My father used to have an expression: half the lies I tell aren’t true. I think of that as I make my way through the markets here. I hate to haggle. If you’ve ever seen The Life of Brian, you know what I’m talking about. “Aren’t goin’ to haggle?” is one of Vince’s (and, it appears, the sellers’) favorite sayings. Everything I buy is rock bottom price, best price, cheaper than K-Mart and better than Walmart. Practically free. No commission. Until Vince enters the fray, that is, and suddenly they smile.
The former price was not so rock bottom nor practically free. So we have a system. I choose items, he comes in behind me and haggles. I am particularly vulnerable to sellers who have children at their feet. Those I usually like to bargain upward. Like, isn’t that price a little low? Will you have enough commission to feed your kids?
So I have to walk away while Vince does the deed, because I feel very guilty. By the way they grin at him yet negotiate with huge sighs and much gesturing, they admire him. Obviously half the lies they told about the price weren’t true.
The waiter at the Italian restaurant across the street tells us he’s out of this dish and that because of all the people he’s served during the day. Yet whenever we walk out to catch a bus or visit our favorite breakfast spot, the seats at his place are empty. Just a little half lie. After all, he didn’t say what day.
Even our manager family gives a bit of the Mexican shuffle when we ask for things. Our Internet connection troubles have been blamed on “all of Manzanillo”. Yet there appears to be service everywhere else around us. The likely culprit is their own hardware. We also have boiler problems. They look at us sympathetically, as though they’d never heard this complaint before. Let’s see how long it takes to fix it.
There is one beach seller we always look for every year. Until Friday, we hadn’t seen him and we were a bit worried. John says he can go home happy now because he has at last seen Jesus. Seriously, though, Jésus is a good looking Mexican of indeterminate age (literally, since the houses in his hometown somewhere in Guerrera burned down with all his records inside), who sells us necklaces and earrings and talks our heads off. When he speaks slowly, we can understand most of what he says, but then he often forgets himself as his tale picks up speed and so does his speech pattern. Then he notices our confusion and says out loud, como se dice, how can I say this in simpler terms? John always gives him a beer and he stands under the umbrella out of the brutal sun for a time, telling us about his family. He’s a grandfather, has a 28-year-old, among other children. Maybe he started when he was 14, who knows?
The rain is pretty relentless, especially during the night. It sounds as though someone is taking a shower right outside our balcony. Once we wake up at 2:30 a.m. to see the wind whipping and the rain in sheets. Luckily we had closed our windows and balcony door.
During the rainy day time we do our shopping for food and other necessities, play dice, watch the waves roll in and out. The swallows do a square dance on the street side of our unit. We watch them chirping, swarming, diving and dipping in the cloudy sunset. When the weather clears for a bit, we sit on the balcony and watch the birds and the sky. We see a new species (which turns out not to be so new, simply forgotten from another year): he’s all black except the bottom of the tail and belly, which is a bright yellow. He’s a yellow-winged cacique, which Vince already has circled in his bird book. Grackles gather in the palm above our pool and talk, twee, trill, whistles, high and low, a little giggle here and there.
We go out for hamburgesa y papas fritas y cervesa at Bricio’s and watch some futbal with Alex and his wife. Poor Alex has bet on the wrong team!
When we come back, one of the swallows has taken a room in our unit: the one outside just above the light fixture in our hallway.
The next morning, he’s on the floor, panting, his little head tucked under his chest. His back feathers are an exquisite blue, which we hadn’t noticed before. His orange belly is hidden as he breathes in gasps. He must have hit a wall trying to exit quickly. We leave him alone for a while, then gently move him to the ledge and some fresh air, so no one will step on him. We don’t have much hope. But I am reminded of a poem I wrote about a very similar situation, a long time ago.
against the window
lies bent in the leaves
we sit and watch
the sun warm on our fingers
entwined on the table
it will be all right he tells me
but I don’t believe
his eyes catch mine and hold them
his love surges inside me
his faith warms me
I feel myself let go
reach out to trust him
the bird fluffs his wings
flies away in the sun
And he does. I am going down the steps when I see him. His little orange and blue body revived, he spreads his wings and heads for the other swallows lining the wires around our unit. I take it as a good omen.
The sky clears later, so we head for the Miramar market. Suddenly it’s hot again and humid. We shop, then have lunch gazing out at the gorgeous flat beach of Santiago Bay with its folding frolicking waves.
On our return (in an air conditioned cab!), we gather back on our own beach, wet sand baking in the welcome sun under our feet. Sunday kids are playing in the water and throwing sand at each other on the beach. Their dogs roll and scuffle under our chairs, leave a deposit by the steps. Schools of silver fish have arrived. They are boiling the water again, but this time we can hear them, the ocean is so calm. They sound like water babbling over stones in a stream as they skim along the surface, over and under one another, as though they are racing away from something bigger underneath. And maybe they are.
From above, the birds gather. Pelicans skim the surface, or land in the middle of the broil of fish, fluttering back up with a flash of silver in their beaks. The magnificent frigates and cormorants are kamikazes as they go beak-first into the sea, disappear for a moment, and come straight back up with lunch.
We are enjoying our Mexican TV when the sand rumbles under our feet. As though a giant serpent is burrowing its way underground, like that old Kevin Bacon movie. The earth has moved. Later, we settle to watch the spectacular sunset on our balconies, and it moves again. The balcony shakes as though someone massively strong is running through the hallway. Earthquake. The kind of sigh from the ground that my son and daughter-in-law feel all the time in LA. For me and Vince, it’s a new sensation to know that you are not really in control. Mother Nature is. And it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.
We have no idea why, but our Skype and our Internet won’t connect later on, even though the signal looks strong. We are horribly disappointed, as we were supposed to see Dave, Rebecca, Sydney and Evan.
On top of that, I look at my quarterly statements from my publisher. As a result of both disappointments, I go to bed in a huge snit, deciding never to write nor leave my house ever ever again. So there. Probably another lie that’s not true.