The common English dictionary describes the word hiatus as an interruption in time or continuity, a period when something is suspended or interrupted. So in light of this, I was in sorts on a hiatus, but as they say; sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses.
It’s hard to fathom if I truly know what it means to be a good person. I do deeds which can be considered good, but all in the fashion of that’s what a good person does, maybe then, if this is all on the intention of appearance that I am truly that of a terrible person. I can’t (because I am unsure what that could mean) agree with it. This is an attempt to be a person, again.
This city in transition, from one thing to another, a metamorphoses propelled by dreams and trade. It’s easier to look back and say “Hey this is where it went wrong”. But I guess that’s why we really shouldn’t have time machines, the regret of knowing what’s going to happen is far worse than knowing what happened. This is the car filled streets of 1977 Mexico City.
The tiny drops scatter in complex patterns as the Volkswagen splashes water on my jeans as I step from the alley. A movement, a life, the life of a city, surrounds me in near chaotic fashion. My senses struggle to keep everything in perspective as I stroll my way in what I hope is the historical district. Street vendors, cafes, cars, trees, all of it give this place a breathe of its own. The chatter of voices in tongues I can’t understand go on and on, adding the perfect soundtrack. I sit on the tattered stool of a tiny cantina. A gentleman with a pencil thin mustache looks up from the dicing of a red-ish meat. His smile is bright and welcoming. He says hello, but the rest is lost. We stare blankly at each other for a few seconds when he asks me again, but this time in articulated English. “Hello sir, what can I get for you? If you would like I can suggest a few dishes if you are having trouble reading the menu.” He gestures to the white board above his head. Some of the words seemed familiar, but I give up pretty quick. “Just whatever is best, and a beer.” I place 70 pesos on the counter. He cracks open two Sol beers and sets them in front of me. The steams rolls over his face as he opens a pot, with a steel spoon he heaves the meat into the paper basket. The smell is unbelievable, closest I may ever get to god. He smiles as he splashes something on top and puts the basket in front of me. “Barbacoa, if you were to ask me, I would say I make the best. But you didn’t, so it’s pretty good.” The plastic fork begins to bend slightly from the heat. With a watering mouth, I devour three bites before I can even taste it. I smile, he smiles and picks up the other beer and drinks. “Ok, I make the best.” He says as he wipes away the beer from his lips.
Another 70 pesos, two more beers, one more basket of wonderful. The lamb is juicy and amazing. “You’re pretty bad at asking questions… Which is something I like, but I have to ask you a question, what brings you to this part of the city?” He asks this as he places his bottle onto the counter. I chew the remainder of my food and wash it down with the cool beer. “Nothing really brought me here, I am just sort of just here.” I reach out my hand to shake his, “I am Karl.” our palms meet as he begins his introduction. “I am Jesús Reyes-Sanchez, I am a poet, a mechanic, a painter, a lover of English and Español, a cook, and sometimes too outspoken…” He stammers and takes a hasty drink from his beer. “I’m pretty sure it’s the outspoken ones that get anywhere,” I say. He smiles and so do I, we clicked our beers together in agreement. “This may be rather ambiguous of me, but how about you bring those pesos and follow Jesus tonight?” he smirks as he asks. I must have frowned when I thought about the invitation because he quickly remarked. “Most of you Yanqui find that pretty funny when I say it, but needless. No need to waste time making up your mind.” He says as he puts the pots away and closes the things that need closing. I stand outside the shop sipping on my beer and he hops over the counter. Sliding the steel curtain over the shop he secures the lock then gives it a kick. “So, have you ever seen something so pretty?” We both turn toward the setting sun as the thick layer of smog gives it ominous glow. Unable to remember a single moment of beauty I answer “I can’t say I have.”
I shambled after Jesús as we make our way through the darkened streets, the moist pavement bounces what little light there’s to be had. The music grows louder and louder, light begins to spill onto the street with the music. The street narrows to a humble two-story brick and mortar house. The music is loud now, too loud to discern what it is. He passes by the warm bodies dancing to the noise as I try my best not to get lost in the entanglement. A chest is found, in the chest is liquid gold. He hands the bottle to me. I give him a look of “are you sure?” he hands me a look of assurance. I spin the cap off, it gets lost in the moving feet. I feel the youth, the lake of no age. I turn the bottle over and I am soon pulled into the entanglement. To be lost momentarily.
I inhale the cigarette, the smoke inside me burns, but for many reasons, it’s the right kind of burn. I feel happy, the sensation almost foreign to me. I stare at the tiny specks of spilled oil lost in thought when Jesús kicks the bike to life. The black smoke fills the small enclosure to then escapes through the opening. Stepping away from the idling bike he walks over to me and kneels down. “You see my friend this name comes with a lot of responsibilities…” He wipes his hands on the dirty red cloth then speaks again. “Responsibilities that I never really lived up to, a shepherd I should be, but I have not been. This I can say where you come in, from the second I saw you I knew you to be a lost sheep, but there’s a lot of lost out here why you might ask do I pick Yanqui like you? I don’t know, I have very little answers for why stuff happens the way it does. But I felt maybe, that I should do something for once, as well.” He smiles and lightly slaps me on the face with his oil covered hand. It shakes the mush that is my head enough that I remember how to stand. “Do you know how to ride?” he asks me in earnest. I wanted to lie, to say I knew everything, but at this moment I knew nothing more than that I was alive. “It’s easy enough, you can ride this, she’s beat but strong.” he revs the little two stroke engine, the sound isn’t pretty, but it is sound, and it hurts. “I know of this place, we’ll go there. You can find yourself and maybe I do some finding too.” I stand there hesitant to get close to the thing of noise. Grabbing my wrist he pulls me over to the bike, like a puppet he moves me with my shoulders and soon I am sitting on the bike. The feel of the rumbling engine under me gives a comfort I have never felt before. Taking my hands Jesús shows me the clutch, throttle, and brake. The mechanism felt made for me, I squeeze and the operation happens, no if’s or but’s, just actions. I try for my first go, the bike goes, like it should. I watch it leave as I fall to the ground. The entire time Jesús laughs like one would laugh at a puppy. Red faced, I stand and fetch the bike.
