in and out of her car, the pink ribbons on her apron fluttering in the brightening light.