..First Glyph

March 13
3 p.m.

I sit in a small Los Mochis cafeteria scribbling these notes. I have a flan before me and I wait now for a bitter coffee to complement its sweet syrup. Long ago I ordered that coffee. Maybe the waiter did not understand me. I spent too many pesos on the meal for which this flan is a desert. The meal was bland. I will order again that coffee.

The bus trip from Mazatlán was eventless. For the third time this journey I watched a Star Wars episode. The first time was in the Dallas bus station. I was waiting for that first bus south then, that first bus to San Antonio. That was an early morning showing. I saw the movie again in Mexico City one sleeplessly late night. And now again today on the bus from Mazatlán. The Matrix was also screened today. It was the second time I've seen that movie this trip. Such action films appeal to me as much as anyone. Stimulating, they are. I tire though of the actors always shouting--and of the pretty actresses. Pretty actresses make me lonely. I understand now why monks cloister themselves away into monasteries. It's much harder to endure a life of sacrifice when you're facing pretty actresses at every turn.

I arrived here in Los Mochis about 2 p.m. I will leave tomorrow morning. Los Mochis is a place of transition for me, just a place of transition.

The girl crossed the street toward me as I rounded the corner from the Los Mochis bus station. The busy sidewalk we trod would lead me to my Los Mochis hotel. She wore boyish short blonde hair, a pretty face, and was traveling solo. Solo travelers always notice one another. And circumstance pitching us together as it did partly neutralized that taboo over privacy and space that solo travelers usually observe. I gave her an undemanding smile. She gave me one back, just as undemanding.

"Do you know where a cafe is?" she asked. The words came quasi-familiarly, as if we had met before but only now found reason to speak. Her accent was Australian.

"I just stepped off the bus myself," I answered. And I felt then that lonely place in myself open up.

"Alright," she said. But she quickened her step then. Determined, she seemed suddenly, to move ahead of me, away. I raised my eyebrows. I slowed. I watched her pace away. How could I have offended her so quickly? I let the Australian girl go. Mentally, I cut the Australian girl loose. My lonely place closed.

But a half-block farther on the Australian girl drew up. She drew up so much, in fact, that it became clear she wanted me to catch up to her. She looked a little confused as I strode alongside. I said to the Australian girl, sideward, "I saw a restaurant back there."

"Yeah," she responded pensively. "It was expensive. I'm looking for a place that I can sit for awhile."

I nodded. I wondered if there was a Sanborn's in Los Mochis.

She asked, "Why are you here?"

"Just traveling," I said. And the lonely place in me opened up. "I'll be continuing on to Hermosillo soon. And you?"

"The train journey through the Barranca del Cobre."

I nodded. "I did that trip a few years ago. Very beautiful."

But then, again, the Australian girl's step quickened. "Okay," she said to me in curt adieu. And she left me behind. And I let the Australian girl go again. And I did not understand this. And my lonely place closed again. And I don't know what she feared from me. I don't know what she wanted from me.

We went through this little act a third time before the Australian girl finally left me in peace. My lonely place opened up again. My lonely place closed again. The Australian girl did not want me to pursue her, it seemed. But the Australian girl was offended somehow, or wounded, maybe, that I did not pursue her. I'm not strong enough for such fickleness at the moment. I was glad to see her go.

I skipped two of my daytrips from Mazatlán. The first, Culiacán, I skipped because of fear. The drug-trafficker from Los Angeles still spooks me, you know. And Culiacán was "his city," you know, "The city from which FBI people do not return." The second daytrip, Acaponeta, I skipped because I am burning out. My comfortable Mazatlán bed spoke to me in soothing tones. It cooed, "Do that Acaponeta work in some other town along the way." It cooed, "Just continue on to Los Mochis." And I slumped there numb, heedful, leaning against the wall. Then I capitulated--without a struggle. I've lost my hunger. My thirst for this work has gone. Even on the way to Los Mochis today I was devising ways to skip Los Mochis, too. Suddenly I just want to sprint to the end. Suddenly I just want this journey to end. Hermosillo, I look forward to. Tijuana. The border. Arriving at the west coast has undermined my will, it seems. Being so near the end has undermined my will, it seems. But I can't give in. To submit, to collapse beneath my flagging energies would compromise whole sections of my unfinished novel. I've much yet to describe.

The price of my hotel here is fifty percent more than I budgeted. I cannot stay here more than one night. Los Mochis is a place of transition for me, just a place of transition.

6:34 p.m.

My hotel room now. I bought two bottles of mineral water walking to it. One of the bottles is small. One of the bottles is large. I will drink the contents of the small water bottle and then cut off its top and use it as a cup from which to drink rum and toronja. I will drink rum and toronja tonight. My reliance on rum and toronja has stretched across six nights running now. I hope to end this reliance soon.

My hotel room does not have a window. My hotel room is built of concrete blocks. My hotel room feels like the cell of some prison inmate, or of some monk. A blue chest of drawers stands against the wall. The chest of drawers has only two legs. The chest of drawers leans against the block wall. I am afraid to touch the chest of drawers.

My itchy clothes made a neat pile on the floor of my Mazatlán hotel room. That hotel room was very small but very comfortable. I left my itchy clothes on its floor because I am tired of carrying them around. Those itchy clothes were dead weight. I have just one change of attire now; and a sweater that I can wear; and a pair of jeans that grow more and more soiled by the day. I slept in that Mazatlán hotel room like a baby. It was the quietest and most comfortable hotel room of this trip.

The ceiling fan above me has two speeds: Off, and Hurricane.

As You Like It begins with an evil duke exiling a noble duke from his kingdom to a forest. The evil duke becomes arbitrary and peremptory in his demands of his subjects then, ruthlessly insisting that all the kingdom's affairs be executed according to his own draconian will. And he is very suspicious, this evil duke. Anyone questioning his wishes is suspect. Anyone affiliated with the exiled duke is suspect.

Enter the young daughter of the exiled duke. Enter a rebellious youth who calls the new rule of the kingdom unjust. The young daughter and the rebellious youth meet. They fall in love. Soon they too are exiled to the forest. Here then are two opposing societies. The evil duke rules the kingdom. The noble duke rules the forest.

To me, the society of the kingdom, the society of arbitrary rule, is the society into which we are all born. And the ruler of this society, the evil duke of our kingdom is fear and money. In our society we are quite tractable subjects to these. We fear loneliness. We fear a helpless crippled dotage. We fear death. We fear the sneering of our peers. In reaction to these fears, we work for a family. We work for respect. We lay in resources against sickness and disease. We fortify ourselves against death. In short, to combat our fears we work for money. And this is what makes of us subjects, what subjects us. For we would rather live other lives, I think. There are dreams we would rather pursue. There are hidden potentials we would rather explore. There are burning interests we would rather indulge. But we bury these. We bury these beneath our earning and our hoarding. This is how the duke of the kingdom dominates us. He fills us with fear. Then, in his draconian way, he demands we appease it with money.

On the other side of the city wall, however, lay the forest, the domain of the noble duke. Simply put, the society of the forest is a society free of the evil duke's demands. In the forest the arbitrary rules of the duke do not apply. In the forest the injustice of the evil duke cannot affect us. In the forest we can ignore the evil duke's peremptoriness. We can laugh at the evil duke. We can snub his fears. We can call his money our means now instead of our end. In the forest we struggle only for our own happiness, you know. We struggle only toward our own fulfillment. Our potentials, our interests, our dreams are for the getting in the forest. They are the rule. But we cannot be born into this forest, unfortunately. To enter this forest we have to reject the kingdom. And this means rejecting our fears. And this means rejecting the pursuit of money on behalf of our fears. And this means accepting our dreams, accepting them regardless what threat or hardship might accompany.

The drug-trafficker from Los Angeles saw in me the forest-dweller I am, and, like the evil duke, it enraged him. With every weapon at his disposal he tried to reimpose upon me the rules of the kingdom. With every lure he might concoct he tried to bring me back into the kingdom's value system. "Million dollar house," he said. He rubbed paper bills in my face. "I have money. Do you have money?" And finally, finding all of this ineffectual, he exploded. I was an infidel to him. It was sacrilege, treason. Suddenly, I was Orlando fending for his life. I never bowed to his gods, though. "It is very easy to die," he told me. But I never bowed to his fear.

11:45 p.m.

Sleep defies even rum and toronja this night. Los Mochis is still at this hour. It is a Tuesday, I think, or a Wednesday, now. I rose and I washed my face. I rose and I paced a little through the narrow walkspace around the bed. I look up at the hurricane-like ceiling fan. I look down at the broken chest of drawers. I make up the bed now. I hold onto the bedstead now. I am not feeling so well. Nothing is really connected. Watch the fan spin. There is a thin telephone book beneath these sheets of looseleaf. Strange since this room has no telephone. Everything is connected. Watch the fan spin. I should scribble a little more, I guess. I can see the end of this account so clearly now. And the abyss beyond the bed--it yawns for me. I hold on to the bedstead.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers