The Cup of

"The Indians have very strange ideas about death --- even stranger than your own," says El Jefe. "They believe in La Taza de Olvida, the 'Cup of Forgetfulness.' One sip and your remembrances --- life, good memories, the bad --- they're all wiped away. Just like that.

"'The Cup of Forgetfulness,'" he repeats, as he drinks down a large snort of coñac. "When we die, they say, we'll go to a field, not so much different from the fields around here. There are noises and lights all around --- the colors of rainbow nights, the sounds of the stars, the smell of jasmine --- perfumed winds of our pasts."

I fall into his words, think about no longer being body but a great porous entity --- one eye the sun, the other the moon --- rolling about the lush fields, bombarded by sounds and lights previously unheard and invisible. Pushed about in the astringent grasses, carried hither and yon by the vast wind --- the one that formed us from before eternity, the one that moves us until we become a whisper.

He nibbles at his drink again, shifts in his chair. The light catches at his silver belt-buckle, with its engraving of a peasant walking down a road. "No night, no sleep --- certainly no death (how can you die when you are dead?) Just the twisting lights, the dark sounds --- the winds pouring through us." He sighs. "They say it is so noisy and windy in the eternal pastures that after awhile we'll do anything to get out of there. Anything.

"That's when they offer us 'the Cup of Forgetfulness.' With one sip, we can forget all about heaven, return to earth, with all its hunger and woe." He pauses. "That's what I hold in my hand now. The Cup of Forgetfulness." He winks, and sighs again, and takes another sip. "Everyone, everyone --- except the very divine --- begs for the Cup. To drink from it so we can come back again, here again, to sleep again.

"That's what we miss the most when we're out there. Sleep." He drains the cup. "Sleep --- and fucking." He uses the English word, but because of his accent, it comes out as "foggin'."

"What do you think, Don Ignacio?" he asks me. He shifts in his chair, winks at me, coughs, and spits, over towards the patch of wilted misskiss, at the edge of the porch.

He drains his glass --- the one with the picture of Goofy --- puts it on the table, thinks a moment. "The moment we sip from 'the Cup,' we fall back to earth," he says: "and we know a single second of sleep is worth all that paradise. We know a minute starving in the shit-water at the side of the road beats a thousand centuries in heaven.

"That's what the Indians say."

He settles into his coñac, his eyes cleg-tormented, his tongue paused, a shy mouse at the corner of his lips. "¿Qué menso, eh?" How dumb, right?

---The Buddha of Boystown

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