(page 4 of 13)
Once in the bus Litio tells me this: “I have caught sight of many things, been imprisoned by gringo mercenaries under the influence of clergy thugs, turned into a fire salamander by your grandmother’s worthless relatives, survived two floods, one the result of a spoiled child’s excessive tears, and been forced to eat the overvalued paper currency of Honduran magistrates.” Litio pauses to wipe cigarette ash off his grey pants. A young girl sitting in front of us, opens a window, greatly irritating Litio. He shows his annoyance by blowing plumes of smoke toward the girl. The smoke turns into biting gnats which attack the girl, forcing her to run crying to her mother who is in the process of losing her virginity for only the second time in her life.
We travel out of Teques on the new road, the one made possible by the powerful but portly Senator Luguzo Sanchez. The road provided the late senator better access to his mistress Carmen Salazar. According to local gossip, Carmen was two-timing the senator with Abel Sanchez, a schoolteacher. A scandal erupted when the senator, his ears burning with the news of his cheating mistress, traveled to our village to confront Abel. Being part intellectual and all coward, Abel quickly disappeared. Senator Sanchez, carrying a rusty revolver and a barber’s sharpened razor, walked the streets of Tequestitlan soaked in a vapor of unfulfilled vengeance. Seeking consolation he went to a heartbroken and suicidal Carmen, who accidentally killed the senator with the toxic yellow residue from the skin of a marsh toad---a poison meant for her. It was said that his last words were for all the Carmen‘s of the world, “I have no hope in death as mercy and justice deny me a name.”
Within several hours of a long bus ride, Litio reveals an old revolver he keeps tucked in his waistband. A broken relic, as vicious as a child’s toy, Litio waves the piece around like a revolutionary in search of a revolution.
“Zapata’s brother was a drunkard and a scoundrel. Yet, still he kissed his brother’s hand upon entering the room. When really he should have spat on it.”
I find little reason behind much of what Litio says. Instead, my mind is on the road. The miles ahead and the miles behind seem undistinguishable. Understanding neither, I sit and watch the day pass. Looking at the other passengers, I notice most are bound to cross to the other side. Crossing---it’s inescapable, I think, like getting married or your first fuck, both terrifying but very necessary parts of life.
“Benny, in my day you grew corn and sugar cane and every last cent was taken by the patron. 50 centavos a day was our wage.” he throws back his head so dramatically he almost loses his hat. Focusing on his hat for a moment, Litio looks inside, seems disappointed to find nothing and continues,
“When we grew sick from overwork, we went to hacienda’s doctor, who infected us with an endless sickness: debt to the owner for 100, 200, sometimes even 300 pesos. We were his slaves, Benny.” Litio then lets out a puff a smoke, a yellow fog mixed with sooty browns. The smoke has spent years in his lungs and a small deposit of the gassy slag rises and hangs oppressively over us. Litio considers the smoke for a moment or two.
“And for those lucky to have a bit a land, the patron would find a way to take it, and little by little, it vanished. To see a man and his family starve for lack of land is a crime against nature and a violent blow to the face of God.” Litio waves his hands over his head, looking crazed, although few passengers notice. They instead stare straight into their own browns and yellows, the slaggy gases of their own making.
The Other Side continues...