..First Glyph

February 3
2 p.m.

I'm sitting on the floor of the Matamoros bus station. It's just after 2 p.m. My departure is scheduled for 4. I opened and previewed again the first page of Henry IV, Part 1. But I thought then to scribble this short note and peruse Shakespeare after.

Tejano music oompahs from somewhere behind. Many people mill through--more just idle. A group of six healthy men huddle around a post across from the one I lean against. Others, healthy like them, group not far removed. They're traveling together, I think. All the same age, roughly. A few carry a uniform of some sort. Blue and gold. A soccer team, I guess. Or seminarians. Now they've gone.

I drank a grapefruit drink in a small restaurant two streets over. I paused in front of the restaurant debating a slapdash tour of the Matamoros centro before departure. Once against it, I sidled through the doorway. A dozen or so wary eyes met me. The waiter's. The cook's. The cashier's. Those of three diners. I chose a chair at a round table above which hung a television set upon which played a 1950s Mexican movie in which spoke an actress looking like Lauren Bacall. After some hesitation, the old gray-haired waiter approached. He approached me tentatively. This hesitation, this tentativeness is sure indication that one has left the common run of tourists. I think it is simply an aversion for awkwardness. What do I say to this gringo, the old man wonders. Will this gringo not understand me, he fears. But I did not bark to him my daily legumes in English, in German, or in Dutch. I addressed him quietly in Spanish. At once the rimpled face brightened. He smiled. He moved willingly to bring to me my toronja.

To my left, through the bus station entrance, kneels a shoe shiner. He kneels unoccupied. He kneels on the cluttered sidewalk, his black hair clamped by headphones. He converses placidly with someone out of sight.

I tried to acquire my tourist visa after buying my bus ticket earlier. The customs agent requested I come back in an hour. There is to be a shift change in thirty minutes, he told me. That was all he said. I gathered he'd finished his paperwork. I agreed.

On the Brownsville bus to the border I saw a French actress. Really, it was a Chicana version of a French actress. But to me that's a French actress. Her hair was short the way French actresses wear it. And black. And she wore that same vulnerable expression on her face; those same giant eyes; that same sensuous mouth; and that insouciance-- that elegant, assured, intelligent insouciance. I worked very hard to stare at her while not staring at her. Any French actress could have wrested me from Sandra. Really, I guess, it's the characters they played who could have wrested me from Sandra. Of course, their characters had no intention of doing so. Of course, their characters were only fictions. But, anyway, so there she posed, my French actress, chatting away to a friend in Spanish, sitting across from me on the Brownsville bus, waiting for the bus driver to deliver her to her destiny. I wanted to kiss that actress' French fingers. That's all. Every man has a weakness. Luckily a French actress is a very implausible weakness. My French actress sported no wedding ring. My French actress looked about twenty. I swallowed my heart. I debarked.

I scribbled a few observations of Chucho's unremarkable restaurant this morning. I purchased some shower shoes then and some fingernail clippers in a dollar store. I had an hour to spare before checking out of my hotel. I drafted the second scene of The Sandra Texts in that hour.

When I look up from my spot here on the bus station floor I see a round window. That round window opens onto the interior of a very small copy shop. Beyond the two copy machines that rest in the foreground is a small desk. Placed behind that small desk is a very pretty young woman. I will rise now. With great devotion I will rise. I will rise and make a photocopy of my passport.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers