It's late August and the boys run back into the house to get a sweatshirt and shoes. They've been playing down the street with Milo, an only child who has an uncanny gift for fixing broken iPhones, iPads, and small appliances. His mother, Violet Feldt, a name I must steal if ever I write a Southern novel, is taking them to the jardin to get gelato from a new stand that opened up while we were gone for the summer.
The sky is black but still full of grackles screeching in the trees. The street lamp from the back alley is shining through the palm trees. A few mosquitoes fight in the air over my head. I can hear their miserable electric hums. I am sitting in my bed listening to all the night noises of San Miguel: the trucks clattering over the street bump at our back door. The roof dog crying to the free dogs down below. The creepy jeweler, Hernan, playing his guitar across the alley. (If I ever go missing, I've told Sam, check his store.)
School has not started yet. Victoria, the director, works around some obsolete American schedule when kids used to go back after Labor Day. But it's no longer vogue, not here, and not in the States. Mexican schools started two weeks ago; with the exception of Milo, nearly everyone else we know is already back in school, their happy parents reclaiming their days, their sanity.
So I am thrilled when they leave and head out for ice cream. In a parade of four boys and Violet they will march up Zacateros single file, turn right on steep Pila Seca where the sidewalks are a foot wide, a foot off the ground. They will watch for cars that have no stop signs or stop lights, but that do follow a pattern and take turns crossing intersections. It is civilized Mexico where people have figured out how to live without lots of rules. Where you take responsibility for yourself and what happens to you. The boys know to be careful though it doesn't stop them from jostling each other, fighting to ahead of each other on these narrow, dimly lit streets. They'll then turn left onto pedestrian-only Cuna de Allende, where the outdoor tables of Ten Ten Pie will be filled with diners having shrimp tacos, cheese fondue, and margaritas.
They'll get their gelatos and head to the jardin where the church's bright cross will be lit at this hour, something I can see from my shower until 2am when they turn it off for the night. They'll sit on the stone steps in front of the church, or the benches under the carefully clipped laurel trees, and spoon little bits of sweetness into their mouths. Bo will get strawberry and mint, if he's allowed two flavors; Redding chocolate; Mason will have what one of his brothers are having, mostly so that he can avoid ordering himself. Then they might run across the car-free plaza, chasing the pigeons across the cobblestones, forcing them to fly up and land a few paces away. They might even angle for a cup of corn from the truck, or a bag of fresh potato chips doused with Valentina salsa and lime juice.