Last Tuesday was to be an excursion with a purpose, although I immediately began to question my own good judgement before I arrived at my first stop, and I considered the years and years of avoidance that conceived this particular expedition. Last Monday was all business at first, to cross the border and bank and complete postal errands and so on, followed up by unsuccessful attempts at locating friends in and around Centro de Tijuana, and it was generally not rewarding. At every cantina I sipped at a beer only to have the cantinera remark, in Spanish of course, that this person or that were in the other day inquiring about me. None showed up on Monday. This is what happens.
When I came home Monday evening, I found an email from Daniel that he would join my pilgrimage the next day and that we should meet up in that sacred temple called Dandy del Sur, and then came Tuesday. I rode in the back of the route cab, a van devoid of proper shock absorbers, so that anytime we traveled the least bit rapidly I found myself putting the book I was reading in my lap and continuing the book at stoplights. Meanwhile, no matter how rough the terrain, the woman next to me successfully applied make-up to her face as though she were standing in her own restroom. Some people are more talented at travel than others.
By the time I exited the cab and began my walk to the Dandy, I was cranky for no apparent reason. The sun, very warm but not hot, cast slight shadows on Calle Madero, and the breeze seemed to fan an almost electric buzz that could be felt as one wandered down the busy street. Once inside of the cantina, I found my favorite barstool and Alex, the only English speaking cantinera I currently know in Tijuana, served me an amber.
“Jody was here yesterday, he asked about you.”
“So I’m told. He’s never around when I’m here,” I said.
“And last week, what’s his name, the other one…”
“Scott,” I offered.
“Yeah, Scott. He was here asking about you,” she said.
“Figures.” I wasn’t looking for Scott because he owed me some cash; it was general curiosity. Not that I couldn’t use the money, it was that that he could use it more - and mostly that I worried about him. I didn’t want to email him, make him uncomfortable, and I figured he wouldn’t get a paycheck until October. But now I knew he was in good shape, good enough to still be around. With Jody it was always hit and miss, he could be anywhere on any given day. My proclivities, conversely, are aimed toward remaining in one place for a while.
I remained in the Dandy del Sur and drank for a while.
When one of your children leaves the nest, the impact is felt differently by each member of the remaining family. The middle girl, Sharon, decided one day that living with her boyfriend was in her best interest. Sharon is twenty-one years old, so obviously, it’s her call. She didn’t announce it. She was very afraid of what her grandparents would think about such a scandalous maneuver.
“Dad, I’m going to see Jose,” Sharon said a few weeks ago, and it was normal for her to yell this to me through my office door in the afternoon. It was only after Anna came home from school and went upstairs to change that I was informed Sharon had packed half of her belongings and taken them with her. Anna’s reaction was mixed. Of course, this meant that Anna would be getting her own room again, not having to share, but she seemed to be inwardly concerned about what scandal the sudden move of her sister might bring. After all, her sister had just moved out and then in with the boyfriend.
By the time Rocio arrived home from work, picked up and delivered here by Juan, she already knew. I was curious about their reactions. Juan, predictably, had very little to say about it. Home from getting shot at and bombed and watching people with which he served die or get injured in a country he had never before dreamt of stepping foot in, his response was vacant, without concern or contempt.
“Yeah, yeah,” was all he had to say.
Rocio yawned. “She’d better behave better there than over here or he’ll throw her out on her ass.”
I continued to prepare dinner. I knew that Rocio’s parents were coming down the hill, but I mostly never have any notion of precisely how many are coming for dinner. This is the occupational hazard, so to speak, of cooking in Mexico. People show up. Répondez s'il vous plaît? It never happens. I came out and confronted the four already present and accounted for, Juan, Juan’s very silent girlfriend Bibi, Anna, and Rocio.
“How many are coming tonight?”
All looked at each other until Juan started counting.
“Twelve,” he told me.
I arched an eyebrow at him.
“The five of us, my grandparents, and three of my friends,” he said.
“That’s ten,” I reminded him.
Rocio chimed in, “Sharon and her boyfriend are coming over. She called Juan and wanted to talk to me at ten o’clock.”
“You’ll be asleep by then,” I reminded her. “Besides, she doesn’t dictate when she talks to you now, you dictate it.”
“I had Juan tell her,” Rocio said. “She’ll be here between eight and nine.”
I reached into my pocket and pulled out forty dollars and handed it to Juan. “Tomorrow, I want you to run to the hardware store and buy a new set of front locks,” I said. Everyone looked at me, as though I needed to explain.
“If you live here, you live by my rules. That’s your passport and your visa. If you decide to declare independence and leave, then I revoke your visa. Your new visa is the telephone, you call and ask to come over like anyone else.”