Monday, October 1, 2007

Mexican Floor Dance

By hughgee

So I was spending some time in Mexico at a language school and living with a Mexican family, right. Six weeks to be exact. Spent it with a very friendly Mexican family that obviously got part of their income from housing students such as me and the other guy who shared a room with me. It was a weird, far-out experience, for I'd never previously been to Mexico. The second strangest thing I encountered was the bugs: they were bigger, faster, and nastier than anything you'd find here in the States. But the strangest thing I encountered actually wasn't Mexican at all. It was this gal who came from my neck of the woods. Well, the same country at least. She came from Texas, a state I have only driven through before, typically as fast as possible. She had this little twang to her voice--you know the one--and she was in her first year of college, still 18, though she looked and acted quite a bit younger. Really flippin' cute; really flippin' bubbly; really flippin' annoying as get out.

During study sessions in the hot Mexican sun for these six weeks, in between classes, I'd drink Coronas that either myself or the other guy student had bought at the little liquor store on the walk back to the house--a hot, balmy, uphill hike--and I'd alternately do my homework and play soccer out on the walled-off, tiled roof of the house we stayed at with the little Mexican kid of about nine years old or so. As stated, I and this other guy had signed up for the same language program and were there six weeks, but a few students would come and go, having signed up with some other U.S. school for a shorter duration. So we saw a couple or other students come and go. But the 3rd week, this Texican gal showed up. At first I thought she was a lot younger than what she said she was, because she talked like it, acted like it, and looked like it. She was about 5'3" or so, had shoulder-length, semi-curly, sandy hair, medium build, and across her somewhat broad nose was this impish saddle of brown freckles. The "Alma" of the house (the wife of the guy who owned the house) was your typical, traditional Mexican matriarch, and thus had a strong protective sense about her. She soon made it clear to me and my roommate that, as we walked the same way and time to school as the little innocent-looking American girl, we were to walk with her and watch out for her, which we did. But let me tell you, it was a huge pain in the ass from the first moment. You see, this girl talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. She talked about anything. And, as it turned out, her Spanish was a bit more advanced than ours, so we couldn't understand half of what she said so she just talked, and sometimes we asked her to repeat herself, but soon we just shut up and let her talk and talk. Downhill to school, down and up the many hills of this Mexican town, we walked to and fro to school with her, listening and nodding as she talked about cracks in the sidewalk (which were many and gigantic) and stuff about her boyfriend back in Abilene or where-the-hell-ever. Boy could this girl blab. And she had a voice that sounded like a kid's. It was annoying, let me tell you. I mean, she was nice and all, and very smiley and whatnot--but annoying. A little too smiley, if you ask me.

So anyway, one day in between classes, after I'd finished my homework and had thrown back a couple of cheap Coronas, I started my usual routine of playing short-field soccer up on the roof with this Mexican kid. It was kind of a hoot. I'd have the kid try and defend this one section of the wall between two big potted plants that served as the goal, and I'd distract the kid, and then I'd kick the ball, score and goal, whereupon the kid would yell "Tramposo!" for all the neighborhood to hear. Cute kid. I soon found out the kid's favorite soccer team was "Las Pumas," so naturally, after asking around to find out who the natural arch-enemy team of Las Pumas was, I soon began calling myself "Las Chivas." It was a mini-blast.

But this Texan girl used to come up to the roof sometimes and try to talk the heads off me and my roommate when we were studying. It sucked. We couldn't get jack done when she came up. Well, this one day playing soccer, she came up when my roommate wasn't around. I was done playing, and the kid wasn't, so I sat back down and uncorked another Corona, and let this Texas girl have a go at roof soccer with the kid. I wasn't really watching. I mean I was and I wasn't. I was just glad this kid was here to distract the gossipy girl from talking my ear off. So I focuses on when the Mexican mosquitoes would be out (they'll eat you alive if you stay out after the blasting sun has gone down) and drank my beer. I thought about what we'd be learning in Spanish from our lazy instructor who never prepared for his classes in the afternoon. I thought about what the titanically-titted American student girl who sits directly opposite me would be wearing and if her hair would be all raggedy and wet and if that wetness, just a few drops of it, would soak onto her T-shirt like sometimes it did. It was a helluva time I had down there. Anyway, I looked back just in time to see it.


