Living dangerously


livingRECENTLY, I’VE received word from people above the Rio Bravo that living in Mexico is a war zone or a hellhole. I became worried and decided to investigate.

After all, we do reside in one of the “most dangerous” Mexican states, according to the U.S. State Department, an agency rarely given to error, as everyone knows.

Normally, every weekday morning, the two of us take our exercise walk around the nearby plaza, but since we’d never witnessed violence on the plaza, we decided the mayhem must be taking place elsewhere in the hardscrabble ‘hood.

We left the plaza and headed down some ominous-looking streets. Surely, we would find the war zone quickly.

There was a Hellish cast to the blue skies.

* * * *

But before I tell you what happened next, and how we managed to arrive home unscathed, know that yesterday we drove the 40 minutes down the mountainside to the state capital, a spot where no sensible soul sets foot unnecessarily.

First, we went to the snow-white Star Medica hospital and got our yearly flu shots. Then, with ballooning trepidation, we drove down a flower-rimmed boulevard to an office of the ETN bus line where we safely made a ticket exchange.

The red splashes on the street were bougainvillea instead of blood.

Then, breathing sighs of relief due to our stretch — so far — of good fortune, we headed to the Superama supermarket — part of the Walmart chain — for purchases. Following that scary venture, we had lunch at a vegetarian buffet.

The restaurant’s clientele consists primarily of medical students from a nearby university. Surely, most are studying to patch bullet wounds, grenade gashes, and to reattach severed heads that roll across all cantina floors.

Next on the agenda was a stop at Costco. Then we went to an ice cream stand before dashing back to the Honda, heads down, expecting gunfire at any moment.

Again, luck was with us. Not even a flesh wound.

* * * *

We made it home, and the next day dawned, this day, and now we’re walking through the neighborhood in search of our war zone.

Something blood red approaches down the street, and there is noise. We freeze in place. Is this it? Am I about to meet my Maker?

It comes closer, a marching band and rows of students in scarlet uniforms. They’re from the nearby school, rehearsing routines for Revolution Day next month.

We stand on the sidewalk as they pass. Many of the kids giggle on spotting the tall, strange Gringo in their neighborhood.

They decide not to murder us.

As music fades behind, we trod on, apprehensively. But nothing happens, and we return to the Hacienda intact, still wondering where the war zone might be.

I toted my camera, expecting to shoot exciting footage that I would sell to international media outlets. There would be corpses, blood and body parts. A Mexican Robert Capa.

I was disappointed. But I did take these photos.

The war zone remains elusive, hidden. Maybe mañana, amigos.

Maybe mañana.


The forest floor


Fred looked down at the forest floor beneath his feet.

He noticed that it was about an inch below his boots. He was floating, but just barely. How did he get here?

He looked around him, and the woods spread as far as he could see, which wasn’t far because the forest was thick with tall trees.

There was a taste of sky blue far overhead.

Fred put one foot in front of the other, over and over, walking, and he made progress, passing one tall tree after the other.

Finally, he saw them. A young man and woman sitting beside a campfire, and there was a tent too. None of it, neither the couple nor the fire nor the tent, touched the forest floor.

Where am I?  Fred asked. The young man looked at his companion and then back at Fred. You are where we are, between Heaven and Hell.

How long have you been here?  Fred asked. We don’t know, the young woman replied. We only know that we are camping, nothing else.

At that moment, Fred heard a familiar voice, the voice of a woman he had loved long ago with an unspeakable intensity.

The voice said, I will be your sponsor.

Fred began to rise and, as he did so, he noticed the bark on the nearest tree, brown with green lichens and what seemed like woodpecker work.

Higher he rose, and this tree plus the others too began to change colors, pinks and purples that sparkled. Fred saw the blue sky draw closer, and finally he broke into an open field above the forest canopy.

And there was the woman he had loved with an unspeakable intensity. What is happening?  he asked.

You have died, as have I, but you did not know,  she said.

I am your heaven, and you will be mine.

Who are the couple below?  Fred asked. They are sentinels for now, she replied. They died in one another’s arms, complicating their situation.

EyesFred looked at her face, this woman he had loved with an unspeakable intensity, and he smiled.

A butterfly passed before his eyes.