MIKE LEE - ST. LAWRENCE'S DAY
Mike Lee is a writer, labor journalist and photographer based in New York City. Fiction include Scarlet Leaf Review, West Trade Review, Easy Street, The Ampersand Review, Paraphilia, The Airgonaut, Sensitive Skin, Reservoir, The Avenue and others.
Photographs currently exhibiting at Art Thou Gallery in Berkeley, California and a group show at Darkroom Gallery, curated by Bruce Gilden.
St. Lawrence’s Day
“Ever wonder why the government never allows people like us into the country while they let neo-Nazis and Salvadoran priest killers in without as much as a glance at their passport?”
“No.” I rolled over and pulled the sheet over my head. I hated it when Anne got political, which seemed to be the case every night for the last month. She suffered from the fanaticism of the recently converted; as for me, three years of university student barricade bullshit has left me with a strong sense of failed expectations. I have come to believe that the personal is political is a lie because I’m at the point now that my personal political is personal. Therefore, I want to be left alone.
It was a bad day. I’d turned in my section of the weekly paper I wrote for and found out that some idiot scammed a monthly column. For a paper that rants against sexism and racism, why do all the white guys get a column? My friend at the paper, Richard, calls it the “white negro syndrome” and lets it go at that. I know what he’s talking about, I think. Richard’s white, and his opinion may change if and when he gets assigned a column, so maybe he’s bullshitting me, too.
I turned my head and looked at Anne, who was reading one of my books. She was someone I met at the South African divestment meetings. We had common interests, like lust for each other. She practically lives at my apartment now. I’d wake up in the morning to step over piles of dirty laundry to get to the shower. She also uses my razor and doesn’t clean out the tub afterward. And she also bitches over the way I dress. Recently converted, yeah.
The telephone rang and I plucked the receiver.
“Hey Shannon, it’s Richard.”
“I just wanted to tell you that your Sonic Youth review is in and is running as my lead.” There was a pause like he wanted to tell me something else.
I had it figured out. “No.” I whispered into the telephone.
“Sure, no problem. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” He hung up.
I put the telephone down and sighed. Richard’s right, maybe I do need a change. I appreciated his honesty and the way he understood my sensibilities.
Anne looked at me with her doe eyes. “Who was that?”
“Marie.” I lied and then I gave her a peck on the cheek. Anne reached up and turned off the light and slid next to me and caressed my breasts. I stared at the ceiling, comforted by the dull roar of the air conditioner.
* * *
“Remember that time when Theresa threw a chair at us and we had to jump out of a third storey window?” Richard was speaking softly, almost as if Theresa was waiting around the corner.
I laughed. “Was that before, or after the incident with the meat cleaver?”
“Before.” Richard has a knack for recalling my memories.
I tossed the remains of my ham on rye to the pigeons and watched them scurry for the scraps. “So you think Laura’s using me?”
“Never met anyone who wasn’t using you.” Richard mumbled between sips of his Dr. Pepper. “Nothing against you, except poor judgment. This is something you always say yourself.”
I bristled at the remark. Of course he’s right. Has been for years. But I always seem to forget every time.
I go to my next defense. ”Well, things never turn right for you.”
Richard shrugged. “I know but I don’t care. I’m used to disaster.”
“Nothing has happened yet with your Laura, huh?”
He shrugged again. “It’s final next Tuesday.” He smirked. “I guess we both sound like broken records, don’t we?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s so.” I wadded up the grease paper and tried to hit the garbage can from the bench. It fell short by a foot.
Later that day I went to mass. It was Saint Lawrence’s feast day. Outside of that obscure fact, there was no other reason to hold a service on a Tuesday afternoon. I sat in the pew and went through the motions. Saint Lawrence is my favorite martyr; he was vicar of Rome during Nero’s reign and was noted for his sense of humor. While the Romans roasted him to death on a grille, he would shout out to them “Go ahead and turn me over, I’m well done on this side.” My mother used to tell me when I was young that Lawrence would have been my name if I was a boy. Kind of would have been cool to be named after the patron saint of grill cooks and comedians. Rather fitting, considering the way my life has gone.
I looked at the Christ hanging from the cross behind the altar. What a grisly sight; I remember how pictures of the Crucifixion used to frighten me, now I’m only bemused. Torture of that sort is an everyday thing now, whether it is physical or emotional. I think I should add envy to my list. Yes, I’m rather envious of Christ; at least he knew what he was getting into. And he was the Son of God, which put him higher on the food chain of humanity.
God, I’m gay, and Catholic and lonely. What a terrible mix. But I think it makes sense.
When Richard’s divorce became final, we celebrated by taking the train to San Miguel del Allende. It was going to be my first real vacation in years and I really needed to get away from Anne. She pouted and acted like a whiny asshole after I told her. It was tolerable; she would have been a lot worse if I told her that I was going with Richard. She hates him, she said because he was too masculine. Weird girl.
We rode in first class, which meant our own sleeping quarters, but we hung out in the rear of the train, watching the countryside roll by. Drank the entire case of Sol we bought in Nuevo Laredo before we even reached Monterrey. I remembered the country reminded me of California, if California had donkeys and old Ford pickups. But the smell was the same.
I passed out during the layover in Monterrey and Richard went out looking for whores. I knew he was lying as he shouted his intention into my ear as I tried to sleep; there was just something terribly sad about him that would not allow him to do such a thing. This is something I lack: self-respect.
When I woke up, Richard was staring out of his bunk. I looked down and the ashtray was full of cigarette butts. He had managed to smoke all of mine as well.
He looked at me and guessed what it was. “No need to worry, I bought you a carton on the way back.” He turned to stare back out the window. I closed my eyes and tried to fall back asleep.
I tried to think why I never fucked him. He’s the only guy I know who’s decent-no, I take that back--the only guy who is decent and I would be interested in.
I opened my eyes and looked him over. He is so good looking. But sex? I don’t think so. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But I do think about it from time to time. I think it’s normal and very healthy. It doesn’t change me one bit; in fact, I believe it strengthens my identity. But God help him if he tried to throw as pass at me.
No, I take that back again. I really don’t know which way I’d swing.
I’ve known Richard for eleven years, ever since our first year in high school. All that time he never did anything. No matter how drunk or lonely or depressed or angry...it’s crazy. Nothing ever happened. Not even close.
But I still don’t really trust him fully, and I think he knows that.
That afternoon the train broke down. Fortunately, it was at a village called San Lorenzo.
“Saint Lawrence.” I mumbled as I looked at the signpost, not a little surprised.
I was uneasy over leaving the train but Richard insisted. The conductor told us that the train would be in for repairs for several more hours and probably would not even leave until tomorrow daybreak. Richard eyes flashed with a bad idea: let’s go to the cantina and get drunk. I was feeling tired and I wasn’t intending on boozing it up in some dirty one cop town. Despite my politics, I’m frightened of the unknown. I almost feel it’s a deep-seated racism that I’ve tried for years to put behind me, but it will always be there. Too many bad experiences with machos fag-baiting me, but that’s being unfair.
Richard has no such qualms. He talked me into it and after I changed into a white linen sundress and brown sandals, we left the train and went into the village.
The village was what I expected. One main paved drag with the obligatory chuckholes and cracks every few feet with several one story and two story buildings that looked right out of a Hollywood set. An Esso station with two rusting pumps. Chickens and dogs running across the road. And dirt and scrub and very bored people hanging languidly like automatons.
We walked to what passed for a plaza. The fountain was dry and caked with several decades’ worth of dust. I looked down at my dress. No way was I going to sit on that thing.
“Alright, let’s go find a bar.” I sighed, finally giving into Richard.
