Monday, February 04, 2013

Coffee, Cafe

Woke up in the shuddering chill of a Mexican February morning. jumped in the shower. No hot water. Damn third world problems. (I find out later from my smiling and patient landlady that I need to really turn the hot water tap hard. Will do.) I wanted breakfast and I am telling you Cafe Central on 16th de Septiembre has the best mess around. Get dressed and saunter the five blocks to the restaurant.
Downtown, even on a cold Sunday, attains that unbearably calm hum of oppression and poverty that Juarez possesses like no other.
Amid crumbling masonry and dusty plate glass windows covered in faded and tattered posters of hundreds of missing women, kind elderly sweep away the unrelenting dirt with kind smiles and Buenas Dias as I make my way down the shattered sidewalks. I pass shoe shine boys vying to clean my leathers, taxi drivers on the hustle, wary looks from the indigenous inhabitants wondering what this white-assed gringo was doing here. Two emo-fags swish by and give me the eye as I take a puff from my cigarette, giving them a solid Jack Kerouac B-movie production as I slip in the glass doors of the cafe.
The joint is packed. A cavernous room dating back to the early 1900's. Tables and booths line the mirrored walls as a mammoth counter encircles the middle of the room. I find a seat in the back at the counter and quickly notice the terra cotta work on the ceiling and row of original gas lamp works from a by gone and forgotten era, now dangling with dust and virdigre.
Families sat with calm children in green leather booths, couples stole loving glances across tables as elderly read newspapers of soccer scores and lottery numbers amid gesticulating friends chatting up the previous nights skirmishes at bars and pool halls.
A bespectacled matron takes my order, "Un cafe de taza y juevos rancheros, por favor." She smiles and gets lost in the chaotic ballet of the other servers.
"Man...what the hell are you doing here?" A voice next to me asks in perfect English.
I look over and notice a ruggedly handsome man with thick Mexican Indian feature grinning at me. He is nicely dressed, obviously American - or trying hard to imitate the fact therein. Clean shaven with a long hooked nose common to his people. His short-cropped hair is jet-black with gray at the temples. Something in his demeanor told me he was queer or intellectually so.
"Breakfast." I croak. "I just moved back to j-town last Friday after a half decade hiatus."
He smiles, takes a sip of his coffee as I put cream and sugar in mine. "What the hell are you doing here?" I ask jokingly.
He pats a blue backpack next to him and mumbles shyly, "Just here to pick up some medicine and enjoy the coffee."
"This cafe does have some good coffee, don't they?" I agree.
We go into a discussion of how much he misses living in Juarez but is finding it hard to find work in El Paso. "Maybe, I will try Denver?"
I explain that I am a published writer and he surprises me that he was a literary student when he attended school. Our conversation then fall to the works of Bukowski and Burroughs, Kerouac and Selby. He relates about authors of Latin America who I had never heard of yet writes in the same vein.
What a pleasant start for breakfast, I thought.
I explained to him that I was keeping an eye out for a fellow writer who moved to Juarez two years ago. We were to collaborate on a book concerning the violence which raped this city for five years. However, he went down to the small town Delicious to question a doctor friend of his who was being bullied by the cartel and I never heard from him again. At this time I see him as a statistic of the violence, but I have learned, at least in my life, nothing surprises me anymore.
The literary discussion with my coffee mate lifted my spirits. Actually made me happy to be back in a city in which I adored. And also, began the creative juices to flow, so to speak.
As all good things, though, it had to end. As soon as the elderly waitress slammed down my mess of eggs and salsa, the Indian excused himself and said goodbye. He wasn't looking forward to waiting on that bridge. I heartily agreed. America - that bastion of oppression, fear, paranoia, and control. An Empire ready to fall.
I sat alone slurping my coffee amid the thousand clinks and scrapes of utensils and patter in a foreign language and I thought, All good can come of this. If not, it will definitely open doors to new experiences. A far better deal than simply lounging around an antiseptic con-apt watching television or chatting with people online who I barely know or will never meet.

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