Some Thoughts on Birds and Trees…
collective taxi van in the warm night, Louisa and I crammed in with eleven other people, small bags pressed to our chests. The streets were stark-naked, shaved bald by the late hour, Mexico City’s antithesis, the buildings and restaurants hidden behind short stucco walls with single illuminated lanterns marking their places in the dark. So many trees here. I think Louisa may have actually said it from her backseat crawlspace, “So many trees here.”
Even at night, in this taxi crammed with people, the driver seeming so far away, at the other end of some royal dining table, chugging slowly, carefully through the defenseless streets, we could see rolling shadows of green mountains out the window, thick rounded veins of rock, the earth’s swollen vocal chords draped in night-verdure. We couldn’t wait to see it in daylight. I think Louisa may have actually said it from her backseat crawlspace, “I can’t wait to see this in daylight.”
We were the last to be dropped off, perhaps due to our distance from the driver or the fact that our Spanish was the worst in the van. The remaining passengers disembarked in various parts of the city to hotels and homes, middles of streets and seemingly empty parks. It was well after midnight in Oaxaca when the driver dropped us in front of some unassuming stone wall in the middle of Calle Tinoco y Palacios near the Centro Histórico.
“Where is it?” Louisa asked.
“¿Es esto?” I asked the driver.
“Sí,” he said, and now, in his affirmative, I could hear that he is a boy, likely no older than fifteen.
I couldn’t believe this was it. I was about to ask how we enter, when the young driver, sensing our ignorance, leapt from his perch and walked us to the wall. The night air swirled lukewarm between us. I remember seeing a small bird bulleting overhead toward the scattered lights along the distant hillside. The driver pressed a hidden button in the wall. This was 1:00 am in Oaxaca City, and a tiny eye-slot slid open in the wall’s middle. Our last name was certainly the password, and when I uttered it, the woman behind the wall cast her eyes downward, surely checking some invisible clipboard, and murmured an elegiac bueno. The young driver nodded and bounded back into his van, perhaps for home and sleep, perhaps for a night’s-worth of eleven-passenger fares.
A small camouflaged door swung inward and we were granted admittance to this fertile Emerald City in which I now crave an even more fertile breakfast. As if a vine snaking from our room, Louisa reaches her bare arm, touches my shoulder and whispers the word coffee. In her mouth, sleep ravaged and before the first cigarette, in its breathy Fs, and chirping Es, is the promise of day itself, of love ingested and mountains seen in sunlight, her voice in this courtyard cinematic and subtle, manufactured in its pre-caffeinated perfection.