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Itzel II: A Three Knives Tale

Itzel II: A Three Knives Tale

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Itzel II: A Three Knives Tale

Lunghezza:
419 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
Apr 1, 2020
ISBN:
9781771834186
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

In Itzel II, we continue to follow Nauta, Itzel, and Basta through the cascading outcomes of their desire for agency and for change in their world. We move from the Oaxaca coast back to Mexico City, from Nauta's Brooklyn streets to her time in Canada, from the attraction between Basta and Itzel that has altered the characters' friendship to the rumours and reckonings that result. The 1971 Halconazo is brought alive by the author's intimate knowledge of an event that was in part organized from her phone. Nauta sees herself once more wielding the knife she has carried since puberty, as she is brought face to face not just with the violence of others but with her own.
Pubblicato:
Apr 1, 2020
ISBN:
9781771834186
Formato:
Libro

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Itzel II - Sarah Xerar Murphy

solidaridad

I

1

Breakfast of Grasshoppers

THE AFFAIR WILL end long before we enter the bar in Puerto Escondido. Or so Itzel and Basta will tell me. After I’ve struggled through days — certainly no more than the fewest of weeks — of prepping boards or stretching canvas or doing any other work requiring little creative concentration intermixed with going to classes or to meetings or venturing out all three of us on those small trips we will still continue to make, when I will smile and laugh and try to make everything seem right, normal, the way I had told them it would be, just an expansion of what the three of us have been to each other. Though maybe they will notice the psychic pain I am trying so hard to hide within my days of migraine and painting through migraine, determined to overcome something I neither understand nor want, sure each day as I get up that I am done with it, even as something remains in my face, a slowness perhaps, as if I have developed a time lag between gesture and speech, that will push them toward ending that part of their relationship. Because they can see it, how I am just a caricature of myself, mouthing the words that will allow me to believe I have the courage of my convictions. To which will be added that simpler thing more real than it’s given credit for, it certainly happens often enough, that you can fall into that place of overwhelming attraction where scratching that particular itch — and there are many like that — is the only thing that will make it go away. Or maybe it will simply be an older morality reasserting itself, one that they too are having trouble letting go. The one that talks about cheating, like at cards, as if one or the other party always has an ace up the sleeve, even if there are no shouts about hellfire and damnation and never showing one’s face in public again: that this is not additive after all, they are stealing something from me. Or from each other. That two is ever and always the only possible number.

There will be no living if not happily ever after then happily occasionally after, with whatever hadn’t killed our relationship making it day by day stronger, a tale of the utterly unlikely, in which you might even find me writing treatises on polyamory rather than trying to figure it all out, or Basta will, having taken up writing them for the editor he will be working for even then, the one who will already be turning the magazine he edits away from politics toward a discussion of the sexual liberation so much the rage up north, a man with whom I will much later have a very brief fling, who will himself live in a polyamorous commune. But all simply fall into a more usual pattern. Impulses brought on by love and propinquity in difficult times fulfilled just enough to be brought under control, a good if small story of good if little sex, catharsis and yoga in the park, and we’re back to tales of politics and political prisoners, torture and tear gas, business as usual in a tiny cell in a small group in a large country somewhere in America.

Except that after one of those day trips, perhaps the very one on which they tell me it is over, there will be a return to the atole place the three of us holding hands as we make that small restaurant ours again, sitting down to call out to the numbered children, to Trece or Once or Cuatro for our atole de fresa. And there will be a euphoria in their decision for all of us, a feeling of fulfillment however forced, that will make us grasp hands, though perhaps I squeeze hardest, to make us take it even further, up and over the top. So that it might well be me who first raises her little cup of hot corn meal and bleeding strawberry hearts.

Let’s drink to the struggle and to friendship, I say though maybe it’s Itzel.

And to celebrate let’s take a trip, Basta says or maybe it’s me.

But not a day trip. Let’s make it longer, Itzel says or maybe it’s Basta.

And maybe then we say together if not all at once but with our voices overriding one another’s.

Let’s make it that road trip. The one we’ve talked so much about. The one to the ocean. A celebration. Of us. Of struggle. Of what we’ve accomplished.

And we’ll all believe it could work. That it will work. We haven’t done each other harm we would never do each other harm of course not.

Which is why you might see us entering that bar those weeks later exhausted, our muscles stiff the way they always are after a long drive on a rough road, a whole day in this case spent coming down to Puerto Escondido from the City of Oaxaca, full of that constant automatic adjustment to each lurch, each bounce, each jarring blow from each pothole, and the pre-emptive tightening of the muscles in anticipation of them. But we’ll be relaxed somehow too, after a last solid night’s sleep and those Oaxaca days we had decided on in our discussions, culture before beach we will have told each other, repeat it as we contemplate the old and new indigenous delights of the place, not just the old Zapotec and Mixtec cities of Monte Albán and Mitla but Yagul as well, the markets with their dozens of kinds of chiles and fruits, heirloom we call such things now, the textiles the pottery the syncretic popular art, the colours, the old Yalalag cross Basta will buy for me with its blooming maize and its sacred hearts, fertility and sacrifice, the old cross and the new. So that yes we will love it just as everyone will tell us in those first discussions with our friends as we inform them we are taking a trip together, when even those who raise their eyebrows just that bit will encourage us in our plans, saying Acapulco is boring and the Yucatan too far and Vera Cruz waters murky and Basta and I still only recently back from our honeymoon in the northwest, so what’s in the south, we’ll ask and everyone will keep coming back to Oaxaca, the wonders of Oaxaca, until we ask what’s on the coast of Oaxaca if this has to have at least its little bit of ocean, its sun, its sand, where then where? Is it even possible?

And suddenly Itzel will be talking to the Hungarian painter who’s been in Oaxaca more than once and Basta to Tavo in his secret identity as Octo el Pulpo, the man with a tentacle in far too many places, Doc Oc who knows everything and everybody whether he’s been there or not. I’ll even put in a call to Magdalena who I’m teaching some classes with anyway so I’ll need to tell her I’ll be taking a break. Then there’s the guy who’s my boss, the head illustrator at the Museum of Anthropology where I do some part time work, who will know something too. Everyone telling us of the rough road though they’re sure the Peugeot will make it.

Exactly what they will tell us in the tiny motel on the city’s outskirts as we prepare to leave, reminding us that though slower and nastier than the mountain roads we’ve already been on this one lacks the trucks, but ni modo there’s no other way, and it’s true even these days it’s the only direct road to connect the City of Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido, though now you can drive down to the isthmus, which will only be a side trip for us, then back along the newer coast road, what I will do on my return because all of two hundred fifty kilometres farther it still takes only two hours more than the rough old road does, anticipation of it causing us more trepidation than cheerfully eating our breakfast of grasshoppers, not previously dried like in the markets but freshly caught that morning in the fields outside and fried in oil and lemon in the kitchen by the family that own the place, a special treat for us they say as they instruct us on how to eat them once we indicate that we are willing, and who will prepare us too a hamper not of insects but delicious tacos de carnitas with onion and cilantro for the road as they tell us we will be back. Eating grasshoppers in Oaxaca means you will return, they’ll say. And not just to drive through in a few days. Though I will never be able to find the place again.

That meal of grasshoppers will still be in my thoughts as we enter the bar and order shrimp, how similar they are, dried shrimp to dried grasshoppers, and fresh to fresh, even to their chitinous shells we’d had to peel, the extra lemon juice we squeezed over them and the texture of their flesh. Though the grasshoppers will taste, deeply and hauntingly, of the winds through dry grass of Oaxaca’s dry season hills where we will see them hopping in abundance, the grass so alive with them, their leaps so long, so high, they could have hopped right into the pan.

Something to comment on laughing, there in the bar, bar and restaurant really, where everyone eats and drinks because it’s pretty much the only game in town, right there in the centre of it, just up from the town’s central beach. And surrounded by only two or three hotels. Not at all the way it is now, not with the way Puerto Escondido has grown so big, so that when I’m there several years into the new millennium just after the corner café has gotten Wi-Fi and they call it inalámbrico — unwired — with that Mexican hatred of anglicization so close to Québec’s even if the Spanish will always call it wi-fi and pronounce it weeffy, it will only be people in the neighbourhood where I’m staying that I’ll meet. I won’t have to leave the neighbourhood for anything so that the night the rains break in late May and I’m up over my ankles in water crossing the street I’ll see a car whose Alberta license plates will make me walk into the local restaurant and ask for the driver only to find out she’s an old surfer who’ll have been driving her own car down from Edmonton from even before Itzel and Basta and I will ever arrive in town and she’ll tell me she’d stayed in the same area where the restaurant now is when there were no houses much less amenities, just the beach for a visitor to sleep on, a beach we too will have gone to and loved, when she’d gone downtown, to el centro, as Mexicans always say, though it wasn’t the centre of much of anything then, to eat in exactly the same restaurant bar where the three of us will be sitting when within fifteen minutes we’ll have met a family of sailors from England who’d come up through the Panama Canal as well as some Mexican tourists who’d come down on the DC-3 run by a small local airline, Aerolineas Rojas, I even remember the name, because by air or by sea will be the only other ways to get to this well hidden Hidden Port if you didn’t want to take that rough and crazy road.

And there too we’ll find the town’s doctor and his lawyer friend, the locals all mostly single guys or guys drinking without their wives, and we’ll be a new and interesting little group, which is why maybe I start in with the grasshoppers to smiles of encouragement from the locals, frowns of fuchi, that wonderful mostly girls’ exclamation of disgust, from one Mexico City muchacha and her mother, questions about taste and texture and where can they get some from the sailors, so that with the ice broken pretty soon we’ll be telling stories and jokes, one that I remember I’ve redesigned for a number of other places and countries since, it’s quite lovely and will show quickly that we’re in the right company, leading us to joining the doctor and the lawyer and a few of their friends at their table after we finish our shrimp, knowing we’re among those who even on that isolated coast will think like us.

It’s the joke about the guy who escapes from Las Islas Marías, Mexico’s famous island prison only now being closed down, a place supposed to be inescapable like so many other island prisons, Devil’s Island or Alcatraz, and this one’s legend too including all that stuff about how even if you can escape from the jail how do you get off the island and if you get off the island how do you manage the currents and the sharks, so that in this joke there’s this guy who’s made it all the way and these other guys are asking him how he did it, exactly how. Only to have him answer: I swam. But the sharks, the sharks, what about the sharks? the man’s friends then ask and already you can see the twinkle in the eyes of the doctor or the lawyer I don’t remember which one as he tells the joke his friend’s already heard a million times, so they wind up telling it together, doing a dialogue now as if this too is familiar territory, first one guy saying how the guy in the joke answers: I painted a sign on my chest.

While the other takes up his role to say: What do you mean, a sign? You painted a sign? ¿Qué chingados has that got to do with anything, a sign?

And gets the answer: I painted a sign that said, The Mexican government is elected by the people.

Y ese cuento ni lo tragan los tiburones, they’ll then end together: And that’s a story even the sharks won’t swallow.

And we all laugh. Even as someone quips that with more than a quarter century of a one-party state that always holds elections for appearances’ sake anyway, that joke must be as old as the nearby hills, or at least their guerrilla movements, the ones up in nearby Guerrero. And because they know we’re down from the city and we’re all on the same page, they’ll ask us about the massacre in the Plaza, what had we heard about that terrible incident that had used mass murder to end the previous year’s student movement. So that Basta and I will tell how we missed it by two days and Itzel will tell how she was there. And the eyes of those around will fill with admiration.

And someone will say: You must have been terrified.

And once more she will answer: Then, no. When it was happening, no. But sometimes, I still dream it. Then adds to make light of what she’s said: The way I expect I will tonight the road we’ve just driven. Or sometimes I just think about it. And the fear comes. The fear comes. And she’ll smile a small faraway smile.

And it will be like the night in Amecameca before the next day’s climb up the Popocatépetl, only she won’t speak of those terrible adolescent months in Auschwitz the way she did with Matilde. She will just look over at Basta where he sits between us, and he will cover her hand with his. And it will be my turn to be afraid. The first time since their announcement the affair is over that I’ve been afraid.

Not that I hadn’t felt the sexual tension on the trip, but it will have seemed always to contain the three of us, highest maybe on our side trip to Tehuantepec as we’d driven down bypassing Oaxaca City to continue on the Pan-American highway to engage with what is always called Mexico’s matriarchy, the place whose square Singer sewing machine embroidered huipiles Frida Kahlo has by now made world famous, but which back then will be far more famous than Kahlo herself even in Mexico, those bright blouses have been used as a symbol of the strength of Mexican women and Mexican Indigenous culture since at least the revolution of 1910. With the Tehuanas mostly small women always thought of as tall because they stand so erect, unlike las norteñas, the straightforward women of the north who are taller than most but in their mostly EuroAmerican ancestry Texan body language and casual US style clothing lack the mysterious mexicanidad the indigenous grace of the Tehuanas who wear their huipiles and long accompanying skirts to run the markets and the neighbourhoods and carry not just pots but iguanas on their heads, there’s a marvellous photo by Graciela Iturbide of just such a woman, and debate the issues of the day in Zapotec. The language so strong it used to be immigrants from other places in Europe might learn Zapotec before Spanish, but the place so deadly hot and landlocked besides few tourists ever get to the twin cities of Juchitán and Tehuantepec at all though Juchitán is much favoured these days by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as male transvestites are much appreciated and certainly indulged as they have been since precontact times, which has made Oaxaca the only place in the Americas, likely the world, where men who identify as women and whose communities recognize them, can run as women in federal elections. And besides, the muxes as they are called, party all night. I will be invited to one of their velas decades later in the City of Oaxaca itself when I finally return. The price of entry a case of beer.

While some years before I even make that return trip, when I watch Y Tu Mamá También, Alfonso Cuarón’s fine breakthrough movie, one of youthful upper class sexuality replete with cocktail parties and swimming pools, and get to the scene by the beach, I will see us in the slat room we will rent in Tehuantepec, and I’ll inhale sharply, all that first while of us together will seem such a perfect if truncated early version of the movie, one that never reached its proper climax, even if ours will be such a culturally easier potential erotic combination, two women and a man, not two men and a woman. Because it will seem to me there will be between us from the moment we enter the car the same crackling sexual tension, sparking one to another sometimes, bright in all our eyes, though perhaps it is easier to let it flow into me in memory than it will be at the time as each night we will go to our separate beds or Basta and I to the same bed barely touching, as if not touching each other will be by previous agreement. That any overt touching would break the spell. Or privilege one combination over the other. Which will seem wrong somehow, even if we have agreed to do just that.

While it will crackle loudest, multi-coloured, bright, bright, that night we are invited to the fiesta de barrio — the neighbourhood festival — a vela in its own right, in Tehuantepec, one of those happy accidents that happen seldom, but that every tourist longs for and even travellers rarely experience, which will occur this time only because one of the market women will ask Itzel her name and notice how the last is the same as that of an American mining engineer who has retired to her neighbourhood, a widower who will collect stinkbugs in jars he’ll keep lined up against the bottoms of his walls, and in an attempt to set the two of them up — surely that man will need a woman to take care of him as desperately as any man ever did — she will take us over to his place to meet him then make sure we will all be there that night even if nothing will ever come of it, so that while Basta will watch us and drink glass after glass of mezcal with the men we will dance dance after dance with the Tehuanas in their long richly embroidered party skirts until going back to the hotel Itzel and I will have to half carry him as he lurches alternately against one then the other while we giggle loudly as some of the Tehuanas look on and laugh with us, such things are to be expected, it won’t be the first time a husband will be carried back to his room between his wife and her mother or so they will imagine us, while what I will feel is how my arms link with Itzel’s around his back, and I will remember the Tehuana with whom I will dance the most, the smell of her sweat and her breath, the heavy flower embroidered velvet of her party skirt pressing against my legs in the stifling heat, I have no idea how they can stand all that heavy material, perhaps it’s why these things start long after sunset, her full breasts pressed directly against my far smaller ones pushing into my sternum and ribcage, igniting my nipples as we do a slow two-step, and then how Itzel and I will dance much the same way imitating the other dancers, all of them women with women, as Basta watches us alongside the mining engineer, perhaps even spinning some tale of us, and now her bare arm on the street, her arm against mine. And our laughing eyes meeting as we undress him in the hotel room and he flops out his arms to both sides to take up the whole of the largest bed and begins to mumble and to snore. And there will be only that one deep vertigo inducing look that passes between us to make me lean hard against the wall as we both glance at the second bed agreeing with a silent nod that we will share it. Then look quickly away from each other, me toward the bed to undress, Itzel skittering into the bathroom to remove her makeup so that by the time she comes out I will be lying facing the wall huddled as close to it as I can get. While she will lie facing into the room, and we will neither speak nor touch for the rest of the night.

Though I will lie long awake delighting in the scent of her, the warmth radiating from her into the heat of the tropical night. While watching Y Tu Mamá También I will think, and not for the first time, the first time will be right there in the room in Tehuantepec: What if I’d turned and reached out. What if Basta had woken up if I had?

Not that the loosing of that energy would necessarily have resolved anything. It didn’t do that even in Y Tu Mamá. For all the fulfillment of hidden desires Cuarón’s characters may have achieved that one brief evening of touching and being touched, still it will all have to explode. So many years later and the filmmaker will still have to resort to a main character’s death, albeit very politely offstage, to make his story work. In fact, all that marvellous sex could only happen because you already knew she would die before the end. And she was Spanish anyway. Not the gringa or the Scandinavian this time, or even the francocanadiense my Sinaloan downstairs neighbour once told me all the young men in Acapulco bragged they’d picked up during Semana Santa, Easter week, all of Mexico’s spring break, once more elongating his syllables to imitate them, los chilangos, the inhabitants of Mexico City, saying Me ligue-e-é una franco-o-o-cana-a-diense, while I’ll tell him, no matter that I’ll know little of Canada then, that even if you emptied Montreal of all its young francophone women there likely wouldn’t be enough to go around so full are the beaches of Acapulco with young Mexicans that time of year. While no matter the common language, the woman of Tu Mamá was still the stranger, la extranjera. Still the European exotic with no room to alter social norms. While its two young Mexican men too will turn away from each other, have a hard time even looking at each other afterwards even if they at least will manage to get it on. They will spring away from each other’s touch as quickly as we will all those days.

Though I will not take it so very seriously, just bask in it, because it seems so shared. While this, there in the bar this, I will know is something more than such magnificently muffled eroticism. Something that goes deeper than sexual tension. As if her speaking of fear releases a different energy in both of them. Their need for each other something that still excludes me.

Yet I will shrug, smile a little, turn, and make brief eye contact with the lawyer, or is it the doctor, I’ve forgotten that too, and there will be a strange look there, a question, like a space opening up, one I will let open as I think: I am falling away from this. Falling away. Please let me fall away. And I will look back out over to the water as Basta tells Itzel’s story of the Plaza, how her determination, her savoir faire, got her out together with her six charges, his hand still pressing into hers. Then we’ll have another beer and we’ll go.

2

Riptides and Other Tricky Currents

ITHINK I would like to end this story before that. Perhaps even before the bar. Perhaps with how we will awaken that next day in Tehuantepec, the way when I turn over in preparation for getting up, I will find Basta staring down at us from the edge of the bed. When I will think for a moment I am dreaming him, and wonder if Itzel dreams him too. So that I am almost ready to ask it: Are you our dream, our same dream?

But before I can ask, he speaks.

You are so beautiful, so very beautiful, he says very softly savouring his words, and he’s using the Spanish second person plural of course so there is no mistaking he means the two of us. And now, unlike the expressionless apparition who stood over our bed in our shared dream back in Guadalajara on our honeymoon when we first told each other in joy we would never do each other harm, that the man had only come to reassure us, I will see that, unlike that sombre figure, Basta is smiling, the smallest of triumphant smiles still visible on his face as I pull myself upright and Itzel moans in preparation for getting out of bed.

As he goes on.

What a beautiful way to start the day. I have been looking at you two a long time. Then starts another sentence that is interrupted by Itzel’s sitting up.

I only wish …, he says.

And then is silent.

And I do not ask my question either.

Though I will wonder often what he would have wished for. Thinking most times it was likely just not to have drunk so much the night before. And not even because he might wish to have been more aware of us as our hands gently undressed him and placed him in his bed, much less for anything more. But because we are facing a hard drive through the mountains, though easier and faster and on a far better road than the one we’ll take those few days later to Puerto Escondido. The old Pan-American highway is a well graded two laner of unending short radius turns still celebrated as an engineering feat then, which we’ll take up from sea level on the isthmus, the only part of Mexico flat from coast to coast, through the mountain passes to come back down into the City of Oaxaca at five thousand feet, passing slow trucks on inside curves and cornering hard. And so much the same still that I will almost feel I am passing those same trucks on my own those decades later. So that it may simply have been a wish for his stomach to settle before we begin. Or maybe just that he wished to keep it that way forever, in a mysterious time before, one of truncated awakening, looking at us without our looking back, so that I could long for that time too now, when both of us were beautiful, all three of us really, in each other’s eyes.

That way when I do think of it, I would not have to wonder if we stopped too short, rather than pushed things too far. Or even arrive at that next afternoon in Puerto Escondido when we will drive out to that little place the doctor has recommended, after a day they’ll spend mostly relaxing in hammocks under the palapa we’ll have taken for our own so tired they say they are from doing the actual driving of the day before, while I, never much of a beach bunny anyway, will take off down the beach right in front of us with my sketch pad. Perhaps out of a restlessness born out of that look from the night before I will not wish to have to spend my day deciphering, the desire to try not to notice what might be starting again for a few more hours, or an even greater desire to prove to myself that everything is normal, just as we’d said it would be, just as I’d felt it for days, that there would be no problem whatsoever in leaving them together on their own. Or maybe, really, just because I have this terrible desire always to be out and doing. Examining, looking, thinking, doing. Something.

And there will be that beach, that very long beach with the outcropping of black rocks at its end, there right in front of me, Playa Zicatela, home of the Mexican Pipeline, though I won’t know it then, but already an international surfer Mecca, the one the Albertan will already be coming to. I’m sure the only reason we won’t meet her is that we won’t be there in surfer season, I don’t remember anybody catching any waves, nor will there be hotels lining that beach yet, except maybe one or two at its very beginning, while going the other way, toward the other beaches we’d been told about the night before you’d encounter smaller deeper inlets full of tide pools and the fossilized carizos of Carizolillo, the fossilized reeds of Little Reed beach where I will stay on my return, there will be no large urbanization surrounding it, no urbanization at all really, much less the one now so popular among knowledgeable Canadians — I’ll meet one of Calgary’s aldermen on his way there once, both of us flying into Mexico City — there will be no reason yet to even think of building the concrete and stone walkway that now links the beaches and lets you walk between the sea and a low dense growth full of marvellous orange and purple high-backed crabs that match the shells of some kind of bivalve I’ll find there too, that perhaps gulls and other sea birds have dropped, that I’m sure from the shells’ colour are among those traded throughout Mesoamerica and beyond, that are still a standard in the Native jewellery of the landlocked dry lands of the southwestern United States. Those purples and oranges colours you don’t believe are natural when you first see the beads. Think them plastic. Though without the walkway the only way to get to those other smaller coves with their beaches will be to take the road, so we’ll only get there by car later that afternoon, and find none of those crabs at all though Basta and Itzel will collect some of the heavy sandstone fossilized reeds as I swim out into deep water to cool off. I’d already been warned about entering the water off Zicatela the night before. Riptides and other tricky currents. You’d have to be a surfer, strong and skilled to risk that.

Though there will be crabs along that seemingly deserted beach, but only the ghost crabs common to tropical beaches and tidal outcroppings everywhere, long legged and low bodied shadows who take their colours from where they stand, so they will be as black as the rocks in the distance when finally I arrive at the beach’s end and perch myself on a boulder to look out to sea and notice them only as they begin to move, the way it has been each time I have stopped on the sandy beach, where they are mottled yellow to brown, and blend in as if the beach sand were one of those 3D posters that have become so popular, the ones where you only recognize the hidden mottled shape after staring a long time and focusing your eyes just right. While with the crabs you see them only when you cease to move, though the focusing and unfocusing of the eyes is the same. As it becomes a sort of dance, they move as you are still, you move as they are, as if you are the prima ballerina in the centre and they the corps de ballet, moving around you only when you are not committed to the solo of your journey. So that I will stop often to orchestrate their movement as I walk, commanding them to dance or be still with the movements of my feet. As they repeat plié after plié, rising up on the very tips of their legs and extending their eye stalks to look around with their reflective black eyes before they lower themselves only a little to begin to move, then lower themselves completely again their eyes tucking into indentations in their shells when the vibrations of your next step make them stop. Though unlike the hermit crabs that come out and dance in the shade all night long, ghost crabs leave no magic tractor tracks to tell you of their fun. So that my walk will take hours as I am drawn down that line of sand toward those rocks that for the longest time, crab dance after crab dance, seem to get no closer until I lose all track of time. All I’ll know is that by the time I get back there will just be time for that quick swim before our late afternoon meal, I’ll have walked my way through the noon hour by the time I get back.

Truly that comida will be a treat, at this place somewhere on the outskirts of the town, along the cool treed edges of the mangrove swamps, they call them swamps, though they’re not, not in any way most of us understand that word anyway, just wonderful long clear water passages between and through the roots of those slow walking trees, where you can watch how the roots extend down from the mangrove branches until they touch water, then imagine how they move through that water until they find the earth below. Perhaps the inspiration for the development of the chinampa agriculture that will serve Mesoamerica so well, the planting of vegetation on soil covered reed mats to allow for the flowing down of roots into the earth below in use even in the lakes of Central Mexico when the Spanish arrive but which must have had its invention somewhere in what is now Vera Cruz, near Lake Catemaco perhaps, on that other coast of the giant heads, where I’ll already have spent time with Basta’s relatives, with the Olmecs there such a powerful originating culture that the centre of every Mesoamerican city no matter how dry its valley will be called a place of reeds, the wild of the mangrove swamps and their flora their fauna always a marvel in the Vera Cruz area too, the high backed blue crabs staring at you, cousins perhaps of Puerto Escondido’s orange and purple ones, or even the caimanes, because of course, we’ll have been in those swamps with cousin Tavo and Marie Claire, even motored through one out to the open sea further up the Vera Cruz coast in the Laguna de Tamiahua.

While here too we will find ourselves on a far smaller lagoon along one of the edges of the manglar where fresh fish will be brought in from the brackish water and there will be long wood tables and benches with palm thatched roofs spread above them and all sorts of people who have bussed or driven in, maybe even walked or biked or hitched or come by taxi, another everybody who is anybody knows kind of place, and the fish recently caught almost on site cooked right before your eyes, I don’t even remember of what kind, just that they’ll be small and we’ll each have several that Itzel will eat with overwhelming gusto, sucking up every little bit of meat, every bit of juice with her tortilla, and then when she gets to the heads speaking in reverent tones of the meat hidden in the cheeks, repeating:

I love this, oh, this is so good, this is the absolute best, and not minding at all that she is eating with her hands and has no place to wash them just a communal bucket to rinse them in later, as she just keeps eating, one fish and then two, and before going for a third asks us to hand over the heads remaining on our plates, since even Basta, though he’ll be used to seeing them cooked on the fish, will not eat them, while I, brought up in Brooklyn will be used to going to the fish market

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