WALK INTO THE OCEAN and bathe white sand off my legs. I've never seen sand as clean and white as this before. It clings like flour. In my clothes and in my hair and to my skin. I wash and wash and still small white grains cling.
The warm surf pounds against my legs, the salt leaves sticky film, and I think of the bullfight. In front of me the grey ocean stretches, undulating, reaching to the horizon, falling off the end of the world.
"A poster, Señora? Souvenir from bullfight?" They pushed and squeezed between the rows. We all wore sunglasses.
I leave the water and my feet coat white again, sinking deep in the soft clean beach. The bougainvillaea blossoms hang lush and ripe from trees surrounding the hotel and high, hidden in hot foliage, birds sing.
Inside, I find a small alcove in a dim cool hallway and pick a chair behind a palm. My eyes take time to focus, to sort out detail: the rough beige stucco, the lines of cold brown tile, a tiny green iguana, motionless in a crack that runs up the wall.
I pull the writing pad from my beach bag. The paper feels gritty. I should have written the children before. I stare down at the single line I wrote.
There were no Mexicans in the bleachers, only tourists.
I put the top back on the pen and clip it to the pad. The iguana has disappeared.
I never see them leave. Like Walter, who never used the sidewalk, who ducked and darted his way down alleys and behind fences, who disappeared and reappeared and couldn't be explained.
"Shell-shock," my mother said of him, "but maybe he was strange before he went to war." I only knew him as 'Old Walter.' He may not have been old, it may have been that I was young, seven or eight at most. I'd watch for him each day. I wanted him explained.
He came in 1945 and built a shack next to the town dump. Each day he rearranged the scrap. No one asked him to look after the pile of refuse, or cared if he did.
I remember how he hid and peeked through the lone window of his shack when someone brought a load of junk, and how he'd bring out his wheelbarrow after they'd left, then pick and move the garbage to where he wanted it on the pile.
"Stop spying on him," my mother said. We let him be, let him alone to sort and bury things we didn't want to own. He pulled his collar around his face, or crouched and hid his head if someone came too close. We soon knew how to circle wide or look away.
I stare down at the sand still covering my legs. Old Walter wouldn't approve. In spite of his odd work, he was immaculate in white coveralls, white painter's cap, white carpenter's gloves. Only his shoes were black - he still wore army issue boots.
The blood kept pumping from the bull's shoulder, in thick red streams down his black shoulder.
The bull was black and lean, hooves chafing the dirt of the ring. Saliva swung in heavy ropes from his foaming jaws.
We wore loud colours, reds and yellows and blues. Bright green taxis lined the road to the gates.
"Ice cold beer? Coke? Peanuts?" The vendors were young, fourteen or twelve, aprons bulging with pesos, carrying pails of ice and beer, bags of plastic glasses.
"A poster, Señora? Souvenir from bullfight?" They pushed and squeezed between the rows. We all wore sunglasses. The band wore white costumes and red capes. Their brass horns flashed in the glaring, hot sun. Matadors paraded and everyone cheered. There was not shade.
"Señora?" A small Mexican woman, a small brown sparrow adorned in embroidered dress, puts down her bundle of crumpled laundry, reaches her hand out and brushes sand from my cheek.
Yesterday she sang as she cleaned my room. "Would you tell me your name?" I ask. "Se llama?" I repeat, holding her palm against my face.
I release her hand and give her the pen On the page, where I've written the single line, she prints Adela Eb
"I'm sorry, I've brought sand in your clean hotel, Adela."
She shakes her head, "No comprendo, Señora."
"Soon, I'll shower soon. Then I won't get everything full of sand."
"No comprendo," she smiles and nods.
She bends down, picks up the armload of dirty sheets, smiles again and moves down the hall.
A large copper cockroach scurries from the crack in the wall, across the tile and behind the palm. At breakfast, we talked of killing cockroaches, and how they would survive a nuclear war. Old Walter survived a war. Mother said he had a medal, she didn't know why - for being there, she said.
For Being There continues...