Part III
I think I probably saved the scene at Lolita's Cafe that night. I became the ultimate deus ex machine. At one point I figured we had about five minutes before the floor show between Moise and Eve would begin. U. P. is telling us about the death of his wife: "They opened her up. Her lungs were shot. She was dead in a month. And I'm the smoker." He pauses. "I haven't been able to do anything since then. I sold the business. I travel around, here and there. I travel a lot. I've thought of going back into the business, but I've never been able to do it. I've got enough money to keep on travelling. I guess that's what I'll do." And I look at him, trying to peer in through his huge round reflecting glasses, see into the heart of him, this old, washed-up, freckle-headed, droop-mouthed guy.

I see someone in pain, all of us in pain, that mute, inexpressive, awful pain. I see one who has lived out most of his life, and knows it, and doesn't have much left, and knows that too --- someone who's traveled too far to go back, has practically run out of whatever it is that keeps humans going. I see before me a scared, fat, lonely man, too proud to ask for help, to come right out and say "I'm hurting. So bad. Won't you help me?" Too proud to say it, but not too proud to hint at it --- to let us reject the plea if we so choose.

I choose not to buy into it, fearing what would come next. I think, "If I were only Tennessee Williams." If I had the time, and the interest, if I were not in the Great Black Pacific Slough of my own, with all the trash and detritus and beer cans and lemon rinds and mango peelings ... if I could rouse myself, write up his story, in appropriate novelese, flesh out the tragedy of a lonely, isolated man, a man who's bereft. He and I would have some tale to tell. I suppose. If I wanted.

"Mira," I say, turning to Moise. "Lo que dices es la verdad. Hay un character en Mexico --- un character lleno de amor, y alma --- un corazón lleno de espíritu..." and I'm off. It's enough to shock Moise out of his bitter brood. I've been sitting here at Lola's for two hours, not talking, certainly not talking Spanish. He thinks I am another illiterate gringo. Well, I am --- but when pressed by enough gin fizzes, I can come up with some of the damndest and most original groupings of words, the most outré collection of phrases --- all born of a year or so of high school Spanish, a year or so in Spain.

When I speak, as I am doing now, of the Mexican soul, the heart "filled with love, the spirit of that heart" --- I may be speaking the most garish sort of gringo Spanish, never heard before on the southern coast of Mexico, with an accent out of the worst mix of Hollywood, Miami, and New Jersey --- but no matter what the accent, Moise knows I am talking artist to artist, using the words he knows the best: "soul, heart, spirit." Artist talk, and damn the language barrier.

Suddenly, the black moods that have been lurking about our table are swept away. Two students of the soul of Mexico have found each other. U. P.'s monotone tales of the living dead are by-passed; Eve's throaty projections of the miserable night ahead are for naught. Moise the Moody and Carlos the Broody have been brought together to transform all in a discussion of the world of souls and hearts, a discussion which will go on frenetically, with much fractured English and broken Spanish, for the next hours, as the two of them explicate to and for each other at great length with immense amorphous foggy clustering of words and gestures and logic exactly what constitutes Mexican Soul, Art, Love.

The remainder of the evening is a fuzzy babble, if not bubble. Eve and U. P. fade away. I recall at one point our gap-toothed fifteen-year-old waiter being hauled before the court of the table as an example of the best of Mexico, a young man with a proud heritage, one who should look solidly to the future with a clear eye and an open heart because the best blood in the world courses through his veins.

I also seem to recall an extended discussion, somewhat later in the evening, at the door of my car, at least I think it was my car, a discussion between Moise and me, but possibly others were involved, perhaps even the squirrel, and the grasshopper, whether I, in my present artistic condition, could make the long and arduous drive up to the hotel on the hill.

As I embraced my new and lifelong friend Moise, I also embraced my car, and assured Moise that the car would make the drive all by itself, that we, the VW and I, had been together so long that it didn't even need me to drive it: all I had to do was to turn it on, step on the gas --- and we were off.

And even though Moise was my newest lifelong friend, he must have trusted me explicitly, or at least he trusted my car, because I awoke the next morning, safely in bed, knowing that not only did my kind van get me up the hill --- it then got me into the room, tucked me in bed, kissed me goodnight, and locked the door before tiptoeing away to the hotel lot for the night.

--- From The Blob That Ate Oaxaca
©2004, Mho & Mho Works
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Part I


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