The village rooster was up early this morning. 4:33am and he's crowing out a few bars, somewhere west of here, from a courtyard or neighbor's roof. A minute later he stops, probably startled by a feral cat creeping along the garden walls between houses, eying him with greed. But his voice was enough to wake me, and make me wonder, what's he doing up at this hour? What I am I doing up? Then the grackle took over, that sleek blackbird with the evil yellow eyes and the 10-inch-long tail feather, whose posse lives in our yard during the day, drinking from the fountain, or standing warily on the pool stairs, bending their beaks into the water. The mourning doves are not up yet. They never start before six, sane, asleep and as regular as the San Antonio church bells. It must be 4:45am. The bells, which ring every 15 minutes, have just clanked out three sets. When we moved to this house last November, three to four blocks from the church, I was too aware of their rhythm, listening for twelve strokes at midnight, and catching the quarter hours frequently. Now it could be a full day before I notice them, their toll such an ordinary noise.
I listen for a sound of life besides the birds. San Miguel, so lively during the day, its streets filled with children walking to school, grandmothers carrying their baskets of warm tortillas covered by a tea towel, motorcycles roaring up 20 de enero, the gas companies trolling for business with their Good Humor ice cream music, the Atayde circus truck with its loudspeaker and cargo of llamas, bears, and miniature horses, is now utterly silent. Not a single person out late, coming home early. The knife sharpener, who rides his bike playing a flute to announce his business, is still asleep. The guys on the trash truck, who bang a crowbar against a steel plate, telling you to bring out your cans, are still asleep. The husband-and-wife flower vendors who ring my bell with an armload of crazy-colored roses, are still asleep. Pedro the Cheese Man isn't coming by with yogurt and feta. And Regina, the little girl who lives next door with Dora, hasn't asked if the boys can play.
The church rings 5am, and finally, if I strain, I can hear one car, somewhere out on the libramiento, the ring road around my beautiful San Miguel, scraping its bottom along a stone, certainly throwing off a spark into the morning, that's still so dark and so quiet.