My wife Margarita and I are at our brother-in-law’s house in Hermosillo after the 5-hour drive from Tucson, trying to talk everybody into going to Kino Bay, only an hour and a half away, but Miriam doesn’t want to go, Kareli doesn’t want to go, nobody wants to go. Well little Colo wants to go. Ok now Miriam wants to go just let her paint her nails first and call her boyfriend. Can you pick up Pablo? Sure you can pick up Pablo. And pues if Miriam’s going then Kareli wants to go too. Now Margarita’s father comes over and he’s 73 but he wants to go, he hasn’t been to the beach in 30 years. And you’re off with a minivan full in the hot bright sexy sun, no lane lines on the road, open-for-interpretation speed limits, Mexican music on the radio, dodging pot holes and listening to the wonderful chorro of Spanish chatter.
Halfway there you’ve got to stop at a pueblo called “The 12.” The girls are thirsty. Everyone gets out and you stand in the sun smoking while a skin-and-bones drunken Indian with teeth like a shark mumbles you out of 10 pesos and when everybody gets back with their Gatorades and lime-chile peanuts the damn piece of crap car won’t start, just turns over and turns over…
“Prende, prende, prende!”
“It’s the battery!”
“It ain’t the puto battery!”
Shit and fuck and carajo and nos lleva la chingada! You pop the hood and 3 Mexican guys come out of nowhere, dive in arguing and checking things. The consensus is it’s the fuel pump, the fuel pump’s gone fucked itself. Well what now it’s Sunday no mechanic is open here. Somebody phones Ubaldo your brother-in-law and Ubaldo calls Cacharpas the mechanic in the family, better to have a mechanic in the family than a lawyer, doctor or liquor store owner, and they say they’ll go get the part and come on out from Hermosillo.
So you wait, the girls fanning themselves and texting on their phones, but not complaining, this is just a normal thing in Mexico, it’s life what can you do, and you and the old man stand in the shade of the Oxxo market. At least 4 young Mexican kids have washed the car windows with their little squirt bottles, this dusty town of rocks and poverty. A tiny Indian walks up barefoot through the shattered glass and stands squinting at you with delirious drunken eyes, stands there and stands there, no physical threat only a spiritual intimidation. You give him a dollar. He never stops staring at you as he takes it and you turn away like from some boogie man in a dream.
There’s a taco stand across the road with green plastic chairs. You all trudge over, cars moving by, honking like elephants in a war zone, cars so old you can’t even identify them, cars made out of other cars, cars with no doors no hoods, cars with engines bared and hanging out like grotesque tumors throbbing and dripping in the heat waves but somehow still running, pistons still chopping, unlike yours sitting there gagging in the sun like an idiotic gringo after a shot of bacanora. The taco stand lady doesn’t even want to stand up but finally she does and dishes out a plate of the greasy pork meat covered in flies, corn tortillas, bottled orange sodas. You ask her for forks and she just looks at you and walks away. Scoop the meat up with your hands, choke down the tacos. Everything smells like urine. A drunk lies on the sidewalk, arms outstretched, more sun-burnt than Jesus ever was. People step over him like a rotten banana peel. A truck crashes into a utility pole 20 feet away. You all jump and laugh and look at the smoke, the drunks falling out of the truck cussing. Your father-in-law says, “This is a town without law.”
In an hour Ubaldo and Cacharpas the mechanic show up with Cacharpas’s wife Alma and 2 boys Piti and Chato. They’ve brought a cooler in the trunk full of Tecate beer. You all push the car over to a shady spot on the edge of an open field thinking, if that was only the sea, why can’t that be the sea. Cacharpas checks under the car and shit god dammit they’ve brought the wrong part and they have to go BACK to Hermosillo again, another 2 hour wait. You drink beers and play Frisbee with the kids. You’ve brought the Frisbee which they call a “platillo volador” which is another name for a UFO. They have never even touched a Frisbee but catch on quick after 2 hours in the dirt and rocks and broken glass and dog shit and you laugh and Margarita joins in, hell it’s not too bad, kind of fun after all, thinking that’s your life there flying through the air and spinning, feeling like an alien washed ashore in some strange land, thinking everybody must feel like that don’t they, at least sometimes, and as you toss the beer cans on the ground the local Indian kids scurry over to pick them up for money.
Finally our saviors get back with the new fuel pump, Ubaldo and Cacharpas, still arguing.
“I TOLD YOU TO BUY THE OTHER ONE!”
“CALLETE! FUCK YOU!”
The god damned gas tank has to come off. It’s full of gas of course, like a drunk’s bladder. The sun is going down, Ubaldo pulls his car up close and uses the headlights. Nobody watches the sunset, all eyes trained on this mechanic working his magic. The gas tank comes down and he gets it out from underneath.
“Chingado, it’s heavy, got to get that gas out of there give me the hose!”
Cacharpas sucks on the hose to get the gas flowing into a bucket.
“You gonna kiss your wife now?” Ubaldo says.
“Look at this gringo gas, it’s so clean! It looks like lemonade!”
They put the gas into Ubaldo’s car, he’s almost empty.
“Now the radio’s gonna play gringo music!”
Cacharpas wrestles with the new fuel pump, gets it on tight, bitches and moans and laughs, makes jokes I don’t understand.
“Where’s the last screw?”
You all stand around kicking the dirt looking for the lost screw. Margarita finds it. Ubaldo gets in behind the wheel, crosses himself and tries to start it.
“Prende, prende, prende!”
It starts! Everyone cheers! Cacharpas the hero! A man in a truck slows down as he passes you all
then backs up and slams into another truck parked on the street.
“Need any help?”
“Ya pa’ que? It’s ok, gracias!”
He takes off again not worrying about the truck he just crashed into. You pay Cacharpas with pesos your wife has made from selling make-up and old furniture from Tucson, buy some more beer and some more gas and think, Damn, time for bed, but hell no Ubaldo makes a U-ee, heads for Kino Bay. You follow along letting the tide take you, no use arguing or worrying, eyes bleary in the oncoming headlights.
In 45 minutes you roll into the small fishing village of Kino Bay, quiet and dark. The seafood restaurant where you wanted to eat crab tostadas is closed so the women buy stuff at the only place in town still open and make bologna sandwiches and crackers with cream cheese which they simply call “Philadelphia” and you all walk down to the cool sandy beach, the white caps glowing in the dark, the blood-curdling blackness where the sea meets the night and what lurks out there, and the sound of it and the smell of it and the stars, remembering the girl they found dead washed up here last month. The kids jump in the water like goofy mer-brats and you drink a few more beers and get your feet wet, kiss Margarita and think about sleeping right there, how nice that would be, and you know you’re gonna be sore tomorrow, sore from Frisbee of all things, damn you’re getting old, it’s sad kind of funny. Your father-in-law tells us about a UFO, an “ovni,” which he saw here as a kid. He says, “Kino Bay has changed since 30 years ago, everything’s changed now” and everyone agrees, and you pat him on the shoulder, sand soft under your bare feet and the love in the air, and throw the Frisbee to the dark arms waving in the sea.