05 March 2010

Snapshots Of A Morning

---I drive into town to have My car checked. Just up from the públicos station, a woman with a heavy speech impediment who also stutters is walking timidly, eyes downcast, shuffling along. She's on her way back to the van café she and her husband run in the parking area past the station. She sees Me and starts to raise her hand, then stops and yanks it down, looking away. I slow down as she comes up level with My window and say "Hola." I startle her. She waves quickly, her smile a flash and gone. She speeds up her step and passes by.

---Ten seconds later, a heavy-set woman walks a pace and a half ahead of a uniformed schoolgirl holding a tiny baby up to her shoulder. The woman works at the bank I sometimes go to for services other than cash. The girl looks like the woman did two decades ago, slimmer, sharper, brighter, younger. As I nod a hello to the woman, she turns abruptly away, leaving the girl and baby clearly behind. As I drive by, the girl is cooing to the baby, her face turned up to the morning sun, enfolded in a world of two. She's probably 16.

---I arrive at My mechanic's garage and bustle is all around. An elderly gentleman, a retired mechanic who started his own garage back when the Ford F150 was first rolling off the assembly line, walks quietly from car to car, a bony jangle of a walk that somehow doesn't waste motion. His shirt is stained with grease and oil, his slacks creased but stained as well. He peers into an engine and mumbles a soft phrase, jangling away towards a toolbox. He squats. Easily. Rummages through the box, finds the tool he wants and rises. Easily. Jangles back and hands over the tool, moving seamlessly towards another car. He squats again. Easily. Stays for almost a minute, then rises as if lifted by grace and heads for another toolbox. He is 77. I want to squat and rise like him at that age.

---My mechanic has the startling nickname of "Gnomo," Gnome. A small spry man between 35 and 45 with an almost manic drive to be precise in how he deals with cars and clients. I've asked him to check My car to see why it's losing water and thus overheating. He discusses options and factors with Me. I can follow, somewhat. The elderly gentleman makes suggestions that My mechanic agrees to, then heads underneath the car with a bright light. Half a minute later, he breaks the silence with a note of victory in his voice. 'We found it," he says. "We found it!" He slides out from the under the car and beckons Me over. "We always find it. We always do." As I crane underneath the car to notice the tell-tale signs of a leaky water pump, I'm realizing that his "We" includes Me, as if I were as expert as he. I nod and smile, accepting that We did it. Again.

---Just before noon, the water pump We replaced turning over nicely, I drive by the town's plaza, the central area that in Our town--Cabo Rojo--has a vibrancy and life like few others. Pigeons flutter, schoolkids wander and well-dressed adults stride in myriad directions beneath the bright sun. Only one person isn't moving in all this, an elderly woman, stooped into a question mark by age and frailty. She's selling cookies from a cloth bag on her shoulder. The cookies are in small packages wrapped in clear cellophane, a wooden cane dangling from her left arm. No one walks near her and for a moment, she strains to raise her head to be able to see the passersby. She seems to wobble, to shimmer under the cloudless sky. She looks down, slumping even further, then grabs her cane and as she starts walking, she sees Me. She raises a batch of cookies and I quickly wave a no. She turns and walks away, painfully slow in the noonday sun. I drive back to My house feeling like I should have bought the cookies.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

2 comments:

Kofla Olivieri said...

I was visiting my father in Cabo Rojo in 2003 and my car broke down en la carretera 100. Had the car towed to an electromechanic. I forgot the guy's name, but everybody said he is the best electromechanic in town. In a matter of hours he was able to diagnose the problem. Saludos!

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Strangely enough, there are two good electromechanics along road 100. Glad whoever it was was able to help. Hope you drop by Cabo Rojo soon!