The Suzuki’s engine roars, or maybe it screams. The city turned to fields, the fields into towns, the towns into mountains. The road bends around the horizon as we pull into a gas station. The man behind the worn counter smiles with yellow teeth as we pay for the gas. The bikes have their fill when we push them away from the tanks and sit. “I’m sorry, but where are we going?” Jesús chuckles for some time then answers. “No need to be sorry about asking, but we’re going to my Mama’s casa. It’s pretty there, it clears your thoughts.” I smile and nod. I feel scared but didn’t want to admit it. I shake my legs before we mount the bikes again. We pass the mountains as the farmlands become greener. I can smell the salt from the sea as we bend around the corners, my front tire feet away from his rear.
The pavement soon turns into dirt, a small house appears beneath the rich green trees. In the front, a woman shakes clothes before she pins them to the line. Turning by the sound of the bikes she drops the piece of clothing and covers her mouth with her hands. It feels almost unrealistic, I remove my grip from the throttle and we roll to a stop. Jesús nearly jumps off his bike and hugs the woman hanging clothes. I step off the bike and shake my legs once more. With his arm around her, he leads the woman to me. Her eyes are puffy and somewhat red as he does the introduction. “This is Alma, she’s my little sister.” He pats her on the shoulder, she reaches her hand out to take mine. “Hola…” Her voice is quiet and shy. “Hello, names Karl.” Taking her hand it feels rough and worn from chores and labor. Jesús says something to her in Spanish and she responds back. Her hand slips from mine as they begin to walk towards the modest house, I follow.
The furniture is wrapped in plastic as a smell of peppers and fish comes from the kitchen, the smell seems to stalk the house like a friendly ghost. Jesús rips off his riding jacket and tosses it on the couch. He yells out in Spanish, the single word I caught was Mama. A stout woman wearing an apron speckled with red roses. She speaks quick and clean, points to the jacket on the couch, Jesús shrinks in stature and picks it up and wraps around his arm. Walking over she gives him a kiss on each cheek, pats him on the head and turns her attention to me. I hear the word ‘Yanqui’ as she points to me several times, I feel myself grow small as well. The conversation is short but fast. I feel as she dwarfs me though it was the opposite, she motions her hand in to come closer. I bend down and she kisses my cheeks and in broken English wishes me welcome. She disappears again to the kitchen. Jesús takes my arm and pulls me through the house to the back door.
The screen door snaps close as Alma walks out carrying a large jug of wine. “It good to walk to the beach.” she says and she continues to pass us. Finishing off his beer Jesús runs and picks up his little sister. They yell at each other in fun tones, picking up my beer I meander after them. I kick off my shoes next the scattered remains of Jesús shoes and shirt. The howling and screaming as Alma run around keeping the bottle from Jesús. She giggles and laughs, the gulf whips its appraisal with the crashing waves. She stumbles and catches herself by her knees, ripping the cork from her mouth she spits it into the sand and begins to swallow as much wine she could. Jesús flips the jug around and removes it from her grasp, she makes no attempt to get it back, lost maybe in the sweet red taste. With his index finger, he tilts the jug back and drinks. I finish my beer and drop it into the sand, licking my lips, I can almost taste the tart. Jesús wipes his mouth with his arm and hands the jug to me. “¡Salud!” I cup my hands around the jug, before the red pours inside me I return the gesture. “¡Salud!”
The sun sets behind us, the tone is forced and fake, but we all pretend to enjoy it. I take the jug, its contents nearly gone. I swig and pass it back to Jesús. Before he drinks he turns to me and says “I don’t drink to solve my problems, I drink to forget them.” He tips the jug back and lines of wine flow down his cheeks. The light is nearly gone when his Mother hollers back that supper is ready. We sway our way back into the house. The table set, off white cloth drapes over the table, four place settings, maybe it was the wine or television culture, but I expected more. We sit down, Jesús, across from me, Alma to my right and his Mother to his left. I reach for the spoon closest to me when she gives me a look. Placing our hand into the next we tilt our heads. I know the prayer, even across a language I know it. “Bless us, o’ lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through christ our lord. Amen.” I murmur the words, but I can’t say I meant them. Jesús slaps his hands together and begins serving everyone. Spoons, plates, and forks clank as we devour our food. The candle flickers as we say grace once more when the eating is done, they wish, I believe, in the peace of those passed. I say my amen either way. I follow Jesús through the back door into the patio. He pulls two beers from the fridge as I light us up cigarettes, we trade vices and sit there in silence. His Mother’s singing can be heard, it carries far more than just the notes.
My face sticks to the plastic of the couch. I peel it off and sit up my head spins. Stepping out the back door once more I want to maybe say something about the morning, about the sky, about the dirt, the sand, but it appears unremarkable, to which it is to even question its existence or mine. Sometimes I guess in the attempt to get away you realize exactly how the same it all is. I pull my device from my pocket, give it one last look, and head back home.