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Frank
Some Thoughts on Birds and Trees…
not long ago, blood was shed, statues blown up, protests forged and protests died. We will go there to find more food. I am craving bananas. The yellow landing sickles for birds who are good for our eyes. Something soft and sweet, but unsoftened, unsweetened. We push our way through the garden’s density toward the front desk, where a woman with a cyclone perm, stiff and villainous in its wristcutter coils, waves to us as if luncheon buddies. We fake familiarity like the swallows fake their happiness. Surely, they’re quite aware of their history, their organs pulled out for our consumption. Her red lipsticked mouth bids us a singsong buenos días, but her hair says, tocas, te mueres, ése.
Before Louisa can return her Good Morning!, I translate the message from the woman’s coiffure. “You touch, you die, homegirl.”
Louisa does what The Perm can never do, tosses her hair over her shoulder, then says, “What the fuck are you saying?”
I love her morning surliness, how she makes allowances for small vulgarities when we travel. It’s one of the reasons I love to travel with her.
“You know. Her hair. Doesn’t it look like it’s saying that to us? Challenging us?”
Louisa stares a little too long and The Perm’s smile goes nervous before she turns away—not nervous in the sheepish sort of way, but nervous like the wolf, trying to prevent herself from ripping open the
sheep’s throats with a single incisor. Overhead, in a fat-fingered tree a lone swallow dips its passerine proboscis into a banana peel, the meat inside soft as liver, and chugalugging the pasty beakful, begins beating its chest with its wings, its song evolving into a series of grunting hoo-hoo-hoos.
Louisa laughs into my shoulder, drools a little there, and says, “Oh, no. It does.”
“I mean, it’s a serious perm, right?”
Her drool cools on my shirt collar like a sheet after sex, and I’m beginning to feel a little vulgar myself, about to suggest, with about as much grace as a swallow losing itself after a taste of banana, a return to C17 and the unmade bed there, when The Perm, with a gesture less like a wave than a dismissal, presses some button hidden behind her wooden desk. The sliding door through which we last night slipped slides to the left on a mechanism of bicycle chains and toy Radio Flyer wheels, giving way to the sidewalk, and a surprised old man sneezing a cheroot from his mouth. His heart still leaping at Las Golondrinas’ robotic door breaking the morning calm of Calle Tinoco y Palacios, smoke forced from his mouth in a plume resembling a phantom pomegranate, he bends, creaking audibly to retrieve his panatela and, with tremors, antioxidantally replaces it his mouth.
Arm-in-arm, we follow him downslope in the general direction of the Zócalo, according to the used dog-eared, scotch-taped map we
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