he Gabacho said that before he came to here, he was scared of dying. He wrote down for me on a blank page of his journal

    Timor Mortis Conturbat Me

which he said meant "I'm scared to death of dying." He said that when he was living to the north, he was starting to die, and he didn't like that, because it scared him. He's the first man I've ever known who says that he is scared. None of my friends ever say that. If you have to fight with the biggest guy on the street, you stand up and put up your fists and try not to shake, because you don't want anyone in the cantón to know that you are scared.

He said that for him being here was like looking in the mirror. He had always heard that the Americanos who lived outside the tourist communities would get beaten and robbed. He said that he had heard that you could get put in jail, and never get out again. He said that he had to come here because it scared him. He said that the things that scare him the most are here. He said he wanted to get to know his fear better, because it was like an old friend.

He says the thing you fear the most is the thing that will get you in the end. He told me that if you're most afraid of getting beaten up, then that's what you had to face: go into it, become the thing you fear. He said he had to do it. That would be the only way our lives would be worth anything. He said most people were scared of dying so naturally that was the thing that would come to all of us.

What he was saying reminded me of El Milagro --- the Miracle. I go to the cathedral here in Tijuana with my mother, and it's dark, and you go in, and look up at the Holy Mother, and she's looking right at you. You can see she's breathing, because her chest is moving, up and down, up and down. Her eyes are wide and dark, and she's looking right into you, into the deepest part of you. You can see her lips move, and she's calling out your name. And when you look down at the holy babe, you can see he's staring right into you too. His eyes are wide and dark, darker than hers, baby-dark eyes, and he's staring into your heart. His baby hands are moving, and you know they are signaling to you in some strange way, and he's asking you with his hands that you show him your heart, but you are afraid, because you are afraid he will see all the dirt and ugliness in your heart. His eyes are as deep as any well that you've ever looked into.

The church is dark, and here are these statues moving and calling out to you, and you want to tell your mother, but she would never understand. I told the Gabacho about that, that thing that happens to me, what I think of as the Miracle of the Tijuana Baby Jesús (that's what I call it) and I know he understands. He said that something like that happened to him when he was a boy. There was this picture of his grandfather. His grandfather had died the same day he was born --- and he had the same name, too: Ignacio. He said that if he looked at this picture long enough, the lips began to move, and he knew that the old man was calling out to him, calling "Ignacio. Ignacio." He'll tell you stories like that, and won't laugh at you if you tell him your stories, like the one I told him about Tijuana Baby Jesus.

--- From The Radio Papers


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