Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Mask

We travel, all of us, always traveling. Someone has an auto and recognizes the responsibility of carrying as many of us as the vehicle will hold down that road. When we stop, we always lay down on our backs like troops on bivouac. Just lie down and wait until someone else comes by with another auto.

Someone does. He has a superb ride and he intends a major trek, out of the way, beyond anything we have yet seen. All of us at this particular stop in time decline in unison. It's risky, and what's the purpose? After all, traveling is all we do, so why add to it an elaborate journey to an unknown location? We remain as we are, lying and waiting.

Me and Chico, we're to the movies now. We are in Zacatecas. We sit and we watch. The Spanish is surprisingly clear to me, and Chico is fluent.

This is Alejandro Rey onscreen, a noble of some sort, and he presents what appears to be an ancient mask to a dealer in antiquities, who glances at it and immediately announces it is a fake.

"You can tell by the eyes, you see," and he indicates, but Rey is glowering. The one who sold him the artifact has left the country, but he must be found, for all that. Nobody puts one over on Alejandro Rey.

The hero strides to the door, pauses, turns back. Freeze frame. There's no reason for him to be standing and facing the camera at a slight left profile. It's only because that's his good side, and also the composition is used on the marquee to sell the picture.

Outside now, there is a Mercado, well lit, with rows of tables. Me and Chico, we roam the tables. The stalls are along the sides with the tables in the center. I see now it is a mess area. We take a tray and sit.

It isn't very palatable, nor nourishing either, I think. Everyone around seems depressed. So am I. This is supposed to be exciting, exotic, but it is, I must admit to myself and no other, rather boring. We are sitting in a dining hall not very different from the one in our old grade school.
I rise and visit the shops along the fringes of the mess hall. There are varieties of goods, none of them well-made nor interesting. I roam through the stalls.

I cannot locate Chico back in the hall now. He isn't where we were seated before. Has he left me again? (In waketime, during our first hitchhiking On the Road trip together when I was 18, we were back in Dallas after visiting New Orleans, near brother Joey's apartment, and I said, "Wait, I'll leave my rucksack with Joey; the parents will be over tomorrow..." and I go off to do that. But when I come back to the road where I had left Chico, he had in the meanwhile been offered a ride the seventy miles home and jumped at it.)

I must see about going back home, I'm thinking. If he is gone, then how am I to manage that? I slowly pass through the mess hall, thinking, I'm alone now. I must think.

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