Friday, May 22, 2009

Vingette #1

The metro has come to another jolting halt (must be his first day on the job). We’re between stations. This is línea 3, the pea soup green line, the line with the dirtiest maps, the icon of Zapata with his bullets, Pancho Villa on a horse who I didn’t recognize until I came back here to live. The train car is an underground tropic. For two minutes each passenger continues to shuffle about their small area, carrying on the sway of a travelling car. Then, collectively, we exhale, comprehending that the train is stopped in a tunnel and pushing up the temperature a full degree.

Vingette #2

Don Manuel waves and nods, putting out his large hand. He and the family are filling in potholes. All from Michoacán and possibly not related by blood, he helped many of them come here. I don’t know what he does, except that he has managed to fincar an extra three or four floors of concrete and gray brick on top of his house. He rented me a space on a handshake, the people who sold flavored aguas at the market sent me. He likes me. He probably likes having a foreinger around and acting like it’s no big deal, and he’s said more than once he loves having only one person living in a space. I hear him all day upstairs, singing rancheras. I think the woman with the baby must be his wife and not his daughter. The other tenants would give me looks if I had a girl stay overnight.

Vingette #3

Searching the tianguis for vhs cassettes; my mac can’t play pirate vcd’s. On blankets, thrift store junk next to parts a plumber would recognize. A wall of shirts fitted to half-mannequins with no backs. Te doy precio, amigo. Everyone will give me a price. Walk into the tunnel. Under the yellow tarps the price is high. Smells like leather. Good punk jewelry. Good pirate music. Mexicans love their kraut-rock. The pulque man trudges through and on wheels he pulls a large, military-style gas can filled with the fermented milk of the agave. I get two liters and he invites me down to the farm. I didn’t really listen when he warned me about shaking it up; when I got it home and opened it a liter and a half shot up so high it soaked the cieling.

Vingette #4

Jumping from one lippy crevice to another, pox-marked volcanic rock so mossy and dirt-cured as to oscure its age.

Vingette #5

Avenue Nezahualcóyotl is technically an east-bound extension of Escuinapa, which is the sun-blasted gauntlet I run in a combi on my way to points north and west. Heading east I get to move farther and farther away from where the microbuses drop me off, crossing longitudenal streets named after indian tribes I’ve not yet learned to pronounce, and unique landmarks on foot, and pleasant internet cafés with fresh white paint. Avenue Nezahualcóyotl is lively at night. The pharmacies glow golden green, and corner stores hang chorizo from the rafters next to fruit baskets. All the way down the hill I choose the most agreeable stetches of sidewalk and wonder about the esoteric routes of passing combis. At the bottom of the hill is a little park that cuts off traffic, and the store where my friend gets drumstick ice cream cones. He rents a spot in a house in a garden, where we can see trees in the windows.

Vingette #6

Waking up at Jeremy’s place, I throw the window wide open and breathe. Marco and Martha laugh, and they haven’t even seen where I live. The kitchen is so small I’m shoved up against the green air as everyone mills about before going to work. If I leave now I’ll still be late, and that’s without putting on a fresh tie. I’m welcome to roll a joint so I let go, leaning back on the window frame, half-seated on the sill, over-laundered blue shirt open two button with wrinkled slacks.

Unlikely Event in a City of Thirty Million

Traffic pounded the intersections on either side of Rosales continuously. What was left of an old viceroyal manor stood above an exit from metro Hidalgo where street urchins huffed glue. The large vintage shutters of the new apartment did little to muffle the noise, even throughout the night as I was soon to learn. It would be necessary to visit; I was glad not to be living there. Without joy the ancient moldings and fixtures were a nuisance; the quarters were enclosed by nothing but an old door. Everything was old, and used, except for a cellphone on a bedside table. I liked the blue screen, but it seemed like such an odd thing to have in that place.
Mayday was Moving Day. Everyone was amicable. I even felt comfortable enough for new words in Spanish I hadn’t known before to come out. Still, the festive prospect of lunch or some snacks made me realize I would rather it just be Monday already. I walked over to Oxxo for some coffees and Bimbo snacks but didn’t know how to use the Nescafé machine. The lady behind the counter had the cups, and once I went up to pay for everything she felt free to be less than courteous about charging me for the one that had gone down the drain. What I didn’t yet realize was that the proprietors of Mexican stores tolerated no shrinkage and the cashier would be charged for all three coffees, because I was offended, and had just said she could keep them.
I crossed the street indignantly under the bright sun, thinking about how they had to intensely advertise Nescafé because it was shit and at the same time there was a scream. The stout woman on thick legs in her red and yellow Oxxo shirt stomped into the street in plastic sandals and wrapped her arms around me, demanding I come back and pay. I was too astounded to be moved. Breaking free I continued to the other side and her partner followed, keeping a two-meter distance and cursing me from his vantage point as the cashier grabbed me again, unthinkingly determined to drag me back to the register. I pled no case, I returned no curse, nor did I manage to scare them away with my eyes. Their hate circulated through me like heat and I expelled it back at them in silent shock. No one up in the apartment could see me from where they were and I wouldn’t have liked them to. Even the urgency of the moment was being imposed on me by a cowardly man I would have enjoyed hitting and a desperate woman who was probably stronger than me but too short to tip me over. All the way on the opposite sidewalk she clutched and grabbed at my body and a stubborn rage finally began to manifest. For the police to become involved was going to cost me. A stranger walking by joined the cashier’s partner, calling me white man, and a little taxi pulled right up to us at a high speed.
From the green and gray vocho emerged Sophia. She was my coworker at the English school and I had never seen her on a Sunday before. We’d been to breakfast more than once and I had impressed her by freely deducing what eight out of ten emotional intelligences must have been. As though she had foreseen everything, Sophia walked up and spoke with the confidence of a kindergarten teacher. The Oxxo woman let me go and the onlookers left. Sophia lay a hand on my arm and asked me to wait right there. I stood and tried breathing steadily as so much blood pumped through my head that she was walking back across the street toward me before I realized she had paid for the coffees. First making sure I was well, she allowed herself to laugh, but had to move on because she was late for an appointment at the nearby yoga studio where she was a student and a teacher.