There was this dreary building painted the color of faded urine at the west edge of the plaza. There was a row of wooden benches in front with funny little men sitting in them drinking beer and playing dominoes just like every other cantina I had the guts to walk into. At least this time I wasn’t dressed butch, because when they turned their heads to check us out they didn’t look at me like I was a threat to them. Instead they looked at me like I was a piece of meat, which is better in this situation. The last time I walked into a place like this dressed like a dyke wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Instinctively, I moved closer to Richard. It made me feel guilty. Even after all these years I still consider my girlish moves because he’s a man despite the fact that he’s my best friend. I know I can’t defend myself very well, but I react the same way. I jerked back away from him and looked away. He was oblivious to the whole thing; another reason why I like him.
We walked in and found a table near the front door. Richard signaled for two beers and we got Bohemias. I felt weird, especially when I looked around and saw a guy at the next table wearing a Saint Lawrence tattoo on his upper arm. With the flaming grill and everything. Who would get a tattoo like that? It really scared the shit out of me.
“What’s wrong? You’re shivering.” Richard looked at me with a look of sincere concern.
“Nothing.” I replied, trying to keep from stuttering. “Beer’s cold.”
“Hmm.” He held the Bohemia in front of him and studied it. They were both warm.
I tried to keep my eyes off the guy with the tattoo but I was doing a pretty lousy job of it. Richard noticed and looked at him too. I bit my lip and asked Richard if we could sit outside. We got up and walked out.
There was a railing beside the front door. We stood by it and looked out over the plaza.
“God, this place is disgusting.” I said as a rat scurried around the corner of the patio.
“Shut up.” Richard replied under his breath. “Somebody might hear you.”
“Just show some respect. We’re in a foreign country, you know.”
“Oh, come on.” I swept my arm across the length of the plaza. “This place is so poor that the mosquitoes don’t even bother to hang around. Jesus.”
“You’re such a fucking tourist.” Richard spat back. “Let’s try to enjoy ourselves, okay?”
They had sold us sixty-day passes and so we decided to stay in San Lorenzo that night. The train left the next morning and we weren’t on it. There was a daily local and there was plenty of time to get to San Miguel.
I don’t know why I agreed. Maybe it was something I saw that afternoon while we stood in front of the cantina. After a couple of hours of wandering around the village, I felt a certain attraction that I couldn’t rightly put my finger on. Was it the fact that it was in the middle of nowhere, which was where I really wanted to be? Or was it the tattoo? I don’t know and still don’t know. Things were confused enough for me as they were and I wasn’t feeling like riding the train for another twelve hours.
The hotel was of course the only one in town and was the only building with a balcony. It was on the plaza, next door to the cantina and with a view of the church. We got a room on the second floor, facing the church and surprisingly it had its own shower. Must have been the presidential suite.
There was only one single bed, but we made do. Richard didn’t try anything and we slept back to back the first night. He was respectful enough to keep his underwear on.
I went out and managed to buy some bottled water from a store and the cantina served decent food. Just about all we drank was booze and warm soft drinks made by some local bottler. They smelled of cockroaches but tasted pretty good.
The only other guest was this old European man who stepped right out of a Bogart movie. White linen suit, leather bow tie and a Panama hat. Had a cane, too. In the morning I could hear the tapping down the hall and to the stairs. Mostly, though, he sat on his balcony behind us wrapped up behind a wall of silence that neither Richard nor I could hope to penetrate.
The old European didn’t seem to notice us, or probably didn’t care. It bothered us because outside of us, he was the only Anglo in San Lorenzo. We spoke of him in whispers. What secrets he must have, we wondered at night over our Bohemias.
Time fades, and when it does, it’s like it never existed. I didn’t realize it until I found my watch in my overnight bag. I sat on the bed and wanted to cry. I didn’t know why.
For the first time in my life I was scared. I realized that we were in San Lorenzo for nearly three weeks. My watch keeps the date as well.
Richard just shrugged. “It’s just one of those things, you know. After all, we’re in a foreign country.” He needed a shave. “You can go to the station and wire Anne.”
I bristled. I forgot all about her. “I think that’s a bit late for that.”
“You never know. Maybe she’s got the policia looking for us. “
We promised ourselves that we were going to leave on the local bus come daybreak. We overslept and missed it by minutes, just in time to see it travel over the horizon like a sleepless snake.
“No big deal. We’ll leave tomorrow.” Richard was wearing my sunglasses over a sunburned face. He really needed a shave. I thought it made him look very handsome. I bought a calendar that day and more bottled water.
A week later, Richard cut my hair. I looked at myself in the mirror. My face still looked too fat, but he did the bangs just right. I was pleased. In return, I trimmed his beard. We sat on the balcony and sipped our cockroach colas and watched the sunset behind the mountains. The smell of exhaust hung from the bus idling below, but it was tolerable.
I leaned over, watching the old European walk toward the cantina. The cane seemed to only accentuate his limp.
“I was told by this guy named Roberto that he’s been here for as long as he can remember.” Richard said, pointing at him as he walked into the cantina doorway. “Rumor has it that he’s from the south.”
“Yeah, like Argentina.” He gave me a knowing look and drew a swastika in the dirt of the railing with his finger.
Roberto was the local schoolteacher. He was our age, twenty-five and had been teaching in San Lorenzo for three years. “The longest years of my life,” he would tell us as we got drunk at his house.
Ximena, his wife, was a beautiful woman. I fell in love with her from the first moment I saw her. She was around five-two and rubenesque, with large almond eyes and thin lips that she would sprinkle with a pinkish lipstick, which reminded me of the girls in junior high. She knew I wanted her. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her when she was in the room. Occasionally she would jerk just slightly as she shifted her weight as she sat, showing me a little of her breasts that jutted out from under dresses too tight for her figure. I made a point of helping her do the dishes, but nothing would happen because Roberto would always be around, always trying to help out; excusing himself that he was a “modern man” and should help with the housework. I sensed that he knew, too, but Richard swore he never said a thing. I believe him. By now I have no choice. And I ached.
Ximena and I took the bus to San Juanito one day for shopping. I was too scared to make a move. She pretended to be oblivious the entire trip. I bought several dresses and a pair of red pumps. I had not worn heels since my grandmother’s funeral. There was going to be a dance that Friday.
When I got back to the hotel in San Lorenzo, I locked myself in the bathroom and cried. Later, I got myself together and went to the balcony. I watched Richard and Roberto stagger out of the cantina singing Ramones songs. When Richard came in, I helped him into the shower and put him to bed. I sat in the chair and watched him sleep peacefully until I dozed off.
The policia had taken an interest in our presence. One day, the local cop called Richard downstairs and he was gone for nearly all afternoon. He came later carrying two cans of orange juice.
“Where’d you get them?” I stared at the cans as if they were gold.
“Ernesto and me drove to San Juanito.” Ernesto was the cop.
“So I guess there wasn’t any trouble.”
Richard took his shoes off and flopped down on the bed. “Naw, they just couldn’t figure out why a couple of gringos would hang around here for no apparent reason.”
“What did you tell them?”
Richard reached in his shirt for his cigarettes. “What we decided to tell them a while back. The truth.”
“They didn’t believe you.” There was no way they could.
“They did. Ernesto understands.” He lit the Raleigh and exhaled sharply. “You know something? Ernesto’s been wondering about it too.”
* * *
I threw a pass at Ximena during the dance. The dance was held in the courtyard behind the church. Underneath an arch and out of sight of everybody, I slipped my hand down her dress and kissed her with my open mouth. She returned the kiss and I moved my hand down to her breast, placing a fingertip on her right nipple.
Ximena licked my lip and knocked my hand away and gently pushed me back.
“Little gringa.” She laughed. “I’m not your type.”
She held her hand in mine and led me back to the party. I was really embarrassed. As we came closer she turned to me. “I’m flattered, but you deserve better.” She let go and joined in a snake dance. As she moved out of sight, Roberto tapped me on the shoulder.
“Ximena is a wonderful woman. Full of mysteries.”
I smiled back nervously. Roberto put a finger to my lips.
“Shush. Remember one thing: giving is not always the same as receiving. Remember that when you try to feel up my wife. Don’t misunderstand me, Ximena’s her own person and I like you. Just be careful. She knows how to hurt.”
“You also don’t want to be known as la puta blanca,” he added before walking away.
I blew off Ximena right then and there.
* * *
I thought about screwing Richard. Fucking a guy for the first time since high school was one thing; he being your best friend was another. I’d seen wonderful friendships destroyed by sex. But I had needs.
I sat in the chair late the Sunday night after the dance. He was asleep and, as I looked down at him, I wondered how I was going about it. Was I going to put on garters and heels and some slim lacy thing and lie in wait for him tomorrow night? Would I seduce him romantically on the balcony as we watched another sunset? Or was I just going to jump him right now and get it over with? This was a serious dilemma; I had no idea what I was going to do.
I’ve known Richard for over a decade. I should’ve known by now what he liked. Funny, we always talked about girls; well, it was a common interest. I thought about the women he went out with, and the psycho he married. None of them I liked, they were all cold and weird and not very good looking by any standards. But I knew what he liked.
But what do I like? What would I want? This wasn’t something that was healthy either. Men may be weird, but so am I. I always desired the gray area; I only wanted to play fair.
And I’m thinking about my best friend.
I thought about Ximena underneath the arch.
I did nothing. Identity should never be a crisis.
* * *
We sold our train passes to a pair of campesinos planning on crossing the border. There was only a week left before they expired and we didn’t want to go to San Miguel.
When our money started to run out, Richard decided to tutor some of the locals in English while I worked as a projectionist for the town’s only movie theatre. It was a fun, and easy job. The owner of the theatre was Roberto’s uncle and he needed the break.
The films were standard Mexican fare; romantic comedies and an occasional horror movie. I would sit in the booth with a bottle of tequila and several packs of Raleigh cigarettes. My smoking jumped up to about three packs a day; after a month I was coughing up yellow phlegm. But I sat back and watched the flickering images in front of me as I spat into the tissue and sipped tequila out of the bottle.
Then I would come home and Richard and I would sit out on the balcony and watch the old European come around on his nightly rounds, tapping with his cane. What secrets does he hold? One never knows, maybe finding out was our motivation for staying in San Lorenzo. I couldn’t think of anything else that could hold us here.
I thought about that a lot as I stared out the projectionist’s window. Why did I even want to spend the first night here, anyway? One night I noted that I haven’t seen the man with the tattoo since the first day in the cantina. Just who he was and what he meant was something I would run around in circles about it forever. So I didn’t think about him much; but maybe there was something about him that made sense after all.
I was wearing lipstick again. Deep red. It made me look like a vampire, even with all the sun I got. Ximena told me that some of the locals were whispering that I was a bruja, a witch. This gave me a certain amount of respect from the villagers. They placed their faith in everything but the church, which was surprisingly empty on Sundays. Roberto said it had something to do with the Revolution; people in these parts really hate padres.
Being a witch is kind of fitting considering the job working at the cinema. I seem quite the magician running those images of the outside world to campesinos whose idea of a modern city is Monterrey, if they’ve been that far. It also guarantees being left alone.
The ashtray was always overfilled and the room stank of spilled tequila. But I would clean up after myself as Alfonso closed up downstairs. Once I spilled ashes in a film canister. I don’t think anybody would notice, but I carefully wiped the canister out. I felt like I was becoming more responsible, but maybe because I wasn’t willing to let Alfonso down.
I’ve put on some weight since we arrived at San Lorenzo. I threw all my old clothes out and bought new dresses on my last trip to the city.
This time, Roberto and Richard came with us. Roberto borrowed an old Chevy from his cousin Israel and we drove out to Monterrey. The city reminds me of New Jersey crossed with a refugee camp. Ximena and I bought new dresses and shoes and I found Richard a white linen suit, just like the one the old European wore.
The four of us had coffee together at a sidewalk cafe close to the city center and walked the streets until dusk. We didn’t make it back to the village until close to four and Ximena and I slept all the way back, her head on my lap.
By this time, we stopped eating at the cantina and would always have dinner at Ximena and Roberto’s house. After coffee, I was ready to go to work. The weather was always warm enough for us to take our meals in the backyard, where Richard had built a picnic bench out of some wood scraps he and Roberto found.
Sometimes others would come to eat and talk. Israel would bring his guitar and sing; occasionally Alfonso came and talked film with Richard. Alfonso has good taste in films. He always complained of not affording to show the films he wants to show; stuff like Bunuel and Godard. Richard would wink at me as Alfonso spoke; we both knew there was a tinge of bullshit; he was just trying to impress the token supposedly sophisticated gringos.
There was something pathetic about the old man. He had the money to go to Mexico City and open up an art house there, instead he stayed in San Lorenzo where the cockroaches starve. But on the other hand, we’re here too and I’m beginning to think that there’s no difference between us. Maybe we could go back, but after we wired all the money from our respective accounts in Texas, I’m thinking that maybe we’re trapped down here as well.
The kicker came when I found myself suggesting to Richard that we move out of the hotel and find a house. I was even sober when I said it, as was Richard when he agreed.
“Oh God!” I shuddered as I put my hand over my mouth. “We don’t belong here. Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” I ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I lay down on the floor and shook with fear, drumming my heels on the floor. What was happening to me?
I don’t belong here. Richard doesn’t belong here. We don’t belong together. None of this makes sense. I hate movies. We both had decent jobs back home and neither of us has written a word that I could think of since we arrived.
I got up and looked into the mirror. I wiped the lipstick off, smearing it all over my face. I’m not me. Fuck, I flunked Spanish in high school. I never could deal with the syntax and I can’t roll my r’s.
So why did I ask Richard in Spanish?
I stared up at the light fixture with the blown out bulb that hadn’t been replaced in weeks. We really do need to find a house of our own. I unlocked the door and fell crying like a baby into Richard’s arms.
I’m seriously losing my shit.
The old European finally spoke to us. It was on the hottest day of the year, the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees centigrade, and, to top it off, I was sick in bed with dysentery.
Luckily for us, a house owned by Israel’s dad had opened up when the family living there moved to San Juanito. The rent came to about three hundred thousand a month, which was expensive by the villages’ standards, but with us being gringos, it was only fair. Richard made just that much on a day’s work and we had plenty of space to move around in for a change. We bought furniture in San Juanito: a cool green fake leather couch, a coffee table, a bed and chairs. I bought a Samsung television at the street market in San Juanito with what was left of my savings taken from Texas and I would sit and watch it with Ximena every afternoon. The week before I got sick, it was Ximena’s turn to throw a pass and I rejected it without as much as a thought. It didn’t bother me; I guess I’ve gotten used to things being the way they are, even though I still couldn’t figure them out.
But I had gotten very sick. I still haven’t gotten used to the local drinking water. I had broken out in a cold sweat the next day and in three days I had lost eight kilos.
San Lorenzo’s doctor was out of town that week and Ximena would come over with herbs, but it didn’t seem to work. Richard had suggested driving out to San Juanito for a doctor and was walking out the door when the old European showed up.
“I’ve heard that the woman is very sick.” I heard him say to Richard as he came into the bedroom. “I’m a doctor.” The accent was French, which was what Roberto said it was. I knew that accent anywhere. He was from Marseille, just like my first lover.
But I wasn’t thinking of my first lover. I just wanted to throw up.
He bent over and pressed his hand against my stomach.
“Does it hurt here?”
“A little bit.”
