..First Glyph

February 21
8:45 p.m.

Finally someone asked.

I've just returned from the Torre Latinoamericano. I bought an elevator ticket to its viewing deck. It is the tallest building in the city. From it you can see miles and miles of Mexico City--Mexico City to its limits really, to the foothills of the volcanoes that edge it. I wanted to describe the city from this perspective at night. I tried to imagine what it might look like from this perspective at night. I expected my imagination would fail me. I was right.

Anyway, "I'm sorry," the girl interrupted. "But what are you writing?"

How many people have asked this of themselves, I wonder, observing me stride so intently from this corner to that, clipboard in hand, pen at work.

"Some notes on the city at night from the sky," I told her honestly.

The other day in the Zócalo a policeman approached me. He was apparently wondering the same thing. I stood at the eastern edge of the Zócalo, across from where Avenida Madero flows onto the roadway that encircles it. I was scribbling notes on what Madero looked like from the middle of the street. That spot was the perfect observation point for this perspective, the only one possible considering traffic. The policeman asked, "Some information for you, amigo?" I looked to him. Round-faced, he was, wary. He eyed me suspiciously, eyebrows cocked. He peered down Madero with me for a moment, critically. "No," I answered, smiling. I continued on then with my scribbling. Suspicious, I guess he was, because I stood there so aberrant. To me, though, if you were of suspicious bent, or paranoid, a camera or a video camera would be much more threatening. Hundreds of these populate the Zócalo.

Anyway, the girl with the questions had bobbed black hair and a wide countenance with bright teeth. There was something young and eager in her. She begged me forgive her impertinence. She asked if I was a sociology student. I told her I was not. I told her I was a would-be writer. It was only then that she really became impertinent. Impertinent, though, in that young and eager way. It did not offend.

"Well, what is your book about?"

"It is about Mexico and the southwest United States. That's all I really ever say about it."


"I'm superstitious."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

Integrity, this exchange had. It made sense that this girl, this first Mexican forward enough to ask me a question that, no doubt, others had wondered, would also be the first to follow up my deliberately vague answers. Blind to my touchiness, she pressed me for concrete reply.

I looked at her.

She pressed, "What do you mean? Do you mean that something bad might happen to you if you tell what your book is about?"

"No," I said. "I mean that if I tell what my book is about I'm afraid I will not be able to finish it."

She inclined her head. She accepted this. She begged again that I forgive her impertinence. She confessed to being a very curious person. She said I looked very curious there with my little clipboard. She spoke then of her fear of approaching me at first, because of her weak English. She thanked me for speaking to her in Spanish. She complimented my Spanish. She hesitated. Then she padded away. I let her pad away. I was busy. I had work to do. I moved on so that she would not be tempted to return.

The Valley of Anahuac glows a golden bronze at night. Lambent, it glows, throbbing. Veins cut the glow with white streams of headlights descending, with roseate streams of taillights ascending. The thoroughfares across the valley bottom are rough like the canals of Mars. The thoroughfares are orange under streetlamps. If you watch closely you can see pedestrians playing with traffic on these thoroughfares. Death-defyingly, they play, their skittish flesh with careering steel. Planes come and go. Tall slender buildings rise. Squat huts hide in the night. And the spring moon hangs low in the east. And the spring moon glows orange in the east.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers