The Death of Jesús
Ignacio's brother died last Saturday here in Puerto Perdido. It was a freak accident, took place in front of the public market. Jesús and his motorcycle and a truck at the wrong intersection, at the wrong time. It is said that when an ambulance finally arrived, there was nothing that could be done. Jesús' body was wedged under the back tires of the Elektra truck, and someone who knew the family called Ignacio to come at once to help lift the wheels so the ambulance people could get to the body. There's lots of spooky paperwork here when someone dies in a wreck. If you are not careful, even if you are the one who reports it, you can be cited and arrested.

The next day, I went to the memorial service at the family's home, there in Colonia Infantida. A great orange-bright sunlit tarp was hung over the street in front of the family store. By the time we got there, fifty or sixty people had arrived, were sitting in plastic chairs watching the entrance to the shop. The store had one of those sliding metal doors that pull up --- a curtain in a theater, as it were. We joined the mourners, sat off to the left, watched as people came in with their flowers and votive candles and money. In Mexico it is custom to offer money to the family to help them with the expenses of the funeral. It is cold cash, but it is given and received with heart. People would go up the stairs, pass a moment or two with mother, father, and Ignacio, then descend to sit in the white chairs. It was very hot. There had only been the two brothers; and now there was but one.

Behind us was the band --- tubas, trombones, trumpets, drum. The music they played was loud and wonderfully off-key as Mexican band music often tends to be. Conversation was not only impossible, but unnecessary. "Cielito Lindo," "Las Golondrinas," "México Lindo y Querido," "La Puerta Negra." The songs they played were in no way mournful but --- rather --- lively, loud, and for the mourners, totally appropriate. I felt as if we were watching an old silent movie with random music that had little to do with the action inside the theatre.

Ignacio came out and spent a few moments with me and Paulina and Ernesto. He is usually very much the stoic but now his tears leaked down his face non-stop. He did nothing to wipe them away. I recall thinking how frail we are, how frail all of us. A stray car or truck comes so easily, so randomly to take you or me or a good friend away forever.

As I often do in these situations I spent a lot of time with my eyes cast down, half-hidden. I was, as usual, trying to hide my dismay at life and its sudden, nonsensical --- possibly bestial --- endings. What kind of gods are floating around out there who would dare to take a good young man's life, with no warning?

I tried to come up with the logic of it all, but all I could think of was Harry Levin's dark essay on the many deaths in "Hamlet:" so many deaths necessary to right a single wrong. Levin wrote that we should not mourn someone's demise, but death itself. It was not the dying that was so woeful; rather, it was the waste of it all.

--- C. A. Amantea
Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH