Monday, September 20, 2004

(To SK)

If you want a bedtime story as you say, I can probably write one out for you. This may or may not be all true. Most of it is, but thats what stories are about.

When I was a child in Mexico, my family lived near an area full of indian villages. These are the people (and villages) that people imagine when they think of Mexican villagers - the men in white outfits and straw hats, the women in their colorful skirts and bare, dirty feet.

My brother and I (we were maybe 9 and 7) had heard the rumors that the indian villagers were wild and untamed. The women bathed naked in the nearby rivers. The men drank alcohol all day and played and danced to wild music. We wanted to see this for ourselves but our parents only took us to the villages during the day (to buy fruit) and we supposed that what we wanted to see, the true wildness, was hidden to us. We only saw the weary sun-baked vendors waving flies off their papayas and we knew there was so much more.

So, as you might guess, my brother and I struck out on our own one night. It wasnt too late, so our parents assumed we were maybe out catching fireflies or playing the final moments of some soccer game where the twilight has already arrived but you still have to go on.

We got lost several times because we only had moonlight and the dim lights of the villages to guide us. As we approached the village, I remember this clearly we heard this terrible noise, like a loud honking and all sorts of yelping. We still approached because, really, there was nothing else we could have done.

Soon, we were in the streets of the town itself and the noise and rattle seemed to be just around the corner. Otherwise, the streets were deserted. I think the feeling I had was that fear that you feel that everyone else has hidden away from something terrible, but you like a stupid wide-eyed animal did not know that you should be running away and so you just stood there, ready to be pounced on or consumed.

The next thing we saw was this: Out of the corner came 5 or 6 old men on canes. But each one was wearing the same mask, this horrible, monstrous mask that disfigured their features to give them exaggerated noses and chins. Seconds later they were followed by small band of men, several holding xylophones and one, holding a broken tuba which honked like an asthmatic cow. They in turn were followed by a parade of people all moving across the street and disappearing into another, emerging and vanishing like ghosts. Not only did they not come our way, they didnt even look our way.

We had watched a spectacle, my mother later explained, a local festival honoring perhaps a harvest or a moon. I've forgotten her explanations. The memory and thrill of that moment is what stays with me to this day, the glimpse into another world, secret and intractable.

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