With one hour to go before leaving Sierra Vista, the sky filled with the unmistakable darkness of monsoon. All afternoon while running errands I had been watching them dance around the San Pedro valley, a downpour over the Tombstone hills while we burned away under the Arizona sun in the foothills of the Huachuca mountains.
Then, as I was stuffing the final items into my bulging bags, the thunder broke open the sky, the wind protested and I had to drop everything, running from window to window, slamming them shut, turning off the air conditioning, unplugging electronics, putting towels under the doors. It was a violent one, one of those rains that brings pain with the pleasure. The dirt of the yard was dancing as the huge drops hit it, a million mud craters. Window panes shaking, dogs shaking, following me around the house.
I can't think of a better parting gift from this land that I love so much. I had been waiting weeks over several different visits to see this. It takes a desert to truely appreciate rain.
It was time to go. My dad and I threw the things in the car, slammed the doors and swung by the school where my Mom teaches, to pick her up after her pre-first day Open House. We drove fast down I-10, watching the sky fill on all sides with beautiful bruises. Rainbows and lighting, the kind that picks one path and pulses three, four, even five times, punishing a tree or some outcrop of rock.
Soon we drove right into it, the rain coming hard, the windshield wipers not keeping up. Everyone drives too fast on the freeway, thinking it will never happen to them. Around a bend we came upon a cowboy standing in the left lane, waving his hat frantically, trying to divert traffic from a newly-flipped car on the side of the road.
A quick bite in Tucson, goodbyes, then the shuttle to Phoenix. I listened to Gato Barbieri and it was the most perfect moment to do so.
At midnight Sky Harbor is nearly as much of a ghost town as the airport in La Habana. A large group of Mexicans and I waited for them to open the security checkpoint again to board our flight.
If Phoenix can ever be called beautiful, it is from the window of an airplane, some 5,000 feet above it at night, the green and orange designs of the city contrasting with the white flashing of the sky. Saying goodbye.
Taking notes during the flight, my pen exploded. Mexican airlines got it down: not too much noise from the capitan and free booze instead of juice and soda.
We arrived in Guadalajara some four hours later. There, after receiving yet another Mexico stamp on the passport, I settled down across some chairs for some good sleep as I passed the four hour layover until my next flight to Mexico D.F. When I awoke, I checked my watch and then flipped over and came face-to-face with an entire family of Mexicans who were sitting across from me.
"Buenos dias," the woman said.
"Buenos dias," I said, mumbling something about sleeping with an audience--performance sleeping--and smiling.
The flight which I waited four hours for of course only took 45 minutes. Then, the moment of truth: would my two heavy bags reappear? Would I lose all those books I brought? All those teacher clothes?
They were the first two to come down the belt. I strapped myself to them and stumbled through the huge airport, somehow missing customs entirely and found my bus. Ah Mexican busses, the envy of the New World. A reclining seat, a bad movie to watch ("Modern Problems," with Chevy Chase given superpowers by nuclear waste, circa 1982 or so), two bathrooms and--even new to me--a stewardess walking up and down the buss in high heels, distributing cookies and drinks.
I was in Cuernavaca by noon, and whisked away soon after by good friends, who treated me to quesadillas con queso oaxaqueña (the best) y mucho pero mucho chile. Then, a four hour siesta.
While the National Poetry Slam rages in Austin, I'm adjusting to the New Thing here in central Mexico. I'm staying with the parents of my friends, who have a beautiful house surrounded by the greenest garden imaginable. He is a fiery 72-year-old abuelo whose grandchildren think came from venus, and she is around the same age and will soon graduate from a college of traditional medicines. Right now she's in the kitchen mixing up herbs and making potions. The grandkids call her media-bruja, and laugh.
We spend a lot of time on the porch, watch storms roll in, talking and drinking water with lime and sugar.
I write, read, try to learn the ins of this new city along with the outs, think about Austin, miss my girlfriend and generally enjoy feeling my Spanish surge back through my body, up and out of my mouth.
Work starts Monday, and it will be a task, occupying most all my time, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Like some propaganda on a wall told me yesterday: "Enseñar es tocar una vida para siempre."
But for now, la señora of the house wants to show me how she makes some of the herbal solutions. Siempre hay más para aprender.