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“I like the way you photograph women”, read the message. “There is intimacy. It’s not all that tits and ass crap.”
That response, along with the alluring photographs emanating from the light on my screen, was enough to inspire me to make the drive. I gathered my gear and left.
I hit a jackrabbit on the way to meet her. After I hit the rabbit, I came upon a horse. It was blocking my way along a dirt road that led the way to the paved highway that would lead me to La Ventana, a tiny beach town nestled in between the capital of Baja California Sur, La Paz, and San Jose Del Cabo. I honked my horn, lightly. The horse just looked at me. It didn’t waver. I pulled up close next to it. It eyed me as if it knew me.
I arrived in La Ventana, or “The Window,” a couple of hours later and parked next to a payphone. I inserted some pesos and dialed her number.
“Hello,” came a voice with a sweet, soft and slow tempo.
At that precise moment, I looked up and saw a beached panga. Its name, painted across the bow, was “La Bruja Del Mar,” or “The Witch of the Sea.” The rain began to come down hard.
“Is this Mike?”
“Yes, I stammered, returning my attention from the boat to the phone.
“Where are you?”
“I am at a payphone next to a mini-mart.”
“I know exactly where that is. Stay there. I will see you soon.” She hung up the phone.
Roxanne arrived a few minutes later in an old pickup truck with two dogs in the front seat.
She rolled down the window. “Get in,” she beckoned, situating her dogs so that I could find a place to sit. “It is raining. Funny. You arrive and it starts to rain. It hasn’t rained here for weeks. Let me take you to a hotel. We won’t be able to shoot until after this downpour stops.”
She took me to a room, #7, at an inexpensive hotel that bordered a long, white sand beach which met the Sea of Cortez. It wasn’t long before the rain ceased.
There was a knock at my door. “We can shoot now, ” she said as she entered. “The sky has cleared.”
I gathered my things and we took a walk out of the hotel and down the strand, finding an old abandoned building bordering the waterline. I asked her to sit down against the structure and look into the lens. I only gave her a little direction. She enjoyed posing.
After making some portraits, Roxanne made the suggestion that we move to another location. “I know a spot,” she said, enthusiastically. “No one will be there and the light will be beautiful this time of day.”
I hopped into the passenger seat of her car and we set off onto a bumpy dirt road. Conversation was light. There was a connection between us. You could have cut it with scissors.
Roxanne parked. She got out and began to walk, her long, slender feet digging into the white beach sand. I followed her, blindly.
We arrived at a beach littered with boulders that jutted ten feet from the strand.
“I will be right back,” said Roxanne, eyeing me coyly as she made her way behind a large rock.
Roxanne returned momentarily, completely naked.
Never before had I seen something so beautiful. In an instant, I realized why all the artists of the past I had so admired had made studies of the female nude. ‘There is nothing more awe-inspiring,’ I thought.
I looked at her there on the sand, the blue-green Sea of Cortez in relief, and I fumbled with my camera. I had no idea what to do. I just wanted to behold her magnificence with my naked eye. Photographing such a work of art seemed sacrilegious.
I became clumsy and could not speak. She knew it.
“Where do you want me?” she asked, toying with me now.
I feigned some sort of professionalism as if I could create something more fantastic than what was already set before my eyes.
“Stand over there, by the rock.” In truth, I had no idea what kind of direction to give her. She humored me, but I could tell from her expression that she knew that I knew I was nearly rendered senseless.
I faked it.
“Right there. That’s beautiful. Just look into the lens.”
She gave me tiger eyes.
‘Oh, God. Please help me get through this with my dignity intact.’
I released the shutter. As she heard the camera click, she moved into a new pose, her eyes remaining transfixed on mine through the elements of glass that separated us.
“Where do you want me now?”
She knew that she was controlling the shoot. I was a mouse in a cat’s game. I played along, willingly.
“Over there, by the smaller rock.” I watched her bare body traverse on tip-toe, completely un-self-conscious, through the slightly wet sand and to the spot which I had told her to go. She sat down and pulled her knees up to her chest.
When she was ready to be photographed, I felt it. I took the picture.
“Are we done now?” she asked, not really asking but telling.
Roxanne returned to the place where she had taken off her red swimsuit and put it back on. I sat down next to her.
“It is starting to get dark. I had better get back home soon,” she remarked. “My boyfriend will start to worry.”
“You have a boyfriend?”
“For now,” she said, pausing just a moment. “At least until someone comes to rescue me.”
