Good Morning From Mexico
Tati had embroidered an orange lightning bolt on her ass, flames on the ankles, and crescent moon on the hip of her blue jeans. She was wearing her classic baby blue crop top that made her brown skin look like cinnamon and her mustard-colored bandana that tired in vain to keep her giant main of curls in check. I wasn’t thinking about any of that, though. I was just thinking how quickly I could get her out of the airport, take that black cubrebocas off her face and place a kiss on her lips. I hadn’t seen her in two months and as she walked toward me from across that busy Mexican terminal, my heart nearly exploded.
I felt incredibly nervous during the cab ride, and I could tell that she did, too. I could feel her heart rate pounding from the artery in her bicep, which I was holding as she leaned her back against my chest on the cab ride to the Air BnB. We couldn’t take our hands off of each other but we didn’t have much to say because we were so nervous and excited to finally be in the same space as the other person after so long. That, and the fact that our first few intimate moments together were monitored from the rearview mirror by Rafa, our cab driver.
The taxi wasn’t that expensive, only $500(pesos), but when Tati left her phone in the cab and Rafa drove backward half a block down the street to deliver it to us, I had to tip him another $500 because I only had large bills at the time. In total, $1,000 pesos comes out to around $50 USD, well worth getting her phone back. Tati’s the planner on these trips, and my phone didn’t even work without wifi. If we lost her phone we would have been utterly fucked.
When we arrived at the Airbnb (a beautiful aging Spanish-style apartment building) we were scolded by one of the tenants for accidentally trying to enter her house. When we figured out which door was ours, we entered the courtyard and climbed the two sets of stairs to our rooftop loft. One of the stairways is an indoor fire-escape that spirals up twenty-seven steps. It’s wound so tight that your chest faces one direction and your legs face another all the way up.
The apartment itself is small but lovely. As I write this I’m sitting in the living room, which is about three feet from the kitchen where Tati is cutting cilantro to add to our breakfast. The wall to the balcony is actually four sliding glass doors that let the morning light in as it peeks through the succulent garden beyond it. The only negative to the lush garden-balcony is that the floor is made out of lava rocks and pebbles, which means you have to wear shoes any time you want to come outside to look into the courtyard. This was fine for Tati, who had Birkenstocks that were partly damaged from the number of times I’d accidentally given her a flat tire. But I had the bright idea of bringing almost no luggage at all. I thought I would do all of my fall shopping in Mexico City. This meant that any time I went out onto the balcony I either had to brave the lava rocks barefoot or wear my giant Doc Martin combat boots.
We’ve spent our first full day just wandering Roma. Even if we don’t get to do any of the things I want to do on this trip, like make a visit to Frida Khalo’s house or the pyramids of the moon and the sun, I would be perfectly content just walking around Roma. That’s how much I already love this place.
That’s something Tati would do more than I would: tell me how much she loves a place as soon as she gets there. That’s how she was when we drove across the country and found ourselves in New Mexico. Before we’d even driven my car up that Mesa to sleep in the yurt at the Shanti community, she was telling me how much she loved the desert. It was the farthest west she’d ever been.
I used to think that was rushing. How can you love a place, before you even know it? But now I see that she was using her intuition, and when she really felt connected to a place, she didn’t hide from that emotion. That’s how Roma is for me.
It’s filled with old houses, street art everywhere, vines with an agenda to overtake the city, and well-dressed hipsters. I feel home. Everyone seems to have a dog or three here, and most of them trot happily in front of their masters without a leash. While I was writing at La Chica (an amazing coffee shop two blocks from our apartment) a giant, slobbering, droopy-eyed Saint Bernard (who’s eyes were above me at the level I was sitting) walked about twenty feet in front of his mom, a small punk chilanga, who took a sip of water in the doggy bowl the coffee shop had left out, regarded me for a moment and then kept on walking. I mean to say that the dog took the sip, not the punk girl.
Later, we had lunch at “Tr3s,” a three-sided restaurant with gourmet tacos and drinks. There, we met Richy, the manager, who became friendly with us almost immediately. He invited us to a party happening in the restaurant on our final day in Roma. He asked us if he could show us the terrace where the party would be, but he led us straight to a wall at the tip of the triangle building. He pulled open a side of the wall behind a picture frame and a bookcase to reveal a secret doorway that took us to a hidden bar, a dancefloor, and a terrace above it. I love it here.
On our first night in Roma Tati and I attended a mentorship zoom call that ended up being a pyramid scheme (long story). While Tati was making an introduction to someone we thought might be our mentor, I went down the spiral staircase to grab us some dinner. I took “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolaño with me to read while I waited for the food. The book is about poets in Mexico City, which was perfect because I met two poets in the small Japanese sandwich shop I found called Gohantin. The restaurant was right across the street from us and we used it as our landmark. Every time I passed it I couldn’t help sing that line from “Cocoa Butter Kisses” that goes “My afro look just like daddy’s, y’all taught me how to Gohantin, BLAM!” For how terrible of joke that was Tati never seemed to mind it, and the beauty of life is in the little things.
One of the poets is an ex-pat from Boston and his girlfriend lives in Estado de Mexico, just outside the city. They love Bolaño and we spent twenty minutes talking about his books, poetry, and art. Besides Tati, these were the first people I’d had a full conversation with in Mexico, and it gave me the feeling that I was in the right place.
Later that night, after the pyramid-scheme debacle, Tati and I followed the sound of music to the courtyard. Our neighbor appeared to have a band over, and she was the singer. I think we both wanted to join the party but we were too shy, and so we just danced together in the courtyard for a while before it started to rain.
I spent my last few waking minutes looking at the lightning that bounced around the clouds which I could see from our window in the bedroom, Tati had fallen asleep, but I just kept staring at that lightning as long as I could.