Guanajuato

Thursday, June 26, 2003
@ home | 12:28 AM

On my last night in Guanajuato, a Friday, I’d planned to see the orchestra. It had been planned much earlier in the week — on Monday, in fact — when a local Mexican girl, Faby, I’d met the weekend before at a dance club called Capitolio invited me along with her. At that point, we’d only gone out once for coffee and I was still reeling from the fact that she accepted my offer to go out together the next day for a movie. By showtime Friday night, though, we’d made many, varying excursions around town — including one visit to the only chain restaurant in town, Dominoe’s Pizza (which I’d purposely avoided throughout my trip) — each day of my last week.

We met early, at six in the afternoon, on the steps of the Teatro Juarez, our usual meeting place. She lived on the cliff where the statue of Pipila stands behind the Teatro. We took the Funicular, two small red boxes attached to a track running up the mountain and providing a good view of the city. It also supplies easy access to Pipila for tourists and to homes for residents of that area of town.

The walk to her house from the Funicular station was quiet and dotted with interesting views of the city below. Guanajuato sits densely packed into a small valley surrounded by mountains. The area’s river has been dammed up allowing for the tunnels built earlier under the city to lessen the impact of its flooding to be used by cars, thus leading to a city without need of eyesore asphalt avenues stretching throughout town. So when I looked down over the city, I saw interesting, multicolored houses built nearly atop one another, the tops of churches built by aesthetically-minded architects, the Mercado Principal, and the Universidad de Guanajuato, where I’d just finished up classes. Our conversation was pock-marked and lacking in some significant areas, much as the surface-level streets of Guanajuato remain, but Faby, as always, was good about asking a question or making a statement that broke the silence I often fall into around girls.

Her house was cozy and well-decorated by her roommate, a thirty-something woman who is currently studying English in Vancouver and plans to “buy a guy” in Cuba when she’s ready to marry. We listened to the disco compacto of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker I’d bought for Faby a couple of days ago at the mall in Leon while she ordered pizza and we talked of random subjects. Her job as a buyer for the University had been stressing her out for the latter part of the week. I had been able to tell that something was wrong when I first saw her. This contributed to my inability to speak. I felt bad for bringing her out so early in the evening when what she probably really needed was a short period of solitary relaxation, and I worried that I might actually be adding to her burden. It quickly became my goal of the night to help her relax, decompress and somehow prepare for a weekend of work brought home from the office.

After Miles Davis and Bird finished serenading us and the pizza was finished, we rifled through her roommate’s videotapes and came up with three that weren’t about Jesus. I picked Jerry Maguire. I knew she hated romantic comedies, but figured that Jerry Maguire contained some redeeming qualities which might interest her and keep the overall fake romance sickness to a minimum. We ended up watching the entire movie rather than going to see the orchestra.

After the movie, which she enjoyed, we fell back into a conversation we’d started the Tuesday before after our visit to the cinema to see How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (or whatever the title is in English). Her assertion, which mirrors my own, is that romantic comedies are movies and never happen to people in real life. As much as we’d like to make our lives like them or to believe that our lives are or will be like them, they aren’t. Maybe the businesswoman in her came out when she described herself as rather cold and unromantic, or maybe it stems from past experiences I wasn’t given the time to discover. Either way, we agreed on the surface-level fact that life doesn’t pan out the way romantic comedies do.

After finishing her pack of cigarettes, I invited her to walk through El Centro and then have a beer with me one last time. She accepted. I was always surprised at how often she accepted my offers.

I think by this time I had already decided that this was a night worth writing about. I’m never sure whether or not I will be able to convey the emotion or the pertinence in words that I feel in the moment, but I often know that I will at least make an attempt at sending something worthwhile into the nether.

As we walked from her house down many steps to El Centro (the Funicular stops running at 10 PM; it was already later than that) through small callejons (alleys) and periodic partial views of the city (none as good as the view afforded us on the way to her house), I felt that I wanted to say something that she might remember; something she might look back on, repeat to herself and try to follow, to some small degree. I guess that’s the most egotistical of thoughts ever, really, but I know that I still look back on things people have said to me, whether they meant to say something lasting or not at the time, and try to live around those words. I wanted to say something nice, somewhat meaningful (if only in a really cliched way, as most of my sayings are) and appropriate. What I said wasn’t Shakespeare-quality or even Spielberg-quality. What I said was:

“You know, just judging from my five weeks here, I have to say that I think you live in a very beautiful and romantic city.”
She chuckled and agreed.
“You might think about opening yourself up sometime; allowing yourself to be vulnerable a bit. You just might fall in love. Your life just might become a movie.”

Even after all the thought I’d given those few sentences, so much was lost in the translation from thought to words. English words, even.

We walked on to the Plaza de la Paz and the Jardin de la Union and talked about people’s ability to change their lives and possibly transform them into some sort of movie-like existence. We walked down Avenida Juarez and checked into bars where I thought I might say goodbye to other Americans — BarOcho, BarFly’s, et cetera — but none were there and the bars were packed. I felt that it was just as well. We ran into a couple of Americans from my program on the street and I said my farewells to them. Honestly, I was ready for the Americans to go and for me to stay for awhile.

Faby and I ended up at the Campanero Bar. It occupies a rather large floor and a foot-bridge over a pedestrian street not far from El Centro. Neither of us had been there before. We sat outside in the cool wind until it spilled our drinks and drove us inside onto uncomfortable sofas beneath bad art.

We had one of those expansive conversations that I’m so used to having with friends in Austin. We talked of our future plans (she wants to get out of Mexico and work in Canada or Europe after starting her own exporting company and after traveling to Italy next year). We talked of politics and the need for some sort of agreement between our countries allowing workers to move more freely between countries. A North American Free Trade of People Agreement, if you will. We talked about music and art and friends back home and families and the things most important to us. We talked about my writing and about her job. We talked about how badly Guanajuato needs a real bookstore. We talked about our pasts and why we’re interested in the things we are now. We talked about everything.

It was the best conversation I’d had in Mexico and I told her so. I also told her I was going to write about the night.

My last night in Guanajuato remains one of the defining moments of my trip. More so than my hurt foot or the high school antics of most of the kids on my trip or anything else, when I think of Guanajuato, I think of Faby and our conversation that Friday night. I think of what great friends she and I probably would have made had I remained there longer. Friends. Not lovers or significant others, but friends.

Prior to leaving for Mexico, I decided I wasn’t going there in search of some great love. Indeed, when an American nurse, in all appearances, fell for me, I drove her away. I wasn’t there merely for love or sex. So maybe I’m not one’s typical college-age, American tourist in Mexico. Rather, I was there to find intelligent life, just as I try to do in the United States. I found it in Faby.

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