I imagined Roxanne as my girlfriend. I imagined waking up to her every day with no agenda but to love her and for to her love me back. The imagination of this alone was enough to fill my heart with an almost tangible sense of purpose and fulfillment. I ran through a complete life with her at the center, constantly inspiring and intriguing me.
“You should come to my house tonight,” she suggested, breaking my reverie. “I will make you dinner.”
“Will your boyfriend be there?”
“Of course,” she said. “I think that you two will get along.”
We walked back to Roxanne’s car as the sky began to darken. By the time she dropped me off at my hotel, it was completely black.
“Come by at eight,” she said, scribbling directions onto a piece of paper.
I arrived at Roxanne’s house at eight P.M., showered and shaved. She was sweeping off her front patio.
She smiled. “Go on inside. Evan is at the bar.”
I entered the house and came upon a dread-locked young man I sussed out to be about twenty-four sitting on a bar stool, drinking a beer.
“You must be Evan,” I said, extending my hand. He fist-bumped it.
“What’s up, man. You’re Mike, right. Roxanne told me about you.”
“Yes.” I pulled up a seat next to him.
“You want a beer?”
“Roxanne,” he raised his voice.”Could you get Mike a beer?”
Roxanne walked in from the patio, set down her broom and opened the refrigerator. She handed me a cold cerveza.
I felt awkward. I hadn’t realized that I had fallen head over heels in love with this young man’s girlfriend until that moment. Here he was, sitting next to me, warm as a blanket, a big hippie smile running across his face revealing a yellow, pot-stained front tooth.
‘I am not going to steal this guy’s girlfriend,’ I thought to myself. ‘It would just be wrong.’
“Roxanne tells me that you are an excellent kite-boarder,” I began, pulling a sip off my drink.
“La Ventana is the place to kite-board,” he replied, deflecting the flattering question. “Mostly, I’m a teacher.”
Roxanne entered the kitchen.
“Come with me for a minute, Mike.”
I left my beer on the counter and followed Roxanne into a small room, really only big enough for the computer and table that sat on a desk and one person. I squeezed in next to her. Her body pressed up against mine. I closed my eyes and exhaled.
“I want to show you some of my photography.”
“Wonderful,” I commented. “Let’s see.”
The brown-haired beauty navigated to a software program containing her pictures. I noticed her hands begin to shake slightly.
On the screen were carefully crafted photos of hummingbirds in various desert settings.
“You can probably tell I really like hummingbirds.” Her voice quavered.
“You are good with the camera,” I complimented. “You have the eye of a photographer.”
I was not trying to flatter Roxanne with the intent of seducing her. That would be inappropriate, both professionally and personally. I wanted to encourage her. I wanted to inspire her. I wanted to let her know that there was more to this life for her than the position of a housewife catering to the needs of a man’s ambitions. Because to me, that is all that I could surmise of her current trajectory with this man.
“I don’t want to be the wife of a kiteboard instructor,” she told me, a mixture of hope and sadness entering her eyes. “I am sick of this beach. I am bored with my life here.”
I could feel her warmth. I wanted to bask in it. She was opening up to me.
“You are young. There is a whole big world out there for you to discover.” I opened the door and walked into the living room.
I discovered a bookshelf right outside the door. It was riddled with feminist authors. I took a book from a shelf and began to leaf through it. Roxanne entered.
“I didn’t know you were a feminist,” I remarked.
Roxanne looked at me quizzically. “What?”
“Your bookshelf. It is brimming with feminist titles.”
Roxanne paused a moment. I watched her face move as she searched for an answer.
“Those are not my books,” she replied. I could hear the tension in her voice. “They came with the house.”
“Have you read any of them?”
“No.” Her eyes turned downcast.
“That’s okay,” I comforted. “There is a wealth of liberating knowledge right here in your home. You should take some of it in.”
She stared at me, blankly. I felt awkward and changed the subject. “Let’s eat dinner,” I suggested.
Roxanne’s eyes brightened a touch, and she moved towards the kitchen.
We shared a meal of tacos and beer, and I returned to my hotel to sleep.
I received a call on my cell phone about an hour later.
“Mike. It’s me, Roxanne.”
“I was thinking about shooting tonight. It’s a full moon. Can we do something on the beach with the moon and ocean in the background.”
I hesitated. “Will your boyfriend be alright with it?”
“I can do whatever I want,” she responded, almost childishly.
It was clear to me that Evan had no idea what Roxanne was planning.