He moved his hand lower. “Here?”
“Oh yeah.” The pressure made me nauseous.
“Well, it’s not a tumor.” He said in heavily accented English. I didn’t get the joke.
He straightened and turned to Richard. “Severe diarrhea?” Richard pointed at me. Thanks, I’m the one who should know.
“Yes. For three days.” I moaned.
“Light colored stools?” He asked, sighing.
“Dat’s goot.” His French now sounded more German. Maybe Richard was right.
The old European reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an ophthalmoscope. It looked like something out of the forties; taped together with black electrical tape. He bent over me again and checked my eyes.
“Hmm. I do not believe this is hepatitis. Maybe a mild form of dysentery. I could have told him that.
He placed the ophthalmoscope back in his pocket. “Unfortunately, I have no medicine available. All I can say is watch her until Doctor Perez returns in the morning. I doubt there will be any changes.” He reached down and patted my arm. “You are very strong, don’t worry.” He said smiling.
I smiled back even though his breath smelled of rotting gums. The old European stepped back, shook Richard’s hand and guided him back to the living room. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on their voices in the doorway but I couldn’t pick up a thing.
Richard walked back in and kneeled beside me. I held my hand out and he held it with his, brushing my fingers.
“Strange guy.” That was all he volunteered.
“Tell me later. I want to sleep.” Then Richard kissed me on the cheek.
I faded into oblivion and dreamed about the time I was at mass in Austin on Saint Lawrence’s feast day. I was the only one in the church and I was naked--no I was not--was I?
No, that’s a metaphor for something. And I wasn’t alone.
I turned and saw Roberto and Ximena sitting in the pew across from me. Ximena was wearing the dress from the night of the dance and her hair was severely pulled back, tied with a matching ribbon. I turned and saw Richard was at the altar, dressed in a white robe. I figured he’d be an altar boy. The old European was blessing the host, chanting in German. His back was turned but I knew who he was. Then he turned to face me and spoke:
“Turn me on this side and eat; for I am well done on this side.”
I awoke, the sheets covered with my sweat and I was shivering.
Again, I sat there and wished I had remembered to bring my old copy of 100 Dreams Interpreted. But I’m beginning to catch the drift. I decided to go back to Texas once I felt better.
I lay back down and buried my face in the pillow. It was so hot. I miss my air conditioner. My stomach cramps were still bad, I had a hard time moving as I tried to move my legs up into a fetal position, which was the only way I could sleep comfortably since I got sick.
It had gotten dark and the light was on in the living room. I could hear Richard at the kitchen table, typing. He had been writing again, but he hasn’t shown me anything that he had written. But at least one of us is still doing something; since we got here I hardly worked on anything outside of a letter to my mother in our first week here.
I wondered how she’s doing. I reminded myself to get back in touch with her soon; she must be really worried by now.
I felt a weight on my heart. I kept so many things from her. After all these years, I wondered if she ever suspected. Well, right now it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference anyhow.
I can’t believe I’m doing this. Why did I come here? Why am still here?
Why can’t I just leave and go home?
Am I really changing? I felt like my identity is being slowly stripped away; is it metamorphosis or something a lot worse?
These are too many questions to ask yourself when you feel like throwing up.
The rhythm of Richard typing lulled. I slid off the precipice into dreams.
“One of these days I’m going to go back to Austin,” Richard sounded like he was joking. I was conflicted, though.
I looked at him with a fevered look. I had just seen my reflection in the mirror. I had rather gotten used to it. Something about my face pleased me, and I didn’t know why. So it goes.
We finally managed to get some decent films at the cinema. I’m going with Richard to pick them up at the film center at Monterey. I’m looking forward to seeing them. I sit on the back porch with the fresh concrete that the workmen poured only last week.
Ximena walks by. She turns to smile and waves. I stretch out my arms and look out into the sun, offering myself, yet again. I close my eyes and begin to daydream para estar cerca del sol que me calienta.