We walked the town light on our feet now that we had left our bags at the bus station locker. With our necks sunburnt and legs sore, we paced slowly down the narrow cobblestone road.
The morning was cool and the sun heated the western half of the road as we tried to walk straight in the narrow shaded sidewalk against the yellow painted walls of Las Casas. We grabbed our first real cup of coffee of the month. A strong aroma filled the small cafe soon after the beans were finely ground. We did not miss the tea-like coffee the pueblo farmers brewed with re-used grounds.
“I’m gonna have at least four cups today to make up for this whole week’s drug celibacy,” said Sam after finishing his cup. “You know, i’ve realized my brain doesn’t work the same. I’m just not witty without it.”
“I’m glad you realize.”
“I had this weird dream two nights ago, there was this kiddie pool where I saw a friend from childhood, still in his 5 year old body, face down in the water. He held himself there with both hands. I curiously watched this for a good while and then decided to pull him out of the water. I asked little Michael why he was holding himself under the water and he told me I can’t be happy without caffeine! I told him that it’s no reason to kill himself and that he should ask his mother to buy him hot chocolate.”
“I think it’s funny.”
“The fact that you saw yourself as a little addicted boy.”
“It was just a weird dream, don’t put me into it.”
“It was your mind’s way of seeing oneself. Michael was just a symbol.”
“That’s a ridiculous analysis.”
“Just face it, you’ve got an addictive personality.”
“You’ve been just as eager to get coffee.”
“Yes, but my subconscious isn’t flaring up into warning dreams. Besides, you’re the one that couldn’t go two weeks without weed.”
“Me? You asked all over the craft-market!”
“Because I speak Spanish.”
“Why don’t you go up and get us two cups of coffee, I don’t care for this dream-analysis.”
I got up and walked to the shop counter. The walls were painted dark purple and there were photographs of traditionally dressed Mexican models. At the end of the shop was a door-less wall that led to a small bougainvillea garden with two tables. A lady sat outside and smoked, I could see her tan shoulder raising and lowering with each drag of smoke. I went to the barista and asked for two rum cappuccinos. He was an older gentleman, a bearish fella, stout and with a bored look on his face. His eyebrows did not raise nor did he look at me when I ordered. Were he my boss, I too would sit outside and smoke away. Just then, he yelled “Ven pa ca Lorena!” and he exited the shop without saying another word. She placed the cigarette on the edge of the table and came behind the bar.
“She’s lovely. I doubt she speaks English,” said Sam. He looked at her curiously as if he was reading an anthropology book.
“I doubt it. She might even speak broken Spanish. She’s most likely a Tzotzil girl working in the city.”
“But wouldn’t the fact that she works in the city mean that she’s fluent?”
“Not if she only makes coffee.”
Just then, the waitress brought two rum cappuccinos to our table. She was a pretty girl in ragged pants, awfully dressed yet lovely and assertive. Her dark hair reached her hips and her eyes were large and brown. A small mole rested at the meeting of her lips. She touched my arm when she placed the cup in front of me. We spoke in Spanish while Sam read his novel, sometimes looking up to the golden indigena.
“We get lots of rucksackers this time of year. Are you two traveling through?” she said in smooth, pleasant Spanish.
“We were staying in a village by the river.”
“I like travelers at the cafe, keeps things interesting.”
“You don’t get tired when gringos buy a coffee and read for hours? We take such freedoms.”
“Not if they’re handsome like you two. What did you do with the indigenas?”
“We helped them write claims for their maize fields.”
“You two by yourselves?”
“It’s part of our work.”
“All that sun from the fields has given you the color of a mestizo.”
She laughed and then placed her small hand over mine to compare shades of skin.
“See,” she said in English. Her fingers were cold on the spots between my fingers, and her caress was then followed by the brush of her full lips on my cheek.
“I have to grind more coffee dear. Feel free around here.” And so she left us with the swirling cappuccinos, which smelled more of rum than of coffee, and my pulse raised as she gently walked away, clicking her little bare heels on the azure tiles.
“Are you planning on translating anything buddy?”
When it came to carrying the female attention he thrived on the use of literary jokes and the existential humor that he so often mastered. It was now that he was greatly outside his realm; having neglected college Spanish courses, the poetry of Pablo Neruda, the tributary songs to Zapata, and the hundred years of Garcia Marquez’s solitude, he did not have much to say. Would we have been back home, he would have found some type of reason to pay for his coffee and drive off in his chic little Toyota. But today, and the past two months, he bruised his ego in exchange for a translator.
“That girl was looking at me, I bet she wanted to talk to me and you denied her the opportunity.”
We could hear the small grinder at work again while she dropped handfuls of dark beans into a small tube. Unlike the working women we had seen whose beauty faded under the sun, her features were smooth and pleasant. She sometimes looked up to our table, others at the road next to the rows of bright yellow houses. Each house had a small balcony, usually with two or three pots of amapolas and enough standing room to allow for a small vignette of the cobble stone street and the green hills.
“Seniorita, otro cafe por favor!” He said it loud in an unrehearsed, comedic accent. He then got up to bring the empty cup to her table. I could hear them talking in a low tone for what must have been a minute. She kept repeating the same things. She called him gringo guapo and he understood this. Then he asked softly “Cuanto cuesta?” before coming back to the table.
“Your Spanish is coming along my friend.”
“What’s her name?”
“Lorena. I got your coffee.”
“When did she say she gets off?” He looked down at his cup swirled the coffee around in the steamy cup.
“After sunset.” He took a first sip of the second rum cappuccino and smiled when looking right above my head.
“You know we have to leave after lunch?”
“I’m not going back. Not today.”
“Sam, they’re not getting their land back. They need to know.”
“These past two months we’ve gone from hole to hole, Don Qijote’s horse needs a margarita.”
“Isn’t this what you came to Mexico for?”
“Yeah, but i’ve done enough. Besides, after all those hammocks, the night calls for a lady’s bed.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Want another cup of coffee?”
“I think I’ve had plenty.”
“You should stay, we can have a nice time in the city tonight.”
“I have to head out. I will see you sometime after?”
“Maybe at the airport.”
He ordered a third coffee and she brought it to him with a small scrap of paper between the cup and the plate. I did not bother to look closer. She picked up my empty cup and slowly walked barefoot behind the bar where she started to grind more coffee. I walked out into the bright street, which provided no shade at this hour.