“Is he sleeping?” I asked.
“Not yet. I am going to wait until he is. It’s none of his business, anyway.”
I imagined seeing Roxanne’s nude body in the moonlight. I imagined her looking again at me like I was some sort of knight in shining armor, saving her from a life of servitude and narrow-mindedness that she had been oblivious to before. I imagined betraying the friendship I had struck up with her boyfriend. I weighed it all before I answered.
“Okay. Knock on my door. I will be here.”
Knock knock knock. I was comfortably asleep. I looked at my watch. It was 11 P.M.
“Who’s there?” I asked, slightly disoriented.
“It’s me, Roxanne.”
“Just a second.”
I got out of bed and put on my shorts. I opened the door.
Roxanne was dressed in a white nightgown, cut off above the knees. “Hi. It’s me,” she said, smiling.
“Let me get my camera. You look beautiful.” I gathered my things and followed her out the door.
“Come with me,” she said, seductively.
I followed her as she led me from my hotel room to the beach.
“Stay right there,” said Roxanne. I had only just felt the sand moving beneath my toes. I stopped and sat down. I watched her as she walked out towards the ocean and found her place on the strand.
“Will this be alright?” she asked, beginning to take her top off.
“Perfect,” I replied.
I photographed Roxanne there in the moonlight on the beach in the nude. We both went home alone.
I awoke with Roxanne on my mind. I realized that it had been less than two days since I first laid eyes on her, but it seemed to me much longer. If someone had asked me how much time I had been in La Ventana, I may have wistfully responded a week or maybe even ten days.
I heard the honk of a truck horn outside. I pulled back the drapes. I could see Roxanne’s car in the dirt lot.
I went outside. She rolled down her window.
“I came to say goodbye,” she said. The rain began to come down again hard. I looked at her. A falcon swept low over my head. I had to duck to avoid it.
Roxanne was nonplussed.
“Be careful on your drive home. You have my number.”
I watched as she drove away, somewhat dumbstruck by the strange weather and the odd encounter with the predatory bird.
Later that day, driving back to California, I hit a bull at 70 m/p/h. It came into my car. Time slowed once again in my mind as the imprint of the animal’s distorted and twisted face burned into my psyche.
night, I arrived in Ensenada, a 2′ by 2′ hole in my windshield from the bull encounter. Roxanne called me.
“Are you okay? I had a premonition that something bad was going to happen to you.”
“I hit a bull,” I relayed her somewhat dumbfounded. “It came through my windshield.”
“Where are you now?” she asked, seemingly unaffected by my circumstance.
“I am at a hotel in Ensenada. I didn’t have any money, so I gave the concierge my camera equipment as collateral until I get paid.”
I don’t know if it was the admission that I was indigent or some other imagination of her mind that caused her to utter the following words, but, either way, they were cutting.
“I am sorry to hear that. I have to go now. Bye.”
I hung up the phone and reflected on my situation. I was in Ensenada, about two hours from the border. I was staying in the cheapest hotel room that I could find. The concierge was holding my camera as collateral. I expected a paycheck the following day, but I was not sure that it would come. I feared to cross the border with a monstrous hole in my windshield. I decided to get a cup of coffee and think about what to do.
As I entered the lobby, the concierge eyed me.
“Are you a photographer?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I need your help.”
He looked to be somewhere in his late twenties. His eyes conveyed a sincere pathos that cried for help.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“When you showed up and handed me over your camera, I knew that it was a sign.” He paused a moment.
“A sign for what?”
“It’s my wife,” he began. “I need someone to photograph my wife.”
I quickly ran through the reasons that someone would want me to photograph their wife. I replied with the most plausible answer.
“Is she cheating on you?”
“It’s not that,” he replied. “We are separated but can’t get divorced. I need a picture of her.”
“With another man?” I pushed.
“No.” He paused another moment as if he were trying to put the words to me in such a way as to not scare me off. “I need a picture of her working at a strip club.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“If you do it for me, I will let you stay the night free.”
“Why not,” I replied. What do I have to do?”
“Great! I am off at eleven. Meet me in the parking lot right outside.”
I arrived dressed in black. The young man opened the door. My camera bag was sitting in the passenger seat.
“Marcos,” he said, extending his hand. “Nice to meet you, Mike. Are you ready?”
“Let’s go,” I replied.
Marcos exited the parking lot in his beat-up hatchback onto the highway.
“Where are we going?” I asked, beginning to take my camera and lenses from my bag.
“To the strip club.”
“I figured that much. You know that cameras aren’t allowed in those places, right.”
Marcos took his wallet from his back pocket and opened it. “This is a picture of my daughter. She is five,” he said, his face swelling with pride. He pulled out a card and handed it to me as we stopped at a light. “That’s my wife.”
I looked down at the laminated ID card. A photograph of a Mexican woman who looked to be in her twenties was staring back at me. Next to it was a title: ‘Maestra – Tercer Grado’. She was a third-grade teacher. “This is the stripper that you want me to photograph?”
“That’s her. That’s my wife.” There was a tone of sadness in his voice.
“And you need a photograph of her stripping because?” I asked.
He turned his attention from the road and focused it on me. “Because she won’t let me see my daughter.”
“Did you hurt her in some way?” I asked.
“No, Mike,” he answered. “This is Mexico. The law is different here. I separated from my wife six months ago. She is a bad woman. I couldn’t go on with her any longer. I want to get a divorce, but she won’t give it to me. She takes (half?) my income and will not let me see my own daughter. A woman can do that in Mexico. The judge will never give me a divorce, but I am forced to pay her because I left and I can’t visit my daughter. I have almost no rights, and she knows that.”
“I am sorry.”
“One day my friend called me and said ‘Hey Marcos. I am at the strip club. You won’t believe who is dancing on the pole right now.’ “It was my wife, Mike. I knew right then that this was my chance. If I could get a picture of her dancing at the strip club and show the judge, then I could see my daughter again. The judge would give me a divorce.”
I felt a surge of duty welling in my chest. I looked at her photo again, trying to burn the image into my mind so that I would be sure to photograph the right person. I would need to make sure the stripper pole was in the frame. I would need to make sure that her face was clearly visible. I attached a 50mm lens to the camera body.
“And then you showed up,” continued Marcos. “I knew it was a sign from God.”
The young Mexican man pulled up to the curb. “We’re here.” He pointed to a flickering neon sign in the shape of a woman in an erotic pose. I hid my camera in my jacket and prepared to get out of the car.
“What’s her stripper name,” I asked, quickly.
“I don’t know. Just ask if Maria is working tonight. Maria Sanchez.”
Before I could get out, a beefy-looking bouncer approached the car. I rolled down the window.
“You looking for ladies?”
“Yeah, man,” I replied. “I was hoping to see Maria dance tonight. Maria Sanchez?”
“Sorry, man. Maria is not working tonight.”
“Are you sure? I came a long way to see her. She is my favorite girl.”
“You will have to come back another night,” said the bouncer.
“Let’s go,” I heard Marcos whisper frantically from the driver’s seat.
“Okay,” I said to the bouncer. “No worries. Another time.”
I rolled up the window and Marcos sped away.
The next day Marcos was not at the concierge desk. I left a note instructing him how to find a Mexican photographer to help bust his scandalous wife.
He was a fourteen-year-old boy that lived on the edge of a road in the middle of the Baja peninsula. When I fell to the ground of his house it was his mother that showed no hesitation in calling him to my aid. Even the trucker, strong and confident, trusted the boy to take me to the doctor.
He spoke almost no English and my Spanish, in my frail state, was failing me.
To him, I must have seemed a strange man; white, unshaven, and unkempt. My car, after three weeks camping and twodays sick, was a mess. I did not speak his language. My face was pale, and I was rocking back and forth, holding my belly and groaning.
I remember one stop clearly, the boy leaving the car to call for an ambulance. I rolled from the passenger seat onto the ground, looking up at the sky and writhing in pain, holding my twisting stomach. I remember turning and seeing the legs of a man coming towards me. “Get up,” he implored. “You have to go.”
I remember the sight of the doctor, clad in white, and the glowing faces of the two Mexican nurses.I remember the pain of the steel needle injected into my arm. I spent eight hours in that hospital bed, drifting in and out of sleep, before finally coming to my senses and leaving in the afternoon.
A wrong turn had taken me two hours off course on my return journey from the tip of Baja California. To go back to the spot of the fork in the road where I made the wrong turn would have added another four hours to an already lengthy twenty-two hour drive. There was a way, via a dirt road strewn with river-rock, that would spare me the backtracking. I was driving a car that hung very low to the ground. I decided to risk it and attempt to cross through the mountainous pass.
Nine miles into the drive my engine stopped dead. I had not seen another car pass, and looking around, there was nothing in sight but vast empty spaces and mountains. I had a quarter gallon of water and no food. I left a note on my windshield, hid my expensive camera equipment and computer in a bush, said a prayer, and began to walk back towards the town of La Purisma.
I hadn’t ventured a quarter mile when I saw a rancher and a young boy approaching in a truck. The rancher agreed to take me back to the town, where I could find a mechanic. I offered him $20, and he accepted. We traveled through the high desert hills and into the small town. It was too late to get help, so I checked in to a tiny motel and settled on trying to find a mechanic in the morning.
I hadn’t been in the motel room more than a few minutes when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it. A Mexican man, motorcycle helmet in hand, stood, white light shining from his pupils.
“I am here to help you,” he said. “Is this yours?”
He handed me the crumpled piece of paper which I had placed under the wiper blades.
Car broke down. 5PM. Walking to La Purisma. Please help.
“Yes,” I replied. “That is mine. Are you a mechanic?”
“I am good with electronics,” he said. “What happened to your car?”
“I don’t know. It just stopped. It wouldn’t start up again.”
“The problem is electric. I can fix it.”
“Can you come back in the morning?”
A knock came on my door at 8AM. I got onto the back of the man’s motorcycle, and we began the journey through the hills towards my broken down car.
“Your President,” he began. “He is a bad man.”
“Our President, too. It is greed.”
“Old as time.”
“What are you doing out here in the desert?”
“I am working for God.”
We made it to the car. It was just as I had left it. He began to work, and I went to the bushes to find my hidden gear.
I heard the engine start up.
“What was it?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. He then pointed to the sky and laughed.
I got into my car and headed back, following close behind this man on his motorcycle.
I arrived at the hotel. The owner motioned to a spot on the ground.
“Your car is leaking.”
I looked under the car. A fresh puddle of oil was accumulating in the dirt. I called for my friend.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I can fix it.”
He left to buy glue and borrow some tools.
“We will have to drain out all the oil from the pan first,” he informed me.
We sat there on the ground, waiting for the black liquid to empty into a container.
“You know,” he began. “You are not just your skin.” A small whirlwind appeared next to me, twisting the dust in circles and spinning off. I felt a change internally. I felt lighter. “Be gone, Satan,” he said.
He looked at me a moment.
“There you are, Michael,” he exclaimed, calling me by my full name.
“Why are you here?’ I asked.
“I left the United States two years ago,” he replied. I found out my wife just had a child with another man. We had three children together. I bought this motorcycle and came to Mexico.”
“Where do you stay?” I asked. “How do you make a living?”
“I go from town to town fixing things, I make enough money to get by. I sleep in the desert.”
The oil had completely drained and he patched the now dry crack in the oil pan. I thanked him.
“So where are you off to now?”
“Wherever God asks me to go,” he replied. I wait for signs.”
I left the town of La Purisma and headed back towards the spot where I had made the wrong turn. About twenty minutes into the trip, my stomach began to ache.
As I got closer to my destination of Loreto, the stomach pains increased in intensity. I recalled that I had eaten a hot dog from a cart in La Purisma the night before.
Checking into a hotel in Loreto, my body began to purge itself. I spent the night moving in between the bed and the toilet. I made sure to drink a lot of water, but, as evidenced by my experience the next day, it was not enough. Packing up my belongings and handing off the key to the concierge, I began to make my way 15 hours north back to my home in California. I did not get far before my stomach began to act up again. My vision began to skew, the image of the asphalt in front of me was bending before my eyes. I pulled off to the side of the road.
There was a small restaurant across the way. With great pain, I made my way across the street and in through the door. Once inside, I collapsed onto the floor.
“I need help,” I said, the words just a whisper. The woman behind the counter called in Spanish to someone in the back. A young boy appeared. He spoke some English.
“What is wrong?’ he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I am sick. I need to get to a hospital.”
“Can we take your car?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “The keys are in the ignition.”
He helped me get across the street. The world was spinning. My equilibrium was shot.
The boy started my car as I sat in the passenger seat, moaning.
We began a drive to the nearest hospital, which was in a town called Mulege.
“How old are you?” I asked the boy.
“Fourteen,” he replied.
“How long will it take us to get to Mulege?” I inquired, barely able to get the words out.
“About one hour,” he responded. “My mother called an ambulance. Maybe it will meet us on the way.”
After about thirty minutes, for reasons unknown to me, the boy pulled off into a camping spot.
