..First Glyph

March 10
10 a.m.

I strolled along the beach just now to Mazatlán's Zona Dorada. An hour's stroll it was. I liked the pelicans strafing the breakers. I liked the sandpipers fleeing the wavelets on their tiny twig-like legs.

I squatted on the beach mid-way through my stroll and munched two apples bought yesterday in Mazatlán's downtown market. I enjoyed some pan dulce, too. I bought the pan dulce in a panaderia situated between my hotel and the beach. Two warm soft rolls lightly dusted with sugar.

Four years ago I sunburned on that beach.

I woke to an intoxicating air this morning. That same intoxicating air that always made it hard for me to rise early in San Diego. A heavy air, it is, but effervescent. Fresh and cool. Like spring, it is. You drink it down in drafts.

I sit in a VIPs now over a grail of coffee. I'm about to transfer onto looseleaf the notes I jotted into my paperback copy of As You Like It. It will be easier to manage the notes then, to consider them. First though I wanted to scribble these comments on the beach stroll. It was a pleasant amble, nourishing. And for some reason it reminded me of Hemingway's The Garden of Eden. Don't know why. I read that book some seven or eight years ago. Only lately has its title meant anything to me. But posthumously published, it was. The title might not even be his. The Garden of Eden. The perfect environment for the artist. Just the right stimuli for creation.

I'm back on the beach now. I've encamped in a semi- circular area cordoned off by a very expensive hotel. But I have light brown hair. And the hotel caters to foreigners. And no one saw me step over the cordon. They think I belong.

I took a beach chair at the very perimeter of the roped area. No one else lounges out here yet. I can decamp without bothering anyone if the place fills up.

There is a thin rail of a man down the beach blowing a trumpet. A squat man next to him beats at a bass drum. The racket, I'm afraid, is not very musical.

I crawled through a hole cut in a chainlink fence to get to this beach. Four years ago that fence did not exist. The beach guard was breakfasting at a taco stand down the shore. He shouted something at me. I pretended not to hear him. I continued on. I knew he would not follow.

A large foreigner just took a chaise-lounge a few spots over from my chair. His carcass is almost cetacean--giant, round, white. His wife reclines next to him under a flat- brimmed reed hat. I bet they paid a healthy sum for this spot on the beach. I nod at the woman. She smiles languidly.

Every ambulant vendor that passes this cordoned area solicits me. It's because I occupy this extreme edge, I guess. It's because I seem unoccupied, I guess. Belts, sandals, hats, sunglasses, coconuts with straws sticking out of them. I will read a little now, I guess, review my As You Like It notes.

A hotel waiter just came and went. Una margarita? he offered. Una cerveza? he offered. Too early for me, I answered. Maybe later.

6 p.m.

I wanted to be sure the woman on the beach was looking at me before I approached her. And she looked again. And she looked again. But it was possible she was not looking at me. It was possible instead that that turn of her head, that fall of her eyes was just natural. I could not be sure. I could not know. I sat dithering. I wavered between possibilities. What should I do? Should I approach the woman and her friend? Might it be an invitation? Should I accept? But how good it would be to talk to someone! After yesterday it would be very good to talk to someone! So I mounted an assault on my timidity. I essayed to put down that nausea of shyness. I coached myself that no better moment would come. The two of them were sunning their backs. The two of them were propped up on their elbows. They would see my approach. They would not be surprised by my approach. And so, swallowing my heart, mentally crossing myself with two fingers, I pulled myself up out of my chair. I stepped over the cordon. And I forced myself to approach the two beautiful women. They saw me coming. They were not surprised when I plopped down next to them. They definitely now looked at me.

I asked, "You guys from the United States?" For I had heard them speaking English as I neared.

They shook their heads.

"No?!" And I was taken aback. The English I had heard sounded very American.

One said, "We're from Canada." And of the two it was this one speaking to whom your eyes naturally gravitated. Very dark tan. Bright red bikini. Very blonde hair. But there was a note of feigned innocence in her tone. A note of fakery. And the second girl, though less arresting, had a natural elegance, a more feminine grace. You saw it even as she lie there: in the pose of her hands, in the tilt of her head. Her hair was a rich brown and short. Her skin pale and olive. It was this second girl who had looked at me--possibly.

We exchanged the platitudes of travel. Origins, destinations, impressions. Medical secretaries, they were, from British Columbia, on vacation.

"So you just move around?" the blonde one pursued, without judgment, lightly. "...to wherever?"

"Yeah," I said. "I just move around. But..." And I paused. "But it's not without purpose."

And the blonde one shook her head. She shook her head as if to say: "Oh, no. Of course, not!"

And here I mentioned my scribblings. I mentioned what this traveling meant to my unfinished novel. I mentioned how this traveling would itself one day be my second novel. I mentioned, too, how just yesterday I had experienced something that in ten years of traveling Mexico I had never before experienced. I tried then to go on. I tried to describe the confrontation on the bus. But after the first few sentences both of the women cooled. They changed the subject icily. They did this twice. They did not want to hear. I gave up the tale. And then...and then I could find nothing more to say. I'm a great failure at small talk. I drifted into a stammer. I silenced.

The second woman, Stephanie, turned over to sun her stomach. The first woman, the blonde one, soon did the same. It seemed to me body language. They seemed to say, "Okay, you can go now." And so I did. I said, "Well, thanks for being nice to me." They answered with gentle "Nice-to-meet- yous" and other comfortless words. I stood. I trudged back to my beach chair. I stepped over the cordon. I sank into my beach chair. I felt empty there, suddenly, in my beach chair--vacant. I looked at the women. Face up in the sun they still lie, eyes closed. I looked at Stephanie's chin. I considered how well-turned was Stephanie's chin. A chin with character, it was. But I did not like the words "with character." So I went on probing for a single word that would suggest "with character." But I could not find such a word. I still cannot. So I contemplated my attraction to Stephanie. And in my contemplations I saw how inaccessible Stephanie seemed to me suddenly. But everything seemed inaccessible to me suddenly. Everything. Distant. Alien. Far away. Estranged. I told myself I was numb. I told myself I'd been deadened by this journey. But it's later now and still the sensation persists. Hermetic, I feel. Nothing can touch me. Not this pen I wiggle. Not this light I work by. I've been swallowed by some great slimy beast, I think. Some great green leviathan has ascended from some nameless depth to swallow me. I've been emboweled.

And now, at this small desk in this cramped hotel room, I see myself meeting Stephanie tomorrow in the lobby of her expensive hotel. I escort her to the nearby VIPs. As we walk she asks me if I have yet scribbled of her as I told her I would. I answer that yes I have scribbled of her; but that no, no I have not. I explain that I am something of an equilibrist, and that my safety net is words, and that sometimes I fall from my tightrope, but that sometimes my words let me slip through them, slip towards the abyss. I tell her that I scribbled of her in this way. And I say, "I had to approach you. Thank you for not dismissing me." And I lean back now and look up into the ceiling of my room. And the ceiling fan is spinning. And the ceiling fan is spinning. Coming apart. Coming together. Falling away.

Today I sat next to two pretty women in the Zona Dorada sands of Mazatlán. Today I conversed with two pretty women about things that meant little. As I conversed with the two pretty women I watched the words they spoke leave their lips. The words would leave their lips and then make very long journeys toward me. The words would enter me from very far away. Then the words would travel down a long dark corridor. As the words traveled, through the whole span of their journey, I would hear and watch the words. I would study the words. I would think about the words. I would deliberate their meanings. Then the words would finally arrive. Internally, I would respond. Then the process would begin again, but in reverse. And my words would make their long journeys outward. And at last I would speak the words. And at last the exchange would become complete. And at last the exchange would begin again.

Majestic, maybe.

Majestic, maybe, her chin.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers