In Mexico, paint was peeling off the walls of the
rough stone buildings. Dirty brown children played
soccer in the street, and younger ones held out their
tiny cupped hands out at passersby while their mothers
lay nearby on the sidewalk, weak from hunger and the
sun. Gangs of wild dogs ran through the streets also,
dodging the slow-moving cars and racing around all the
people and activity going on.
Vendor stalls were lined up anywhere they could be.
Most of them had something to eat or drink, and at
those there was an industrious soul hard at work
standing behind and shaping or cutting, peeling or
slicing some wondrous-smelling edible treat. Other
tables were covered in trinkets and cheap gifts, often
containing a full color picture of the Virgin of the
Guadalupe, or else some indian artifact or facsimile
Past the sidewalk hawkers and down the stone steps,
were the underground trains. The trains were accessed
by wide halls with more shops and still more food.
Hanging from above in the massive corridors were oversized digital
clocks, and they were inevitably at least six hours
ahead or behind.
Once on the quay, one noticed a distinct lack on the
walls. Sometimes there was a faded, often torn map
depicting the intersections of the metro lines, but
more often the sides of the quay were appreciably
barren of any signs or ads or even graffiti. Inside
the metro cars, too, there was nothing to look at,
only empty spaces where old advertisements had been
scraped off long ago. Once in a while a bandit
capitalist would leave a sticker above the doors inside
the cars promoting some kind of rip-off seminar. The
outside of each car was painted a uniform
Above, on the street, green pinchbuggy taxicabs raced
through the streets, comprising at least half of the
sum total of traffic. One of these old-style
volkswagons was pressing through the other cars a
little faster than the others, and through the windows
one could see the passenger in the back seat waving a
few extra pesos at the driver in an attempt to get him
to keep accelerating. The front passenger seat had
been removed (if, in fact, it had ever really been
there), there being no room for such luxuries in the taxi's
intimate hump of space. The man with the pesos leaned
forward on the edge of the back seat, the very edge to
almost put himself in line with the driver. The shiny
green car veered to the left, turning towards the
north, leaving only a small cloud of dust as it
disappeared out of sight.
A few kilometers to the east, in the Sanbornís
restaurant nestled in the House of Tile building next
to the fifty-seven story skyscraper with an aquarium
at the top, sat a man eating the house enchiladas with
a pale George Strait cowboy hat keeping him company on
the seat next to him. He waved for the waitress to
bring him more water and chips and she paused for a
second before returning to the kitchen underneath the
giant Diego Rivera painting that adorned the wall of
the staircase that went up to the relatively luxurious
toilets where a man waited to give you a towel after
you had washed your hands. The man with the hat
quickly picked up his thirty-five millimeter Nikon
camera (all manual settings) and, after a slight adjustment to
the dials (about twelve feet), took a picture of the
man at the next table reading a Mexico City newspaper.
Click. Then he fiddled with the lens again for a
second before holding the camera at armís length
facing back at him (about two and a half feet) and
snapping another shot of himself with a wide-eyed
One thousand miles to the north a girl played in the
dirt while her brother blew bubbles with his spit.
Seven thousand miles to the east a mother ran through
the desert shouting out to her lost children in a
foreign tongue. Ninety-three million miles away a
yellow star blinked, and then shuddered imperceptibly.
Near Mexico City a young woman clung to the edge of
what seemed to be a bottomless pit. Finding some deep
reservoir of adrenaline reserved for emergency
situations such as this, she heaved herself up and
over the side to safety. Even in the next few seconds,
wheezing with sudden exhaustion, she could not help but
look back down at her almost-future, or the almost
end-of-her-future. A single tear fell straight down
from her eye and after some time she thought she heard
it hit some subterranean lake of tears far below. On
the wall near her burned an electric torch, but itís
light did not reach the bottom of the hole. As she
watched, she saw the darkness rise up in the pit,
pushing the light out as it spread towards her.
Finally the darkness emerged and covered her, and the
torch, and she no longer could see anything at all.
Outside, a German couple paused to look at the
obsidian sculptures lying in a basket next to a
seated, crack-skinned woman.
"Wow," exclaimed the wife, a little too boisterously.
"This one is painted, Gerhard, see? Isnít it
Gerhard picked up one of the perfectly round spheres
mixed in with the sculptures, and peered into the
swirl of dark color inside what seemed to be an
oversized marble (or an undersized bowling ball
without any holes). For a second he thought he saw a
tiny flicker deep inside itís black center. "How much
for this one?," he asked the old native woman.
"You couldnít afford it," she said mysteriously with
a whisper, slowly standing and taking it carefully
from his reluctant hand. She returned it to the
safety of the wicker basket at her feet and then
returned herself to her seat upon the dusty ground.
As the couple stumbled off to find someone a little
more appreciative of their money, the old one began to
sing in a low voice a song that was older than she
was, older even than dust that blew across the
Chapter 13 was first written November 21, 2001
It was last edited December 19, 2001