I turn on my computer and begin to write for unknown reasons.
Sometimes writing is impossible. They call it writer’s block. I call it slowly dying. On the other hand, sometimes it’s very easy. During those times I feel like god with a bad back. I put myself on the bridge, in the boat, in the bed with two women and their dogs; I watch the strained faces of children march across the highlands and listen to the sound of the airplane overhead and wonder if it is coming for me; to take me away from all this misery.
A while back, I told someone I needed to stop posting on Tin Hats. I’ll not write another word, I said. I need to concentrate on the book. But then something happened. I think it was Christmas and it hit me like the hand of a pretty woman and suddenly there was a new slice of pie.
The wind has died and the temperature is climbing. I feel good about life and the writing comes easy and here is yet another post, but is it any good? I never know. You must decide.
Today I leave the house, as we all do, and venture into that vast stew of Mexican life. Joy and despair on every corner. The albañile greets me with an update on the house that’s been under construction since the Nile turned to blood. The beating and whirring have injured my life on a number of levels. We laugh and I tell him I have another cold beer for him on Friday after work. Here comes Francesca, the beautiful retiree, and she tells me that a neighbor has died. They found her face down in the garden. She is a famous fashion designer who will live on in her vintage dresses and hats. Many of us have died recently and then she says, it’s the cold weather. We clasp hands like children and I turn almost immediately into the arms of a Mexican neighbor who has just rescued a small puppy. The dog is white with black spots and shivering. Mancha, she says, is not cold, just timid. Abigail joins us. She is the friendly Mexican girl who works in the tienda on the corner. She has a theory about the recent robberies. Maybe the rats were from out of town, maybe not, but they were probably in need of Christmas gifts. There is nothing to be done, she says, and the salve of Mexican kindness is upon her shiny face and there is light in her eyes.
It has been about ten minutes since I locked my gate. Mexico pours over me. I walk across the park and past the dog groomer and decide to see if I can find a certain herb. The woman in the shop looks it up and then promises to order it for me. She gives me her number and tells me to call tomorrow. I hail a cab. I know him and he remembers my name. He asked if I ever found a house to rent. He drops me off at another herb store. The owner has died and I hug one of the women and tell her how sorry I am. I buy my medicines and dried flowers and leave. Maybe I need a picture frame and there is the shop and the two men in suspenders who greet me with smiles. I buy a small red one. I want to frame a painting of a man on a motorcycle riding in a race. He is on his way to visit me with a gift.
I have an urge for mushrooms and catch another cab to the mushroom market. They are out of King Oyster, so I go for a substitute. I walk home, and say hello to a gay Mexican in one of the shops and up ahead is the young woman and her children who pick through the garbage. I stop to chat with her for a moment. She tells me about the infected cuts upon her daughter’s face and how the sickness of trash is entering her bones. I continue on to the white-haired gringo who walks with a cane. He knew Artie Shaw and hates the movie “Whiplash”. A neighbor passes us and says hello. He is an older Mexican man and he always calls me his brother, because he thinks I am his brother, but I am not. The night guard for the unfinished house greets me. I gave him a Christmas card and a few pesos right before the holidays. I don’t know why I did that. I don’t really know him, but I like his wife. She brings tortillas every day for lunch and she reminds me of a bird in flight; a study by da Vinci, thin and fragile upon white paper. Finally, and without speaking, I pass the sad, desperate lady on the bench. She holds a purple flower from a time long ago and over that distance we exchange looks.
I unlock my door and go inside. It has been an unfair exchange. I have listened to the hymn from people in the streets and I have given nothing in return. Life has stopped for me. I am frozen. Did they notice? I wonder. My secrets are upon my shoulder yet no one knows what is close to my heart. I like it this way and I feel no regret in my darkness on the streets of San Miguel.
I have finished writing for Tin Hats. Will you eat my words like the morsels left upon a dish? I never know and only you can decide if what I offer is good or bad.
So I write all of this to you…for unknown reasons…for hidden feelings…for the keeping of my days under lock and key.