Cuando estaba en Mexico....

posted Wednesday, October 17th 2007 at 9:53 PM by

The city was hot but even so the street vendors were outside marketing their trades as Tom walked barefoot down the stone roadway. He walked for a while until he found a cigar shop that he recognized. Cigar shops, he knew, always had the best air conditioning.
Outside there was a street vendor selling tacos. He was laughing hard and eating something wrapped in a tortilla.
"Come here amigo!" Are you hungry?"
He dipped the tortilla in some dark colored salsa and ate some more. Then he coughed as though the salsa was very spicy and he smelled of rum.
"Are you hungry amigo?"
He took another bite of the taco and laughed again. Tom stepped past him and entered the cigar shop.
"Hola", the proprietor said from behind the counter.
"Buenos días. ¿Hay Cubanos?"
"Son todos."
A thin smile spread across Tom's wind burned face. He took his time and selected some cigars from the shelf.
"What do you think of these? How do they smoke?"
"You are a good man. I know a good man when I see one. Let me show you something else."
Behind the counter the proprietor opened a safe and retrieved a small box. He opened the box and placed it in front of Tom.
"These," he began, "These are the finest cigars a man can smoke. They are fresh from Cuba."
He took one from the case and handed it to him. Tom was careful to wipe the perspiration from his fingers before turning it over in his hands. Then he held it to him nose and smelled it carefully.
"It is a fine cigar," he pronounced. "Will you sell me three of them?"
"For you sir, anything."
Outside it had started raining and Tom paid the proprietor and left. The umbrellas the taco vendor had used to block the sun were now being used by a small crowd for shelter.
"You found something to buy amigo? Come join me under my umbrella!"
Tom accepted the offer while he waited for the rain to stop.
"You know amigo, we cannot have fear you and I."
Tom looked out unto the rain.
"We cannot have fear amigo. Because whatever fear we have in life we will carry with us forever."
Tom turned from the rain and looked him in the eyes.
"I know it."
"No fear amigo? We cannot live with fear."
"Yo lo sé."
The vendor dipped his taco in the dark salsa and had some more.
He coughed hard again.
"Join me for a drink, wont you?"
He reached for a bottle under the table.
"Not today my friend."
The vendor took a long look at the bottle, smiled, and put it away.
"It's not a good day for drinking anyway. There's too much rain."
"Yes there is."
But the rain was slowing and Tom stepped out into what was left of it. He walked another two blocks and by the time he had reached the beach it had stopped completely.
He found a quiet corner on the sand and climbed into a hammock that was setup under some palms. He took off his wide-brimmed hat and placed the bag with the cigars inside it. Then he set the entire package on his chest.
"May I bring you a beer sir?" a Mexican boy asked.
He seemed only ten or eleven.
"I don't see why not."
The boy left and returned with a cold beer and Tom rubbed the bottle across his forehead. Then he took a sip and felt its coldness go down the back of his throat.
The fresh ocean breeze soothed him and he closed his eyes in the hammock. He lay there for several eternities not thinking about anything and only listening to the thundering of the waves as they hit the shore.
Tom thought about the waves and where they might have come from. There was no way to know for sure he thought, since the sea has no memory. In his mind he turned over the other question for which he was sure there was no answer. Tom thought it would be lovely to have no memory.
He opened his eyes and drank the rest of the beer and when it was gone he drifted away again thinking only about the waves breaking and the breeze through the tall palms.
Later when the beach was overrun with people and his small piece of tranquility was spoiled he pushed his hat back on his head and swung is feet over the side of the hammock. The boy who had been selling beers came back over.
"Would you like another beer sir?"
He pulled another bottle from his ice bucket and handed it to him.
Tom smiled.
"Well, if I must."
He tipped the boy who then went to find other clients. Tom drank some of the beer and saw the boy move along the beach selling more bottles until he was out of sight. Then with his beer in one hand and bag of cigars in the other he made his way back to the market.
The stone roadway was hot and the afternoon sun was hot on his back. He took a long pull from the beer and pushed his way through the crowd.
The seats in the outdoor cafés were beginning to fill and looking over them Tom noticed a face.
"How is business?" he shouted above the crowd.
"Less bad, how are you my friend?"
"Estoy viviendo! Y no le da miedo!"
"claro que sí!"
Tom raised his beer to the vendor who replied in kind with his bottle of rum.
"To us!"
The vendor took a drink from the bottle and Tom lost sight of him as he faded into the rest of the crowd.

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  • Replying to Adam Konieska on Cuando estaba en Mexico....