EXCERPT FROM THE BACANORA NOTEBOOKS
I begin my daily walk. It’s hot. I have 20 pesos in my pocket for when I get thirsty.
I walk up Calle Economia, turn left on Iglesia Vieja, then right on La Luz Valencia. The schoolkids are out in packs. I walk down past San Augusta school, past Pollo Bandido with the aroma of mesquite-broiled chicken, the sky blue as coral. I’m feeling adventurous and I take a left on Calle Verde which I have never done before.
If you ever come to Hermosillo, stay away from Calle Verde.
It seems like I’ve been walking my whole life. For 51 years. I stop in certain places. 10 years ago, I stopped in Tucson where I met Natalia. I walked all over that town. Natalia was working at McDonald’s. She was an illegal immigrant. We fell in love. I still can hardly believe it. On our first date we went for a walk in Randolph Park. For years she worked at McDonald’s, walking and spinning, until her legs gave out. One day she couldn’t get out of bed, and called into work sick. Her legs were swollen and there were fire-balls in her knees. We were married by that time. We had applied for her legalization and were waiting for the letter. She called into work sick for the next week.
Then on Friday the letter came. APPLICATION FOR RESIDENT STATUS DENIED. She had to leave the country. Originally, she had walked across the border, but she wasn’t going to walk back. We bought some crutches and I drove her down here to Hermosillo to her little old mother and father, my in-laws, my suegros, who she hadn’t seen in 15 years.
I quit my job as a security guard at the mall. I used to walk around the parking lot all night, waiting for something to happen. I packed up our stuff, and followed Natalia to Mexico. I’m no hero. She saved my life and I’d follow her anywhere. That’s the truth.
There are lumps in everything in this world.
A couple of dogs growl from a front yard. Then there are 2 or 3 more, snarling, raw and boney. One has a marbled eye. Another slobbers like he’s rabid. One drags a chain that is still connected to a post he’d ripped from the ground. I yell at them but my voice cracks.
In no time there is a pack of 10-15 dogs nipping at my heels. I keep walking but every time I turn to face forward, they come up behind me. A few amused Mexicans watch from inside their fenced patios.
Life is pure desire, there is no meaning. I read that somewhere. I trip in a pothole and fall down, like a girl in a horror film. The dogs pursue me up the block. I don’t dare run. That’s what they want. I’m as desperate as Mingus at the gates of the nuthouse. They are juiced, agog with the foaming solfeggio of their barks and growls and snaps. They are so close I can see the fat ticks on their noses. My fear is palpable. They smell it, like marinated meat.
How long is this lane? Less than 5 blocks but there’s no way out, just forward. Release me from this trap, I pray, and I will never again complain of a hangnail or make fun of people who go to church. These mutts have something that I don’t: belief in their cause. They have found their niche, their notch in the stick, their crowd. I’m about a second away from calling for help.
And then a strange thing happens. Another dog comes running toward me, but he’s not an ordinary dog. He only has 2 legs, his two hind legs. He runs on those two legs, and he runs fast. He comes toward me and I brace myself when he goes past me. He’s almost as tall as me.
I turn around and the pack of dogs stops and then scatters. The 2-legged dog focuses on the biggest of the bunch, and chases him up the street and around the corner, back to where he came from.
It’s suddenly very quiet, like somebody just put the lid back on the Ark of the Covenant. I am so scared I have cotton mouth.
I get down to El Progresso, thinking, I don’t know what it was, but something just happened.
Natalia has been resting. We’ve been here 4 months and her legs are getting better, but she still can’t walk very well. The doctors say, give it time. We have hardly any money and do not know what we will do. In this way, we are no different than many others who live here or in any of the thousands of poor places people call home. I walk every day to lift my spirits. And to search for magic.
I stop on the corner and lean over the little bridge there, breathing and trying to figure out if I am awake or asleep. I think of Dan Yack on the Bridge of Sighs, and Cendrars trying to fight off a pack of wild pigs with one arm in Amazonia. I almost feel drunk. I feel grinned-upon. There isn’t any water under the bridge, only a heap of corn-husks.
A glimmering sun jelly-rolls across the sky. Mariachi horns rise from a lazy plaza where they sell lime-cured shrimp in plastic cups and tacos of chicken gizzards and cow eyeballs. I look back a couple times, then start walking toward the little cement-block house. I am hungry. A corn seller is asleep in a chair by his truck, dreaming of apples.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Mather Schneider was born in 1970 in Peoria, Illinois and now divides his time between Tucson, Arizona and Mexico. He has 5 books available on Amazon.
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