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 thereof.

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 reddish-orange.

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 Texas grin.

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 marvelous?"

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 Teotihuacan stones...

Chapter 14

 

Chapter 13 was first written November 21, 2001

It was last edited December 19, 2001