Nights of solitude

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The omelet and the toast.

I’M WRITING THIS last night, alone. It’s the second solitary night this week.

The first was planned. My child bride and a sister took a bus Monday to a town called Los Reyes, which is about three hours southwest of here.

(They changed buses in the city of Uruapan, which gained infamy years ago when bad guys rolled a decapitated head across a cantina floor.)

The sisters had to confer with a lawyer on a property issue. I slept solo in the Hacienda’s king bed, the window open for the cool air and the scent of datura. They stayed in a hotel. She returned the next day, and I was happy.

Yesterday, we got news that the son of a half brother — hers not mine — had been killed on a motorcycle in the nearby capital city. My child bride and a different sister took a bus down there to attend the wake. She’ll return today. Again, there I was in the king bed with the window open to cool air and the aroma of datura.

Last night, just like Monday, I skipped our traditional, evening salad, and I opted instead for a two-egg omelet with eight-grain toast.

There were no eggs in the house yesterday, so I had to walk half a block down the street to a very humble, hole-in-the-wall store. The eggs likely weren’t far from the hen’s heinie and, of course, Mexicans do not refrigerate eggs, which is no problem.

The omelet had onion, olives, tomato sauce, capers and Parmesan cheese from the green, plastic jar. After slipping it onto the plate, I added lemon pepper and Tabasco.

The toast received “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” Clearly, I’m no foodie.

I skipped Netflix too, instead reading some old yarns of mine, in part to correct punctuation. Also to relive moments, which passes the time when you’re sailing solo.

Here is one of my favorites. It’s a true story, written maybe 15 years ago, recalling a trip I made to Scotland in the 1970s. The references to the hammock and roof tile hark back to the upstairs terraza here before the recent renovation.

That hammock was long one of my favorite reading spots.

The piece is called:

Last train to Holyhead.

New ImageSwaying in the hammock softly with Rosamunde Pilcher.

Though wet June is weeks away, there are rain clouds.

But the hammock is safe under the roof tile.

Pilcher’s book Under Gemini is set in Scotland, my ancestral home.

Look here on this page: The rain had turned to a soft blowing mist which was beginning to smell of the sea.

If it rains here now, it will smell not of sea, but of mountains. You will hear soft sighs of parched plants, see the settling of dust.

Under Gemini was published in the mid-1970s, and at that same time I was alighting alone from a train at the Inverness station, just up from Edinburgh.

Stepping off another car at the same moment was a California woman on the very eve of her 40th birthday, also alone.

She was a professor of anthropology, attractive, heading slowly, with backpack, toward a conference in faraway India. We ended up in the same guesthouse, dining together after passing through a few dark pubs.

We found each other engaging, and spent the next five days as constant, carefree companions, becoming one.

After Inverness, our train headed west to the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides. And later, there was the big smokestack boat that carried us south through the Sound of Isleat to a railhead at Mallaig.

We held hands on deck and smiled as our freight ship steamed through watery mountain passes. It was cold October, and we were the only passengers.

At Mallaig, we caught another train, continuing on through Fort William, Glasgow and finally, leaving Scotland, to Chester, England.

It was a five-day romance with no time for pains, sorrows or regrets.

Until those final moments. I had to return to London. She continued on to Holyhead on the windy Welsh coast, a roundabout route to India.

We kissed and waved goodbye as the old train chugged from the station in medieval Chester. Her window was open, and she leaned out, like in those old-time movies.

We never mentioned our last names and, even now, her first name, like her face, has faded. But not the memory of those final moments. Definitely not that.

The sweetness spiraled into sadness.

There is thunder here now. Let’s head inside the house.

The in-laws I never knew

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Carlos, the pistol-packing physician. Perhaps heading to a house call. 

I’VE HAD THREE sets of in-laws due to having two former wives and now a third wife who won’t ever be an ex. I sure hope not. I’m too old to start over.

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Mama, Margarita.

I never met my third set of in-laws because they died long before I came on the Mexican scene 19 years ago. Both died too young. My father-in-law, who was a family physician and surgeon, died of a heart attack at 61.

My mother-in-law, who bears a strong resemblance to my child bride, died in childbirth when she was only 31.

She was having her fifth child. The baby survived, but she did not. That same baby went on to die of a heart attack last year in his early 50s.

Mama’s death had a massive negative effect on the family, an effect that has tumbled down through the decades.

Daddy was something of a tough hombre, a trait the photo illustrates well. In spite of that, he was much beloved in the Tierra Caliente town of Los Reyes where he long practiced medicine.

If patients couldn’t pay, he would accept poultry or vegetables as payment, whatever they offered. People in Los Reyes remember him fondly to this day, decades after his death.

My child bride, as a teenager, often worked as his receptionist and even gave shots to patients on occasion. She got paid extra for that.

Family lore says the doctor wasn’t fond of Gringos, a feeling he passed down to some of his offspring. I have changed most of their minds, however.

I wonder if I would have changed his.

My mother-in-law was beautiful.

Soaked morning in mourning

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Our barrio church.

IT RAINED LIKE a motheroo last night. I awoke at 2:30 to the pounding of horizontal water, thunder and my child bride closing the bedroom window.

The rainy season got off to a spotty start about 10 days ago. It blew in big-time one evening, then rained two or three times more. Then nothing for six or so days. Till last night.

I went back to sleep, but awoke about an hour later to the near silence of a calm sprinkle. I got up to open the bedroom window again. Then back to dreamland. It was easy. The air was cool.

Just before 7, I opened my eyes to a gray dawn through the window and the gonging church bell on the plaza 1.5 blocks away.

Someone had died. Death is marked here in the barrio by a slow, dismal gong that continues for hours, often all night long, and it’s done manually. A guy is up there in the bell tower pulling the rope about once every 10 seconds.

Not an enviable task.

Sitting down at the dining room table for bagels and cream cheese at 8, I saw the downstairs veranda under a lake, water that had blown in from the storm. The upstairs terraza had a lake too, but a far more modest one, so I decided right then to install at least one more canvas curtain up there, closing four of the five sides.

The sort of storm we got last night, blowing so much water into the two terrazas, is rare. Last summer it only happened two or three times during the daily, five-month monsoon.

Less rare is a neighbor’s death and the slow gonging of the announcement.

Not being a Catholic, nor even much of a barrio participant, I will not get a gong when I die. That’s too bad. I would like that sort of sendoff, especially if accompanied by lightning, thunder and flooding tears from heaven.

Drama and death suit one another.

I wonder if it will rain again today.

Death in a clay pot

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These shelves are now clean and oiled.

WHILE WE PLOD through mud from June till November, we’re covered with dust from March through May. There’s no perfect world.

Well, maybe November. Neither rain nor dust. It’s a beauty.

The shelves in the veranda had a significant layer of dust this morning when I headed out the door with an old cloth and a spray bottle of 3-in-1 furniture oil.

I started on the far end of what you see in the above photo. First, I removed most of the dust with a stiff brush. Then I returned with the rag and furniture oil. It was looking good as I progressed in this direction.

Finally, I reached the final shelf, the only one to the left of the door, the shelf in the corner directly below the occasional bat roost in the clay roof tiles above.

The bowls were full of cobwebs and other detritus, which I shook over the grass outside. Then I got to the very last bowl. I looked inside and, amid the other crap, noticed a suspicious-looking glob at the bottom. Hmmm, I thought, could it be a bat?

I was not born yesterday.

I walked around back to the Garden Patio to shake the bowl upside down into a trash bin. As I did so, stuff fell out, but nothing substantial, so I looked inside again.

No mistaking it now. There rested a dead bat, stuck to the bowl bottom. This is not the first time I’ve had bat experiences hereabouts in which action was required.

Once a bat became entangled in nylon string of a dangling wind chime. I liberated him. Once I found a bat snoozing in the hanging sombrero of the bottom photo. I tossed him into the grass, leveraged him into a shoe box and freed him that evening from the upstairs terraza. I decided not to look behind that hat anymore, and I haven’t.

On another occasion, I found a bat dangling from a bedroom ceiling-light fixture in the Downtown Casita. I liberated him too and sealed off the chimney where the little bugger had snuck in like an illegal alien from Honduras or Guatemala.

But back to the dead bat stuck in the bowl. I inserted a stick, moved it about a bit, and upended the bowl over the trash bin again. Ker-plop! The bat remains fell out.

I washed the bowl, placed it on the shelf again, and snapped the photo.

Rarely a dull moment.

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This is the very pot where I found the body. The hat is where I once found a sleeping bat.