The apartment I found in Dublán was available unfurnished or furnished. Now you have heard it said of people moving, “They took everything but the kitchen sink.” Well, “they” probably were not mexican, because in Mexico they would have taken the sink. That is, the kitchen sink, and sometimes the bathroom fixtures, are considered “furniture”, and an unfurnished place often won’t have these. The Dublán place had bathroom fixtures but no kitchen sink, stove, refrigerator, or gas tank, nor window curtain. Since I did not know where to find second hand stuff, nor what to pay for it, nor did I think I would be in the apartment long enough to warrant buying things, I opted, for a few more dollars, to take it furnished.
No more parsimonious furnishings ever came with an apartment. I did get a kitchen sink. Also a stove and gas tank, a table and four chairs, a sofa with an end table, and a bed as hard as a rock. I did not get a fridge, nor was there any heat in the place. But I had my own little place in Mexico! It was there waiting for me any time I wanted it. And there were some mighty nice neighbors. I got to know just one of them, Josué, a very sweet lad of maybe twenty, who made what living he could delivering pizza. Alas, about a year later when I inquired at the pizzería where he had worked, he was no longer working there and no one knew where he went.
Over the following months I shuttled back and forth between Loris and Dublán, making two or three trips a month. I stayed in Dublán no more than two or three days at a time. The lack of heat and fridge made the place most inconvenient. But it served as a base from which I could visit the people I knew and meet more.
I also attended the neighborhood church when I was in town. And it happened that the parish’s titular festival fell on my birthday, and that I was in town that day. So I went to the high mass that evening, which was to be followed by a dinner. When I arrived a tent was set up in the churchyard and a dozen ladies were slaving away over gas fired griddles and woks, preparing gorditas, burritos, frijoles to feed the expected crowd.
I had arrived early. About twenty minutes before mass someone came through the yard calling out for all choir members to assemble. As an experienced spanish language musician I supposed I would know most of what they were singing. So I located the choirmaster and offered myself for the evening. It turned out I did know most of the music and sang it well. And helped the chap to my right find his place in the music when he got lost.
After mass I went back out to the tent, bought a ticket for supper, and stood around waiting for the ladies to start serving. But I had been there no more than two or three minutes when I felt hands grip my elbows and a deep voice saying, –Come with us.– I glanced around and there were the choirmaster on my left and the chap from my right on my right. And I went with them.
We entered the casa parroquial [rectory] and there found the large front room set up for supper, with folding tables and chairs and paper table cloths. But we passed on through this area via a rear door and found ourselves in a gorgeously appointed dining room. Massive oak tables, heavy ladder-back chairs, chandelier, linen, candles. And here we were to dine, along with the priests, nuns, and other members of the choir.
Nor did we eat burritos. In the larger room, whither we returned to serve ourselves, was a long table with a sumptuous spread of food: salads, elaborately cooked vegetables, sweets, and great steaming trays of filet mignon, not just one slice per person, but all one could eat. And with plenty of tequila to make sure the mood was as good as the food. We even had a power outage to make the meal romantic. And I basked in the warmth of my new friends.
As we broke up and prepared to leave, I let my friends know that it was my birthday, and that I had just attended the nicest birthday party I had ever known.
© 2004 Joseph Mansfield