We are in Morelia today. We left at the crack of dawn…or at least by 11:00. We stopped by the Ya Dijo taco place and the chicharron tacos were exactly as divine as I remember them being. The tortillas, made there as you order, are as close to perfect as it is possible to get and the filling just melts in your mouth (and all over your hands!) The personalities are as strong and fresh as the tacos, the husband and wife team have been on the same street corner for 30 years and she says he must be addicted to her because he keeps complaining but he always comes back!
We bought dinner for a boy who asked us for food. He is probably Jack’s age and he wasn’t asking for money, he asked if we would buy him some food. I asked him if he wanted enchiladas and he immediately said yes. Pepe asked if he wanted chicken and he said whatever we thought to do. I took him up to the lady working at the food stand so that she would know that he could order and that we would pay. He was so hungry, he ate the food without question while Violet complained of being hungry and rejected the food that we gave her.
At the bar later that night, after wishing there was more that I could do for that boy, a woman winding thread placed on my shoulder a looped bundle she had wrapped around her fingers like a lock of hair. I didn’t know what she wanted from me, but she quickly reeled off two more rounds of the stuff for Pepe and for Matt. We gave her a peso for her thread and she continued happily along, winding, winding, winding.
A man, bent nearly double with age was searching in the trash cans for aluminum and plastic bottles. We watched him for some time as he went from bin to bin with a walking stick and his right angle gait. I couldn’t help but think that at some point he was five and ran like children do, with his whole life before him. After paying our bill I took fifteen pesos to him. “Hey uncle!” I called to him, “so you can get yourself a soda, if you’d like.” I handed him the money and his face lifted in a smile, my hand on his back and I felt the bones of his shoulder blade as it jutted against his skin. He blessed me and crossed himself.
I can see Pepe as he watches these people and recognizes their lives from the inside. Watching a child selling gum and he remembers being 10 and selling chiclets in front of the Luz del Mundo temple in Guadalajara. Looking at the child eating dinner we bought and he remembers a drunken father and the feel of hunger. I don’t like to say no when people ask for money and so I most often do not. I walk around with loose pesos so that I can give them away. I could give 100 people one peso per day and have done something helpful.
I wanted to take that boy home and let him sleep in a bed, eat good food, and worry about unimportant things. I wanted to take that old man home and let him sit with his feet up and bring him his dinner. I wanted to take the woman giving thread home and give her something shiny and a safe place to watch the world through her child’s mind.
I saw a rat and I wanted to give it a crumb. I saw a dog and I wished I had some scraps.
It’s not possible to help every creature, I know. But as I listened to the mariachi on the street corner, and the ribald songs of the cafe racer motorcycle club - who were, by the way, hauling around Mexico’s second largest telescope in private hands and used it to show us the rings of saturn and the four moons of jupiter - it seemed, more than ever, that I might at least be able to do my part.