Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Hearse in the Neighborhood

A black hearse waited in front of the neighbor's door for at least two hours.  When I left to get the morning's hot rolls and a small bag of eggs from the Farmacia Guadalajara, it was parked at the curb, engine off, silent and disturbing.  In Mexico no one departs by hearse.  You are sent off with a somber file of townspeople, dressed in street clothes, carrying a clutch of red and white carnations, all on foot snaking through the dry streets to the cemetery behind the Dragon Chino and next to the circus grounds.  I arrived back from my errands at nine o'clock.  Still the hearse sat at the curb, grotesque and ugly, taking up more space than it deserved.  Finally four well-dressed men and women came outside, got into a car, and turning slowly to the right, and down the block, made a left and disappeared from view.  No one came out to the hearse.  What could take so long?  They should come for the body, take it away.  No need to linger, when they should know the sight of their vehicle is a jolt, particularly when it's parked outside your front door.  What if they got the address wrong, and they actually meant to come for you?

I leave again, walking to the plaza to buy Friday's newspaper from the portly vendor who measures nearly as wide as he is long.  His voice is like dark chocolate in a cement mixer, full of rocks and a bit of dulce.  Everyone in town greets him--he is our link to the outside world--though he is gruff in return, but means nothing by it.  This you can tell by the way he wears his striped wool scarf wrapped twice around his neck, the frayed ends hanging down on either side of his face, all year long.

When I return I walk into my barrio.  And there is the hearse, parked three streets away from my house.  There is no one in the driver's seat, and now the baby-blue curtain that covered the back window is ruched and pulled to the side.  The backseat is filled by a matching blue coffin, its heavy metal corners poking against the glass.  The back window is cracked about six inches, enough to let in a little air on this hot afternoon.

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