Just before sunset we arrived at Hector’s house.
Moving such a great distance did not permit me the luxury of visiting my new home in advance. I rented a room sight unseen from a man named Hector. His current tenant was a Brit named James who was working on a film. I was sent photos of the house and a glowing recommendation from James.
I should say, at this point, that I place a premium on charm.
One of my greatest fears was ending up in a windowless room in an anonymous suburb surrounded by bare sheetrock walls. What sold me on Hector’s house was largely the fact that Hector is an importer of Mexican art and furniture. The photos James sent showed walls of brilliant orange and green, carvings of angels hanging over the entryway and decoratively painted doors. The place was charming in the extreme.
In retrospect, what I did not take into account is that an importer is constantly in the process of acquiring stuff— lots and lots of stuff.
Hector has what I would call a casual approach to housekeeping. As I entered the house, I was immediately confronted by a lifesize statue of St. Francis of Assisi wearing a bicycle helmet. Every level surface was covered with interesting stuff. There were pots and paintings, Mayan statues and portraits of saints, ceramic plates, skeletons in fancy paper-maché dress dancing across the kitchen counter and top of the refrigerator, and lots and lots of portraits of Frida Kahlo (the iconic Mexican artist with a single eyebrow) in unlikely places.
I must hasten to add that Hector is a delightful person. He kindly assisted me in unloading my truck, had flowers in a vase to celebrate my arrival, and immediately introduced me to his young son.
I brought my dog Milo out to the backyard and discovered chickens who, like a lot of Hector’s possessions, were decorative rather than functional. The chickens’ coop was made of antique doors and much of the backyard was piled high with broken hand-carved benches and decorative bits of perforated tin, broken pottery, and a wheelbarrow containing a ceramic gecko missing three legs and his tail, a single black boot, two cooking pots, a basketball hoop, a hand-painted sign that said, “God Bless America,” and the broken head of Buddha.
Milo was a little uncertain.
In addition to the different smells, the heat, barking dogs in all directions and a yard shared with chickens, in a cruel coincidence our arrival coincided with the return of the next door neighbor from a long hospitalization. The neighbor’s injuries were serious and his family was justifiably happy that he had finally made it home. It was unfortunate, however, that just after Milo had tentatively settled into this strange and frightening new place, the neighbors celebrated the return of the family patriarch by setting off dozens of firecrackers in the adjoining yard.
After removing enough stuff to make space, I let my panicked dog sleep in my room. Then I closed the door and wondered what exactly I was doing here.
Outside, the firecrackers died down and the neighbors starting playing the Bee Gees. On the other side of my door, I could hear Hector and his son playing together. Their conversation was in Spanish and then English and then Spanish again. It was clear in both languages that Hector loved his son.
I listened to the sound of their talking for a bit, then reached for the Frida Kahlo light switch. I turned off the lights and went to sleep.
Till next time,