Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Four Stories

“A drug store. Advil.” The policeman looked confused in response to Julie’s words.

From some shelf of my memory popped a word: “Farmacia!” A look of recognition and he began pointing and giving directions. We caught part of the name and enough directions from his gestures to walk one block and turn right.

At the pharmacy a counter blocked customers from the shelves of drugs. Unable to browse the aisles Julie asked for “Advil”. The young lady didn’t react with an expression of understanding. I didn’t have a clue but Julie quickly said “ibuprofen” and the clerk understood. In a moment she returned with a box and pointed to the word “Ibuprofeno”.

As I was putting my change away a man approached me with a small box containing gum and candy. “No, gracias”, a shake of my head and he turned away and stepped outside to stand beside his wife.

Some movement or something got my attention. I looked down and saw a small girl who was about five years old. “Peso?” It was her eyes.. There was no expression on her face. Just two deep, dark, beautiful eyes. I reached into my pocket, pulled out some coin and placed it in her hand. A small quiet “Gracias” and she turned and walked outside.

As we left the store I looked back and saw the girl with the beautiful eyes standing between her mother and her father who was holding a small box of gum and candy.

A black metal fence with gates separated the outdoor dining from the sidewalk. Old men, teenage girls and middle-aged women would occasionally walk among the tables with various items for sale – paintings, carvings, bracelets and other items. A polite no and they would move to another table.

I’m not sure about the young girl’s age. I would guess somewhere between seven and ten. She was selling what appeared to be ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the form of saguaro cacti. She approached me and quoted some price but I shook my head. She persisted. I declined a second time. She was standing on my left and was trying a third time when a young boy of about five, whom I assumed was her brother, came around to my right and began pushing on the shutter button of my camera which was on the table.

I took the camera to prevent him from accidentally knocking it off the table. I pointed to the camera and the girl and asked “photo?” Five pesos was the response. I pulled two coins from my pocket. “Dos” I countered. Two wasn’t enough. She held fast at five. I gave her one peso. “Dos?” Once again she asked for five. As I laughed, shook my head “no” and started to pull my hand back she quickly grabbed the second coin and walked away.

I really wanted a photo and the memories of bargaining with her. As it is, I have only the memories. I think we both got a fair bargain.

Christmas eve supper, low lights, a moon rising, birds singing, the sounds from the plaza and a gentle breeze. These were memorable enough but a brief experience made it more memorable.

He was dressed neatly and carried a guitar. As he walked over to our table I shook my head no. He ignored me, looked me in the eyes, began strumming the guitar and started singing the Beatles song “Yesterday”. He was not shaken by our pleased laughter at his surprising choice of songs. He continued to maintain eye-contact and smoothly transitioned into “Hey, Jude …”

His music was good, his showmanship excellent and his smile was contagious. He deserved a gratuity. I began to get my billfold but he laughed, said no and moved on to entertain others.

I saw him again on Christmas evening at another open-air restaurant. As he came toward our table I pointed at him and said “Yesterday” and he immediately began singing. I like his Christmas gift to us. I’ll probably never hear “Yesterday” or “Hey, Jude” without thinking of him.

After supper on Christmas eve we walked to the cathedral. Around the courtyard are three chapels of varying ages and sizes. Clapping and the organ music indicated the service had reached a pinnacle. The largest chapel was packed with several hundred worshipers. Many were standing in the aisles unable to find seating. I was impressed by the atmosphere of the service. I was also impressed by the beauty of the ceiling. The subtle geometrical patterns in subdued colors hadn’t been noticeable during the daylight. The recessed lighting brought out colors, hues and transitions that were beautiful.

The courtyard was bisected by a shrub lined walk from the large chapel to the gate that led into the street. A few hidden lights made it possible to see the walk but not faces. Kneeling along the walk in the shadowy semi-darkness were an old man and three women. They were separated by distance and weren’t together. Age and sun has cut his face with deep wrinkles. The women were frail and seemed ancient. Weak voices, small bones, thin skin and shawls pulled over their heads. The man was holding out a straw hat and the women their hands.

I’m tactile and touch things when examining them. I enjoy feeling the textures of the earth, bark on trees, feathery grasses, hard stones and wispy flowers. But, none of these resemble the feel of their frail hands in the dark as I placed a coin on their palms.


Blogger Buffalo said...

Your words are savory treats.

12/26/2007 09:57:00 PM  

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