I heard it and looked. The girl was raising her arms in triumph. The Mexican kid stood in a kind of momentary shock. The Texan girl had scored a goal--and how.

The ball was still ricocheting around the roof, wall to wall, between several other potted plants. The gal had kicked the ball quite obviously harder than was necessary for such a half-spirited game of fun. It was completely out of place. Uncalled for. Could've hurt the poor kid. But the thing that struck me most was, unlike my goals I had scored on the kid, hers was much quicker and completely untelegraphed. She was setting the ball up, wearing these plastic flip-flops (I forget what color, it's been a couple years), and from her body lean and stance you'd expect her to get closer or approach the goal more, try to fake the kid out. No, instead, she faked the kid out by drawing her foot back ultra-quick and--WHAMO!--just like that. You'd never see it coming, maybe unless you were Ronaldhino or something (yeah, I learned about him down there...though I'd never heard of him before nor since.) It seemed a little cruel to the kid, really, but there it was.


Sitting there at that moment, I don't know, just out of curiosity or whatever, maybe to see if she perhaps had hurt her foot, I looked at her feet, the tops of her bare feet, and the one kicking foot was red, all right. But I also saw something which gave me pause. Her kicking foot. It was big. I mean, she didn't have big feet or anything, but her foot was like, well, I don't know, kind of swollen-looking on top. I looked again. I stared. The foot--her foot--well, how shall I say this?--it looked like a man's foot. It was distinctively bulgy on top and had striations like veins or whatever, and, so help me, I thought I saw veins poking out. Not pretty feet at all.

But I had to stop looking right that moment because she was through celebrating and was addressing me with some or another of her inane comments which I always managed to answer with, "Yeah, that's cool" or some such thing just to appease her and hope the conversation didn't drag out too long. I didn't want to hear about her boyfriend, her school, her blah, blah, blah trivialities. I opened my Spanish book and acted like I had more Spanish homework just to give her message (though as often as not, this didn't work for shit, she still kept on gabbing at you.)

Well, a couple days later, I'm out on this roof under the parasol, and again my roommate ain't there, and this time I'm really doing my Spanish homework, and this gal comes out and cracks open her book, and I don't know where the kid is this time, so it's not long before this gal starts up again, talking about me, blah-blah-blah. She always sounded so pleasant and happy, like life's so good to her and isn't this a great town and I can't wait to get back and see my boyfriend and blah, blah, blah. Happy, cheery, sugary-coated pleasant vapidness that I could really do without, I've got a helluva lot more under my belt about life I've got to think about so why don't you leave me alone, little girl? That kinda stuff.

But she starts up on me, talking about her days in elementary school, then junior high, back in Texas...and I wasn't really listening, so I have no idea how she made the transition, but anyway then she drops this bomb on me, "Yeah, boys at school were always scared of me, 'cause I took karate."

I perked up--something she may or not have noticed. Either way, I can't say, she would've kept on talking.

"They all thought I was a bully or something."

I gulped. I stared right at her. I said nothing.

Finally I ask, "Is that why your feet are so..."

She turns red, beams and blushes. "Are so what?"

Fumbling for words, I am. "I-I don't know...uh...bulgy, kind of."

"Bulgy?" she blurts out, leaning forward in her chair. "You think my feet are BULGY?"

"Yeah, I don't know. Kinda..."

She sits back, becoming introspective for the first ever time I've seen her, peering down at her feet, then bringing her short straight leg, flip-flop and all, straight up to the level of her chin and making her foot go flat and back while she wiggles her toes in examination of it. It's like she's doing it for the first time, and I'm thinking, 'With those things?'--unbelievable.

She puts her foot back down, twiddles the flippy hair at the end. "Eh, yeah, I guess so. I used to kick a lot at the bag thing, so I guess." She shrugs. "I don't know."

"The bag thing?"

"Yeah, that bag thing, you know. The whatchamacallit. They got it hanging down at the gym, and you go Uhh--Uhh."

I froze to my seat as she flicked her bulbous foot above the table a couple times with the "Uhh--Uhh's."

Speechless. A frozen doorknob. That's me.

Then the conversation--her conversation--drifted and blathered off into some other topic of which I was wholly uninterested, as was the norm.

A few moments of this and I sank my face back into my book.

Then came the day my roommate and I were walking this gal back from school, being careful to watch over her and make sure nothing happened to her as per the instructions of our house Alma, when, upon turning up our street where we were staying, one of the hole-in-the-wall iron doorways that comprise the street front was opened up, and an ugly painted sign could be plainly seen inside, "Chicas Vividas Desnudas." A seedy strip joint. There was this Mexican guy in the doorway, a real greasy looking bloke, toothpick in mouth, and he was motioning for us to come in. Here we are - sweaty, tired, hot, hauling heavy backpacks up this hill and this guy's offering us a respite from the sun. Well, I'm not a guy who frequents such places, and apparently neither was my roommate, so we started walking past him. That was when he stepped in front of this little gal, blocking her path on the cracked-to-shit Mexican sidewalk. Well I was thinking, What to do now, and I guess I'm gonna have to do something, and I'm sure my roommate was too; this guy was saying something in Mexican I couldn't understand, and saying it very insistently, motioning his arms for the girl to come in.


And there the guy was, laid out on the sidewalk, this little gal having administered a devastating knee to his nuts. I looked at David (my roommate); his eyes were wide and his eyebrows were up near his receding hairline. Neither of us could believe it.

This little gal, she just gives this peevish look and shakes her head side to side, readjusts her backpack and steps around him, walking past David and me.

She said nothing (for a change!). Evidently it was no big deal to her. But I was a bit slow to turn and catch up. I kept looking at this guy. Upon hitting the ground, belly first, he'd immediately begun curling up so that his blue-jeaned posterior was sticking straight up to the sky. His head was awkwardly sticking over at a 90 degree angle as both shoulders were pinned in obvious, agonizing pain the sidewalk, along with his curled up knees. I turned and walked and started catching up, but turned around once to see this guy slowly listing over, then finally collapsing on his side, still all curled up as f###. The thing is, this guy was obnoxious. How do you say obnoxious in Spanish? I forget, but he was. But still, maybe he posed a threat, maybe he didn't. Alls I know is, when I saw her knee him, the ferocity of the blow was such that, he could've been the Nightstalker maybe, I don't know, and I still would've felt it was out of place. I mean she wrecked the guy. What could've called for that? What'd he say? Shit, I don't know. But I found myself siding with this guy all of a sudden. I don't know, again, I don't know. Maybe it's a guy thing. Maybe it's a thing you too feel, if you gotta carry around testicles your whole life. Ouch.

Nothing was mentioned of it. Not during dinner. Not the next morning. David had mentioned it later that night, saying something like, "Did you see that shit? Damn!" But the little gal, she never did bring it back up.

Then came the night, a couple days later, when we were out at a nightclub which was down the street from our school. I wasn't dancing. Hell, I was drinking. So was David. We of course were supposed to "chaperoning" our little chargee, but one Corona lead to another, and we kind of lost track of her. A couple hours went by, I don't know. Then, we heard this commotion out on the dance floor. The banda musica didn't stop or anything, but people started clearing away. A big empty hole appeared on the dance floor. Through beer-goggle eyes I saw, so help me, some brown-skinned, rico-suave-type guy down on the ground, face lost in misery, hands clutching at his nuts. And here comes this little gal.

"Shit!" I hear, a slurred emanation coming over my shoulder from David.

The gal pulls up a barstool next to me.

"What happened?" I ask.

She looked back over her shoulder. The guy was still down. She shrugged then sighed, saying, "Eh, he touched me where he wasn't supposed to. I warned him."

Then, both of us still looking, she laughed and tossed her hair back and said,

"Guys never learn."

I took a deep drag off my fifth or sixth Corona; I seemed to need it right then.

The next day, out on the roof, she came out while I was studying again. David was off downing Coronas. The guy was a souse.

Blah, blah, blah, she starts in on me. Her boyfriend, her hometown, this is such a great experience, blah, blah, blah.

I get the gumption. "You know, does your boyfriend know you can kick his ass probably?"

She stopped. Silence. Except for the one-man-band asshole up the street who managed to play trombone and snare drum simultaneously, blaring it into innocent people's driveways until they gave him a peso to go away down below. A momentary triumph, at least.

She appeared flummoxed. For a moment anyway. I could tell she was thinking.

Finally, a bare-shouldered shrug, then, "Eh, probley," she said, then gave a half-sincere giggle.

Like you could give a shit. You're half my size and kick guy's asses for fun, must be nice. I went back to my book. She kept on blabbing. What the hell's a guy supposed to say to a thing like that?

Then there's the kicker. It's late at night. Everybody's asleep. Siesta time en la noche. Downstairs, we hear gabbing. It's whispered gabbing, but it's that same old empty-headed, airheaded gabbing that's been our nemesis these 3 weeks. Now we know, David and I and anybody else who's staying there, that it's strictly against the rules to use the house phone to call home. This poor Mexican family simply can't afford it. That's why we spend so much time at the Internet cafe on the way back from school sometimes, checking in the our family and friends back home via email. But this gal's doing it all right. Downstairs. She's up using the phone. Both David and I sit up in our beds.

"This is bullshit," David says. He had talked to her about it when he saw her try to sneak a call during the daytime one time, only he'd been sitting behind the safety of the dinner table and had had other Mexican witnesses present at the time.

I know what he means though. After all the kindness this Mexican family has bestowed upon us, stuffing us with food at every meal, making "Cuba Libres" between classes so we can go back with a tequila buzz to our afternoon classes, it's bullshit indeed to take advantage of that kindness by running up their phone bill. He said it, but David's got that wide-eyed, scared look I'd seen about him before. I get it. You don't want to go down there anymore than I do. I know, I know. I know exactly what you're thinking, David-man, you old hijo de puta. You're scared shitless, same as me, of going down there and telling that gal to get the hell off the phone, why're you doing this, you know they can't afford it, etc, etc. You're scared of a kick in the balls in the dark, same as me.

I shake my head. "Well, shit," I say.

David takes a deep breath. Then, reaching over on his nightstand, he reaches back, and he's got a Mexican 50 centavo piece.

"Heads you go, tails I go," the bastard says.

"'kay," I answer, hesitantly.

He flips. It's heads.

"Shit," I hear myself whisper.

"You're up, sport," he says, barely capable of containing his relief.

I throw the thin, nearly useless Mexican blankets off, stand up, put some shorts on. Shaking my head as I carefully exit the room in the dark, I mutter,

"Here goes nothin'."

"Psssst," I hear behind me. I turn around. Ooof. Catch the pillow David's thrown my way in the dark.

"Here, cover your nuts with that," he says.

"Thanks," I say. "Thanks a lot."

Out in the hallway, my hands fumbling along the wall, I hear him laughing. The sonuvabitch is laughing. Bastard.

Well I make it downstairs without falling, except for a couple times, feel my way to the kitchen where the phone is, where the whispering is--the whispering stopped. It's dark. I can't see shit. I've got the pillow, clutching it tightly up against my pelvis, so I only got one good arm to feel my way with, and I can't see shit.

"Lisa," I whisper. That was her name, now that I'm writing this, I'm remembering. "Lisa."

I'm in the kitchen. I think this is the kitchen.


I suddenly knew the taste of Mexican linoleum, only to find that my body wasn't going to stay in that flat position for long. Oh no, it was curling up on me. My abdomen muscles were on max-flex--involuntary max-flex--and they were arching me up, arching my ass in the air and I suddenly felt it extremely inconvenient to have a neck and head. My elbows locked shut and my hands were up into my balls, clutching, holding, shielding in vain--in vain because it was too damn late--and what was propping me up on the cold linoleum floor were the four points of my shoulders and knees, my head splayed out painfully and awkwardly to the side and I saw foot, I saw feet. I see the shape of feet. I see girl's feet that look like guy's feet, all callused and shit, except they're the size of girl's feet. I could make out that much in the dark.

The pain is astounding. The pain is unreal. It's all-encompassing and it's what's causing me to arch my butt in the air, as though that might help it, but since it doesn't, why can't I stop.

I feel a pat on my rear, a couple more pats on my protruding rear end.

"Oops," comes the puckish whisper. "Thought you were an intruder."

No she didn't. She knew it was me. She's pissed. She knew we were on her about getting off the phone, this was her payback.

"Oops," she says insincerely. Total sarcasm. Angry as hell at me, but you'd never know it. Little bitch, everything's easy for you. Always so nice, too. The way you talk, back home, down home picnics and shit, everything hunky dory for you and you all. Even the way you drop guys.


Damn, that pillow didn't do jack for me. Roll over on my side, still clutching and grasping, gasping, and so yeah that's all I'm thinking about now. Damn skinny Mexican pillows. Not worth a shit, now, are you.

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