I opened the passengers side door and fell to the ground, holding my stomach and writhing in the dirt. In my peripheral vision, I noticed a pair of boots. I looked up and saw a cowboy hat set atop the face of a mustached man. The boy began to speak to him in Spanish. I was too sick to follow the conversation.
“Get up and get back in the car,” said the man, authoritatively. “You are going to be fine.”
I got back into the car, and we continued our drive to Muleje. My sense of time was distorted. Each passing moment seemed an eternity. In the distance, I glimpsed an ambulance approaching, but it passed us by.
“Was that for me?” I asked the boy.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
Finally, we arrived at a doctor’s office. The boy parked the car and I got out. I could hardly walk. A woman, seeing me in despair, offered her shoulder to help me get to the entrance.
I laid down on a gurney and and a nurse asked me what was going on. I did my best to tell her that I thought I was suffering from dehydration.
Soon after, a doctor entered. He had the nurse administer saline solution through an IV and into my vein. I was fading in and out of consciousness.
I spent somewhere between four and five hours in that hospital. At one point, I fell asleep. When I awoke, the nurse informed me that they had pumped four bags of the liquid into my body.
I got up feeling much better, although still a little queasy. I was nervous about the bill, as I did not have much money. To my surprise, it was only $30.
I left feeling famished. I found a local restaurant and ordered fish. Finding a table, I sat down. I was still trembling.
There were three older gringos sitting at a table across the way from me. One of them spoke up.
“Not feeling well?’ he asked.
“I got the turistas,” I replied. “I just got out of the hospital.”
“That’s no fun,” he quipped. “You will be fine.”
I got up to go to the bathroom. In my semi-delirious state, I could not find it.
“It is over there, to the left,” said one of the gringos.
I returned to my table and ate what I could of my meal.
I decided to stay in Muleje for the night. I found a cheap motel and went to sleep.
I awoke in the morning, my sheets covered with excrement. I felt a little better. I decided that I was well enough to make the journey back home.
I crossed the border that night with only a few pennies and just enough gas to get back to my home in San Diego.
* Author’s note: “La Purisma” means “The Purity”
Word Count – 1,843 words
I was driving home from a day at the beach. In the distance, I saw a dilapidated car pulled off to the side of the road. A young mexican man was signaling for help. I slowed down and then pulled up beside him.
“No gas,” he began, in a broken, accented English. “We need to get to San Jose.”
I thought for a moment.
The drive to San Jose was about thirty minutes along a bumpy dirt road. I was roughly forty-five minutes from where I was staying, and it was getting late.
“Get in,” I said.
The young man spoke very little English. My Spanish was good, but he insisted upon practicing in my native tongue. I began to teach him some simple words. As I taught him, I felt this beautiful, almost tangible connection form between our minds.
He began to explain to me how the three of them had become stranded. They had planned a day of fishing along the coast of the East Cape. Not having traveled often outside of their tiny village, they did not properly estimate the amount of gas it would take them to get from their home to the fishing spot and back. They ran out of gas just a few hundred feet away from where they had spent the day. This had left them stranded about 15 miles from home.
Arriving at a gas station, I watched my new friend fill up a large, plastic red tank full of gasoline. It was getting late, and we were hoping to arrive back at his car before nightfall.
After filling the tank, we started the journey back towards his car.
As we neared the stranded vehicle, I saw one of the men at the jalopy begin to jump up into the air and smile. He was making sounds, but they were in neither Spanish nor English. I realized then that he was mute.
I pulled off to the side of the road and walked towards him.
As the young man I had been traveling with filled up their gas tank, the mute began to look about in the dirt. I watched him locate a rusty nail. He picked it up and pointed it at the top of a blue tackle box that was sitting in the trunk.
He made more unintelligible, emotion-laden sounds and looked into my eyes.
“My brother wants your phone number,” said the boy next to me. “He wants to thank you.”
The mute looked at his brother and smiled, moving back and forth in unrestrained glee.
Slowly, I began to read off to him the digits of my telephone number. I watched him use the nail to scrawl them into the top of the tackle box.
When he was finished, he looked at me, his eyes shining brightly with gratitude. He began to utter more beautiful sounds. He took my two hands in his, shaking them with vigor.
As I walked back to my car, I looked at the world around me. It appeared different. It was as if some sort of veil had been lifted from my eyes. In all directions, as far as my eye could see, the earth looked magnificent.
I said goodbye to the three men, got into my car and drove back home.