The Center of Mexico City, C. says, is magical. The buildings lean heavily, as if on diabetic swollen legs, as if they might straighten out, but just now are needing to catch their breath. At night, the tunnels of sidewalks seem furbished with funny mirrors, walls jut out here and there at unexpected angles and the burdened bellies of structures expand voluptuously into sidewalk space. Much trash on the dark streets, the residue of day-time markets. Alleys lead to yellow bulbs illuminating crowded courtyards with plastic saints, which many families share amongst themselves; tenements. Unexpectedly, there are ruins, too, inserting themselves into the modern city with a stubbornness that, though worn, is indefatigable. And the Mexicans, they know, they fly kites by the thousands in the Zocalo, push the bright plastic into the sky and tether themselves to reality only by the thinnest strings.
Commerce is segregated and specialized by product. Perhaps it is because Mexico City is so large, its offerings so vast, that stores and markets and shopping streets are grouped by product; Flower Market, Party Decorations Street, Shoe Street, Witches’ Supply Market, Cake Store. As if to make it easier. The effect is overwhelming. Store after store, market-stand after market-stand, offering the same product or various iterations of it. The shoes did not impress much. But a warehouse full of flowers, truck beds loaded up with rosemary ten feet high, gladiolus blooms by the thousands, may have. Outside of the flower market, dozens of men and women sat around in the courtyard weaving crosses out of palm fronds and laughing at each other’s’ jokes.
Something about C. makes me feel Mom-ish, makes me want to dole out warnings, admonitions, safety advice. Though I rarely feel danger imminent to my own self, the danger I feel for others – metaphysical, physical – hovers inside me like a cloud of insects, buzzing, incessantly on the move, the cloud growing and contracting, but mostly expanding outward steadily into a panic attack. C. intensifies this somehow. I said the highway was no way to ride, but I didn’t mind, other than on her behalf.
A famous movie producer’s – from Mexico golden age of cinema – house in Cuernavaca. That name sounds cavernous, but the town is on crowded hills. The house is frozen in a remote time; torn tarps hang over the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the pool and into a jungle of palms, furniture sits in small semi-circles, arranged for multiple parties at once, photos of the patriarch. S. lives there now, one of the producer’s daughters. She’s had four loves, she told us over dinner. The first abandoned her for Canada during Mexico’s student strikes of 1968 and called collect to tell her he got another girl pregnant. The second was a man who died twice. Third was an archaeologist that left her to die in a small hut after she contracted Hepatitis C. The day she met the fourth she told him she wanted to have his baby. That baby’s paintings now hang in the producer’s house, but the baby-daddy was dismissed soon after her birth. If you’re anything like the first three, she told the fourth, I want nothing to do with you. S. did not let us do the dishes after dinner. After an operation on a brain tumor, she does dishes to strengthen her body and recover.