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Category Archives: Mexico City

Roberto (1994)

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There was an angel hovering over Anna – but she couldn’t see through the translucent haze of its wings. She felt a coarse, lined texture with the sole of her right foot. Stroking it, sensing the high friction of it, she began to be aware of sensations   Que raro, she thought to herself.   I feel something. I hear my own thoughts. Is this Heaven or Bedlam? She became aware of a dull sensation where her right wing should have been. She tried to move it. It was folded, half behind her, half under her. it started tingling. This isn’t how a wing is supposed to feel. She could not move that wing, but she could hear her voice inside her head as clearly as if she was standing over herself, preaching. She instinctively reached her left wing to the aid of the right, still anesthetized and immobile. Pick, pick, pick, she plucked at the skin of her right forearm. No sensation. 
Pick. Pick.
It occurred to her that her left arm moved too easily. There was no wing. Maybe this is Bedlam – or Hell?! She sat up with a snap – seated, but at rigid attention, she looked like a mitered joint waiting for a framer. She batted her eyelids – nothing. She lifted her functioning left arm to her eyes and rubbed – just a cloud. And an echo. She was not dead, and she was not loca. Somewhere between Heaven and Bedlam, between Bedlam and Hell.
“Chica,” a deep angelic voice parted the clouds on the horizon on her left. Maybe I’m dead after all.  She raised her left arm in the direction of the voice. “Como‘stas?” The angel’s swarthy Mestizo features parted the clouds and clarified the situation, at least a little bit. Anna was not dead. She sat with the toes of both feet pressed into a rough handrest of a rugged but accommodating sofa. She hadn’t said anything, not out loud at least, but her verbal centers were communicating with each other, not with her voice. Her eyes, at first sightless, opened wide, but as her already darkest chocolate irises, dilated to the size of swimming pools, began to focus, she glimpsed a living room interior. Behind the man hung harvest gold drapes on a bare white curtain rod and…
Oja! Oja!´ The neurons controlling her jaw more or less engaged, causing her jaw to fall shapelessly open while her verbal centers cried in pain and confusion. She noticed that she was wearing clothes, not wings, and that, other than being severely rumpled and with a bit of errant sputum here and there, she showed no sign of anything worse. She tried, but failed, to slap her now spinning head with her right hand, now throbbing as the blood began to force the small blood vessels open anew.
Calmate, chica,  no puedes hacer nada, que vale.” Settle down, girl. You can’t do anything anyway. The words could have been menacing, but the man wasn’t a menace. His voice still sounded like it was coming from the Cathedral of St. Mark’s in Venice, not from a sparsely furnished living room in a four-room bungalow in…
Gradually, scenes of B. B., Before Binge, cracked through the coconut milk that was Anna’s brain. She had left Puebla to take a summer course in business communications. The school, in Mexico City, was still just a classroom and a silhouette. But there were faces – giddy faces of girls, a boy, a bottle, beer. La cerveza!Oh, did it course in frothy rivulets through her memory!
“It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re in Netza, I brought you here when you couldn’t get out of the taxi.”
“Usted es taxista? Crei, que Usted fue un angelo.”
“No, no angel. Just a man who was put in the right place.  I’m Roberto.”
“Where did you find me?”
“You got in my taxi in front of ( detail ). I don’t usually work until closing time, because I’m just a soltero  and I don’t want to be thought of as a wolf. But you seemed lost, and not stoned. “
“I.. I… was alone?”
“Si.”
“I left with four girls and a muchacho.  Cute, but young, like me. Maybe fifteen. No, they served us, so he must have…”
Anna’s voice was overtaken by its echoes in her throbbing head.
“You were alone, and you looked lost. I don’t think you live in La Ciudad, do you, chica?”
“I come from Puebla. My father is…” Anna thought better of revealing her lineage; her mother had shamed her before for not living up to her father’s standards. As if she did. Jajaja..
“You are very young, to be in La Ciudad alone. Who is taking care of you here?”
“I am at (school ). I stay in the student dorms. At least until last night.” Anna was pleased that her mouth and brain seemed to belong to the same person; it was too bad that there was a razor splitting her head into its hemispheres so she could barely tell who that person was. That person just moaned like she was in labor.
“Vuelvo ahora mismecito.” Before his words stopped echoing in Anna’s wretched head, he was back with an ice pack. His workman’s hand stroked her bangs backward, and he laid the ice pack on the symptoms of Anna’s pain.
More images knitted themselves into memories under the coolness of the ice pack. A few bottles. A joint. The munchies. The muchacho had a fattened wallet from some good fortune or other, Anna could not think which. So it was dinner. Bistecca. Carne asada. Tamales con arroz. Y mas cerveza. Was it pitchers? Anna sucked her teeth. Bits of beef still bled their marinated juices from the gaps. So a night out? No, in her memory, the sun warmed the sidewalks underfoot. The beer started early that Saturday.
It must have been six or seven in the afternoon when the party began unraveling. First, Silvia and Ynez took leave. They had been wearing (soccer colors) futbol jerseys. They must have gone to the game – Guadalajara was in town. Busloads of Guadalajarans always made the trip – Guadalajara was like the Pittsburgh of futbol gringoso; their fans traveled well – and loudly. Anna liked watching futbolistas. But the muchacho – ja! Right, his name was Placido, like the opera singer. The Placido wanted to go sing karaoke. And he could buy the pitchers. And she could drink the pitchers. 
The Placido, Anna, and the two other girls. Anna remembered that much. The two girls – they looked like Flora and Magda – no, they couldn’t be!  Stop dreaming, he’s talking to you.  A voice tried to dispel the renewed fog between Anna’s ears. Instead, it was as if her receptive speech centers were vibrating crystalline molecules, and the rich baritone vibrations of her unlikely host Roberto just amped up the noise without clarifying the signal. Anna raised her right hand, still tingling, to her forehead and adjusted the ice pack.
That song. “Amor, Amor” by Jose Jose. Or by The Placido. Wow. It just flooded out everything else. Anna blinked, but in her mind all she could see was The Placido with the mic in hand and a dream in his eyes. She wanted him. As he found his rhythm with the house band, The Placido relaxed more and more into the song and the beat. With a broad forehead, a furrowed brow,  a squared jaw, and an aquiline nose, The Placido looked like the famous singer’s son. Anna wanted him.
“The others? Jose? No, not Jose Jose, Placido,” Anna stammered 
“Your are alone, in Netzahualcoyotl. I had to take you home with me.”
”Placido.”
“No, senorita, Roberto, el taxista.”
“Where was I?”
 “ I don’t know, but I found you outside La Casa Teddy. Not far from here. I was coming home.”
“Mande?!?!
“A terrible place. A real (    ). You look somehow like a muchacha I picked up around 8 last night.”
“I remember very badly. I cannot imagine it all. I think I remember going to the zoologico. My classmates were  – two of them – going to the futbol match. Magda – lo siento, lo siento – Marisol and Fatima. Marisol is from Guadalajara. “
“Yes, I remember. I picked you and this Placido and some others on Avenida 533. That wasn’t such a great bar either. You’re too young to drink, chica.”
“Legally, señor. Remember, Placido is older.”
“Who is this Placido, anyway? What kind of gorilla is he that leaves such a young girl alone? No offense, Señorita, but if I recognized him I would break his head for him and serve it to him for lunch.”
“No, Señor…señor…”
“Roberto.”
“I can’t remember. But I can’t find bad feelings anywhere in my heart for him. We must have left 533 to go to a karaoke bar. I don’t remember the trip. I think I remember something about you, though, señor Roberto.”
Si?
“Alarcon, was it? It was like the name of the zoo.”
“You said something about Jose Jose. Were you going to see him?
“No. The Placido loved his songs. Where you took us to – wasn’t that a karaoke bar? I remember singing “Amor Amor” with him.”
“You have a beautiful voice, Señorita?”
“No. terrible. I can’t sing well at all. The Placido sings very well, but he lied and told me I sang beautifully,” Anna sighed and paused. The sigh stuck on the roof of her parched mouth. “I am so thirsty. May I have something to drink, please?”
“Just the thing. I am coming back right now.”
Pressing the tender points on her temple and brow, Anna pulled herself up to sitting. She saw that her lace sandals sat in a neat pair near the armrest of the sofa – just on the side that her feet had been. It seemed, she thought, that the two of them might have been a pair of nosy neighbors from her vecindario in Puebla who, upon encountering her, were telling (“can-you-top-this”) stories about her scandalous night before. With a feeling of panic that occluded her hangover, Anna shot her hand up her right thigh. Gracias mi Dios, she thought through another sigh, this one so heartfelt that it forced its way out her desiccated throat. She heard herself cough, and then – nothing.
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