mexico city is quite dangerous, what with kidnapping and murders by drug entrepreneurs and the police. reggie was told ixnay, that u.s. army personnel were most definitely not to go to mexico city and especially not to escort fifty year old matrons to international travel. I am glad he didn’t tell me that until the last night. how he changed the mind of his commanding officer is his own business but I believe that my breathtaking stupidity and the possibility of my causing grave embarrassment to the government was a factor.
reggie sent me a text the morning of the flight to houston, where we were scheduled to meet. No jewelry, no nice clothes, no heels, and could I visit a tanning salon? i was cool with everything but the last one. I get claustrophobic in those booths. we made the trip from houston to ciudad de mexico with no trouble at all. well, except for figuring out how to get out of the airport.
mexico city is built on the inside of a crater, surrounded by mountains. It holds within the bowl all the smog and pollution imaginable, as well as the hopes and aspirations of twenty million mexicans. I saw the first of three types of mexicans when we arrived at the hotel melieta. women were dressed in evening gowns and wrapped themselves in furs though it couldn’t have been more than sixty degrees. men wore tuxedos or dark black suits. i thought “mexico is a pretty wealthy country” and felt pretty silly in my black running suit from target. then reggie told me we were at the wrong hotel. a short taxi cab ride and we were at our hotel. reggie fell asleep immediately. i stared at the moon and could just make out the mountains in the distance.
i woke up and i thought it was ten o’clock. after all, that’s what the clock on the building across the street said. so i forced reggie to get up. he told me the first rule: that since my passport stuck out of my fanny pack just a little, i was to let him carry my passport.
we went to a second mexico city. In this mexico city, blue tarp tents lined the streets. families cooked tortillas, sausages, waffles, chickens. mothers with toddlers on their laps sold candy and cigarettes. old men sold sunglasses, cellphone covers, bootleg cd’s (I nearly bought the entire last season of Glee) . I saw an old man laying out a blanket and offering for sale a pair of red shoes with the heels ground down and a selection of car parts. boys in nascar-like jumpsuits sold newspapers to the cars stopped at the intersections—pink for excelsior paper, green for the guardian. women washed windows of stopped cars. the police were everywhere. the smell of urine, feces, overcooked meet and sweat–sometimes the smell of food was good and sometimes i thought i would throw up. reggie told me the second rule: i was not allowed to point at something, i was not allowed to look at something or someone for more than three seconds unless I was wearing my sunglasses. there were not many people who would outright say “can you spare some change?” but everybody had a business.
we stopped to have breakfast at macdonald’s. because reggie said I wasn’t going to eat out of a truck until we were ready to leave because he didn’t want to be around when there were consequences. in the ladies’ room, the toilet paper dispenser was held together with scotch tape. I broke it apart without meaning to. i went to wash my hands and i took apart the faucet. i decided the safest thing to do was sit down to ask reggie about his strategies. . .
we found a beautiful church dedicated to the carmelite nuns. i wanted to find a rosary to wear on my neck, it was the one thing I hoped to find in mexico city but i spent so much time marveling at people, at buildings, at strange things that i didn’t have time to shop. but i did have time to ask the blessing of st. teresita of the nina jesus.
and then it was time to meet yoshi maeshiro and enrique celis, the whole point of this operation . . . .