Hola, ola.

Yo se que mi espanol es tan feo. Y no se como hacer acentos en mi tablet. Lo siento, lo siento.

 

El vendador de gas,

Tocando en la calle

Escuchamos a mi musica

Sin arriculares, sin bocinas

El calor del sol se queda en el aire.

Andamos al mar, despacio.

Tomandonos el tiempo, con sabia

A la rodilla, a la cintura,

Luego buceamos, renaciados por el otro lado

Fluyemos en el sonido sin forma.

La medusa, la arena quemada, las espinas

Todo nos pican

La vida un placer agridulce.

Siempre estamos sucios y bronzeados,

Somos el polvo, la tierra.

Bailamos, con el mundo roto

Bailamos cuando el mundo se cae

Nada existe, disfrutalo.

Jeff.

He makes me wonder what I’m blind to.

My second day here we had a love circle at 5pm in the shalah. I had no expectations, something I’ve worked hard at. I arrived fifteen minutes late because I couldn’t find the shalah—my woeful sense of direction is perhaps my worst attribute.

I slid open the wood-and-mesh door and stepped a bare foot past the threshold. It was dim inside. Late-afternoon sunlight filtered through the screens that made up three out of four walls. The palapa roof rustled occasionally from jumping squirrels and lizards. Incense burned on a short alter alongside a statue of the Virgen of Guadalupe (this is Mexico, after all). Behind the alter was a tapestry of some Hindu deity. Not Ganesh, one of the human ones. A beige-colored male, probably Krishna. Two small veladoras cast pools of flickering light.

I counted eight people, including myself. David, with whom I had been in contact, Yeshua, who was to live in the room next to me, Aaron, whom I had briefly met the day before, and four strangers. David was instructing the group that we must do 30 minutes of cleaning each morning before 9:00, calling it “karma yoga.” A white sheet of paper was circulating with a work schedule on it.

A little later, David said in his softly-accented voice, “now let’s go around and introduce ourselves. Say please your name and let’s share something we’re working on this week. So that we can all have a little compassion for what we’re going through.”

He said that he was working on letting go of control. He said, “Jeff can sometimes help me with that, when I’m working with him. Because there is not the control, haha.”

Interesting, I thought, wonder which one is Jeff.

As it turned out, Jeff was next. We were all seated on the floor but I could tell he was tall. He had a thin frame, shoulders hunched more forward than average. He had a shaved head, white skin, light eyes. He wore shorts only. I guessed he was in his mid-30s, perhaps closer to 40. Jeff took a deep breath and went into a long preemptory explanation about his struggle. Peppered with uncomfortable chuckles and gesticulations, he said something like:

“Well I guess, you know, this is hard for me to talk about. But this is the place where these feelings come up, that’s what this is for. Vulnerability is so hard and important, but I feel safe with you guys.”

He looked around the room at us and our shadows. I was pleasantly surprised by his Irish accent.

“This week I’ve been feeling lonely. This loneliness, like I’m not connected in the way I want to be. It’s hard, it’s maybe the worst feeling.”

That’s so sad, loneliness is the worst feeling… I thought. I’ve known loneliness, sometimes it’s been my only friend. For years I lived inside of it and the pain is like submersion in ice water. I felt compassion for Jeff.

Later in the week I was talking to Ava, a beautiful and kind Slovenian Libra. She is enough like me and enough unlike me to seem perfect, for now. We looked at the work schedule.

“Oh no,” she said, “Saturday it’s me, you and Jeff and he’s the chef.”

We work in a community-run restaurant. We serve vegan food, handmade, between 12:30-5:00 five days a week. The menu changes each day and the chef chooses what to make, within parameters set by David. The other two assist.

“Is he hard to work with?” I asked. In places like this, you have to straddle a fine line, sometimes more or less so depending on the person you’re talking to, between honesty and judgement. Living in this community we are to care for one another’s spirits. But the truth is the truth regardless.

“I don’t want to say anything bad about him but he doesn’t know how to cook, he doesn’t really try to learn. He comes in the morning with a basket of stuff and asks what to do with them. And he’s very slow. But everything gets done, it will be okay. Just, for me, I like to be more organized.”

Saturday arrived. Jeff and I hadn’t interacted really at all, though he had been on my mind. The loneliness, the isolation. He clearly picked up on the fact that he was no one’s favorite. Did he realize why? I’m always so curious what’s going on in people’s minds. What realities live behind their eyes is the only mystery in this world.

Most of the shift was fine. By now I was growing to love Ava and so working with her was a delight. Jeff arrived complaining that he felt sick to his stomach.

“It was the food at Plaza Libertad, I know it. Because of my craniosacral work I’m very in touch with my body so I can tell.” He said.

I don’t think that’s possible… I thought in response.

As a team, we prepared a fresh salad with mango-lime dressing, rosemary mashed potatoes, fresh-squeezed orange juice with chia seed, and lentils with zucchini, tomato, and onion. We washed the veggies, peeled, chopped, minced, seasoned, mixed, juiced, tasted, cleaned up, set up the tables, and made a pot of coffee. We prepared food for about 25 people. As far as I could tell, Jeff mainly complained and overcooked the lentils.

“Are they done yet? Can you check, Ava?” he asked at one point while stirring the pot. His bald white head was bathed in steam.

“These are done, these are way overcooked actually. Why didn’t you taste them?” Ava said, just barely an edge of irritation in her voice.

“I can’t taste them, my stomach… I can only eat bananas today.” Was the response.

Jeff was pretty obnoxious. His idea of being chef consisted of doing very little and bossing us around. People say that “bossy” is a word we only use for women and therefore it’s sexist, but Jeff was bossy. Not assertive, not take-charge, in fact he was helpless. But he was power-tripping. Any question we asked (how do you want this sliced?) he turned back on the asker (which way do you think is best?). He was thin-skinned and sensitive to any type of criticism. He ordered us to change tasks often and for no discernable reason other than the pleasure of exercising his power. I was halfway through juicing the oranges, he told me to mash the potatoes. Halfway through that, he ordered me to grind more salt. Then back to the oranges.

Granted he did say he felt sick. And if the bottom step of your pyramid is off, relational and cognitive functions are hard to keep up with. But based on the eye-rolls his name evoked in all the community, and the loneliness he professed to feel, I think he’s always obnoxious.

At the end of the shift, he made a small plate as an offering, lit some incense and told us to hold hands. He said a small prayer to no one in particular. He told us this had been his best, most enjoyable shift so far. He thanked us for our help.

I know a lot of people who plead helplessness to their troubles while doing nothing to help themselves. I’m guilty of it too, though I like to think not often. Jeff and people like this really make me wonder.

Anthropocine.

Take me home.

& the world will go on

as she has through

vomiting volcanoes,

through silence &

tremors.

DNA writhes to replicate,

chewing chains of

carbon,

fueling the chaos &

the ordering of said chaos.

Our age may end,

our self-importance &

petty crime.

Our age is a blip.

Blip.

 

Mono.

There is so much more I want to say about this individual.

Mono came to our house last week drunk and made us both very uncomfortable.

“Eres bonita, eh?” he said to me. “La luna es bonita. Tu eres bonita.”

He gestured to me, the moon, and back to me. He spoke slowly as if to a child. Of course I understood what he was saying. But I didn’t respond in the way he wanted me to so he tried again, even more slowly.

“Tu eres bo-ni-ta. Porque eres delgada, perfecta. Como la luna, bonita. Eh?”

He had his arm around my shoulders, he was touching my hair. I shrank away from him, tried to push his hand away from my head. Eventually the topic changed and I stared purposefully in the opposite direction for a while.

Mono makes me think about humans in a way I’m not used to. I oscillate between feeling disgusted by his crudeness and machismo and feeling a warm friendliness towards him. He’s 50 years old, he can’t read, he beats his wife and never has a good thing to say about his sons. He has a great sense of humor. Mono is an engineer in a way. He solves practical problems with his eyes and hands, telling us that “si la cabeza no se hizo no mas pa’ sostener la mata si no para usarla. Hay que pensarle, morra.”

In Mono’s very specific dialect, that means your head isn’t just there to hold up your hair, you’ve got to use it.

We worked together on the farm, though he worked much harder than Sheila and me. Mono might be the hardest worker I’ve known. He seemed to have endless energy. He was a fisherman before overfishing and acidification made that more difficult in the Sea of Cortes. He’s been a brick mason and a construction worker, he’s transported drugs for the narcos in his panga for various sums. He’s had one year of formal education and he’s not too good for any kind of labor. I’m sure he knows that and I would bet it’s hard for him.

I can’t communicate with him well enough to peek into his head but Sheila can. She says he believes everything he sees on TV.

Flighty.

At some point you stop meeting new people. At some point, upon meeting a new person your thoughts go, “oh, she has Siobhan’s nose! Her quaint views on feminism are just like my Aunt Francis! She has that same dull yet lovely creative soul as Emma!”

It’s the boxes our brains are wired to create closing in, maybe without conscious consent. Structure, classification & judgement are crucial skills. It wouldn’t be possible to live in such a deep and broad world without them. We have to be able to distinguish friend from foe within a conversation or two. We must know animals with shadow-shapes like this are dangerous.

I’m a novelty addict. I’m flighty, not wanting to waste too much time at any one job or in any specific city. Life feels longer when it’s more chaos than grid. Pero, entonces, the grid falls on me in my sleep. I have to work to shake it off now. Sometimes it feels like a fishing net wanting to trap & squeeze the life from my gills. Sometimes I don’t even realize it. Sometimes it’s what I want, what I need. I do see the value in routine & security. After all, it’s the one thing all parenting experts agree on: children can’t thrive unless they can on some level predict their days & we’re all still children. We all, on some level, would really benefit from consistent nap times.

This is the last time I plan to live abroad or on the road for quite a while. I need to get a job with good health insurance and a pension plan. I need to get my shit together soon if I ever want to provide a sturdy childhood for my own hypothetical lap-sitter. & for me, shaking off the routine & the cold I had acquired in Seattle—as well as a partner who had started to feel too much like a grid—was bittersweet. Bitter in part because I know I’ll be stationary at least long enough to get a Master’s, but surprisingly bitter too because I miss the routine. I miss the love I left behind in that city, I miss knowing where everything is. Halfway through my time in Mexico and I’m genuinely looking forward to my return.

I think more than anything else, the grid is coming to represent community. A network of hugs rather than one of barbs and spines. My views are changing perhaps because I’d never had the kind of community I needed before the past couple of years. Most of my years I’ve spent in Ohio, consumed by my own neurosis, sitting in the bottom of a pit all alone. Truly it was a life apart from the one I most recently left.

Is it better to dig one thousand one-foot holes or one one thousand-foot hole?

I guess both. It depends on what you find in them.

 

Sugar.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for years. Time to come out, the stigma can’t end unless we end it.

I am a prostitute. I have one relationship based around the exchange of sex for money and it’s really nice. We don’t see each other often—maybe three times a year—and when we do beneficially exchange goods and services, I leave feeling empowered and spent.

It started when I was in massage school. A classmate of mine was talking about a sugar dating site she used, telling stories of this or that gross, pathetic man, passing her phone around for us all to gawk. She said to me, “you would be perfect for this.” Now I don’t know what she meant, that I’m pretty, that I’m slutty, that I like to take risks, I didn’t ask. But I liked that she said it. And I had thought about doing some kind of sex work. I think it’s a valid form of labor and I knew that a lot of men would pay to sleep with me. And I love sex, when it’s done right. It’s the most natural high, it is the closest you can be to a person, it unites us all.

They say if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.

I made up a fake name and created a profile. Most of the men were looking essentially for girlfriends for hire. This didn’t interest me. I think it could work but I had a good social life and really a lot going on at the time so I didn’t want to commit much to this endeavor. Not to mention, I really didn’t need the money. I just wanted the experience. I wanted the drama of breaking this taboo, I wanted the rush of telling people later in life that I had been paid for sex. I wanted to collect the experience.

I thought I did a great job looking mysterious and sensual and just sweet enough, and I guess I did because I got a lot of attention. A lot of “oh, let me save you from this world” attention and a lot of “let me be your lover and mentor and teach you how to be a person” attention. I didn’t want those things and I don’t think I needed them. I can save myself if I want to and I have a Roth IRA.

I started chatting to one man on skype but when I took a step back and realized that he wanted me to be on screen naked and he didn’t even have his own webcam on I hung up on him. I messaged back and forth with a few others but none of them interested me. Most of them wanted time I didn’t want to give.

Sam and I messaged each other a few times and it seemed like our lives would coalesce just fine. He was in Seattle fairly often for work but lived on the other coast. He was 47 then I think and I was 23. He made me feel very comfortable and checked in with me to make sure he was doing so, which is key if you want to land a quality girl from a sugar dating website. He would be in Seattle in the next few weeks and he proposed a dinner date for us to meet, no sexual expectations, just a little date. And so I went.

I wrote a fairly dramatic poem to psyche myself up for the event. The only line I remember now was, “How do I look? Good enough to eat? Good enough to pay to eat?”

I tried to look sexy without looking like a prostitute. Maybe people knew, maybe they didn’t that the slim young woman with the red lips “meeting a friend” at a hotel restaurant was an aspiring whore. Or already a whore, depending on how you define that word. I’d certainly fucked a lot of people gratis. Sam was outside smoking a cigarette when I first saw him. He said hello, we hugged. He looked just like his photo, a nice, average face with brown eyes and close-cropped hair. He was tall and looked pretty fit. I was nervous. I didn’t know how to act but, as usual, acting like myself was fine. To be honest, I wanted to act more than I felt compelled to. I wanted to put on a different persona. I wasn’t disappointed that our meeting was so normal but it was utterly normal.

We talked about our lives and politics. He was divorced from his wife for cheating. I told him I thought that monogamy was a ridiculous expectation. He told me about his two kids, lovingly. He told me about other women he had met from the website, also lovingly. Friend lovingly more than romantic lovingly. There were maybe three of them. It seemed like they’d had fairly long relationships but, like mine and his, with meetings few and far between. All in all, I liked him just fine and I suppose he liked me. When we parted he kissed me with a tobacco-flavored mouth. Actually, he more or less stuck his entire tongue into my mouth. I didn’t like it but I felt I should be a good sport.

I went home alone. He texted me the next day to ask how I felt about us and I said I liked him, that I wanted to move forward. At this point we hadn’t discussed money at all. He had bought my dinner and wine, of course. I asked him what he would pay me and he said $400 for an evening.

Wow, I thought, two trips to the ATM he must really like me.

I agreed, said that I was open to whatever he wanted to do but that condoms would be required. We set a date for the next night and had all-in-all pretty good sex for a first time. He supplied ample wine and marijuana, as well as condoms and lube, and he didn’t make any sudden movements. He told me I was beautiful. He told me that I have amazing hips. He put his hand on my side and slid down the hourglass, “this is the most important curve on a woman.” He really liked his nipples to be touched. He went down on me in a good faith effort to get me to come but I was not comfortable enough to really let go. I’m sure I faked one.

As I was getting dressed he pulled out a stack of $20s and said, “and this is for you.”

Every time he says I am welcome to stay the night but I haven’t so far. It’s always a weeknight.

I like him a little better each time I we meet. The last time I saw him, I felt a genuine warmth. Not romantic love by any stretch but what anyone would feel for a friend, seen sporadically. We text sometimes, mostly nude photos of me, but sometimes real talk. It’s funny because he texts how my dad does. Lots of winky faces and he squeezes several messages into one long one.

It’s been very interesting just getting to know someone that much older than me in such an intimate way. And not just the sex, more the hour or two after sex when I’m tracing my fingers up and down his arm and he’s telling me that his dad is sick, his daughter is growing up so fast, when he’s telling me his take on politics and how the world has changed since his youth under Raegan. I love those moments, that surrender. We talked about death the last time I saw him, as his father, though improving, was not getting any younger. I told him about DMT and how the brain releases a flood of wonder at the moment of death. So that without believing in an afterlife, I do believe that final moment could be experienced as eternity. Sam really liked that idea and it made me feel good when he smiled.

And at the same time he’s a little boy with me. He loves smoking pot and gets sort of goofy from it. In these instances he prefaces a lot of statements with “This might be weird, I’m just really high.” It’s important to have these release valves. Probably getting stoned and having great sex with an attractive and smart twentysomething is a very nice release valve. And in some ways I think he lives vicariously through me, always asking about my sex life and parties and drugs. A release but filtered through me and my brain and body.

For the next few months I’m living in Sinaloa and he has a business trip to Mexico City. He’s paying for me to spend a few days there and we’ll have one night together. I’m looking forward to it, partly because I know the showers in the hotel will have great water pressure compared to the ones here at my farmstay, partly because I’ll get to see a new city and spend three days alone exploring it, but maybe the biggest part is seeing him. I want to learn whatever else he can teach me. I want to know what he thinks about President Elect Trump. I will stay the night with him, and I’m interested to see how the morning after is.

Gail.

Shela from Tijuana and I have been WWOOFing here for several weeks.

Her name is Gail. She’s tall for a Mexican, average for an American, and she’s been here for sixteen years. For sixteen years—by choice!—living with the corruption of Sinaloa’s government, the slowness of everything, the heat, and the wet. I wondered how she makes any money off of it and she said, “Oh sweetheart I don’t. I have so much credit card debt back in the States.”

We went into town one Saturday to sell our wares and came away having spent almost all that we made on groceries, tools, buckets. She bought a jar of olives and called it a splurge. “We can share it,” she said to us.

The next week she had to pay her phone bill and taxes and we spent more than the remainder on wine, eggs, and discounted vegetable matter.

We sell our organic produce, dried and canned goods hecho en casa and buy the cheapest comestibles we safely can. We shopped at Sam’s Club, waiting in line behind old gringos with their bottles of Grey Goose. This must be what Marx meant by alienation to one’s own labor.

She wakes up before the sun every day and works with the dusty soil, coaxing it to produce beautiful zinnias and slow-growing carrots. The “greenhouses” she built with her illiterate gardener are really wood frames and cloth for the bugs, not glass for heat. There is too much heat here. She built casitas on the beach for gringos and narcos and politicians to rent, and they are beautiful. But if you look closely you see the humidity swelling and rusting and destroying constantly.

Her silver hair would hang down her back if ever it was untied. As it is, I’ve only seen her in holey t-shirts and men’s blue jeans. A baseball cap for the sun, bleached almost to white. Gail speaks with a wide-open mouth to display receding gums and long teeth. She is as brown as a white woman can get and her eyes, somewhere between blue and green, are wide always with panic.

It took some time to get used to her panic. Her refrain of “oh, SHIT” no longer startles me. I know it’s exaggerated, I know she chose to live this way. She makes mountains out of anthills. She calls herself a workaholic and she’s certainly mired herself in deep with work. I can’t tell if she’s happy. I suppose I’ve been happy sometimes when I, like her, feel tossed and turned and chewed up by life. There’s not a lot more satisfying than successfully tying up miles of loose ends. There are only loose ends to work with around here.

She has a good heart which I don’t understand. She loves the earth, loves it in her fingernails and smeared on her face. Gail talks about her past in terms of previous lives. “In one life when my son was a baby I had a daycare. It was so much fun, we all did potty training together, and the way the house was made it so they could go around through the kitchen, dining room, hallway, living room, past the front door in a circle on their little bikes. They loved racing around.”

In another past life she boarded horses, in one she raised dairy goats, in a life in Northern California she had fifteen employees and flowers paid all of their bills. In her most recent she worked at a battered women’s shelter. She said the worst cases were usually the police who abused their wives because they had power and access to information. Then she divorced and moved down here.

Our trips into town are always educational. It’s two hours driving in a van full of goods and signs and tables. We have to stop at the restaurant she built to fill our coolers with the organic salsas, jams, and fruit juices her kitchen workers process. The three of us sit in the front together with me in a small plastic chair wedged between the front seats. We leave at 4am, she’s always coming down from her wine binge so Shela and I never know whether to expect Mama Gail or the very rude stress gynoid who sometimes replaces her.

“My kids are always begging me to come back to Washington,” she tells us regularly, “but I couldn’t. There’s too much work to do here.”

Gail would love to have goats again. The dry brush and rocky terrain is perfect for goats, and she loves their personalities. But she told us that a neighbor once had a herd of one hundred, with watchdogs and everything. He left them to eat lunch one day with his daughters and when he came back he found his dogs, poisoned, and truck tracks headed towards the mountains. No goats. She told us about the crippled pony who lived in town the first few years she was here in Barras de Piaxtla. “That pony was a mascot. It could go wherever it wanted with its club foot. The dogs would bark but the town loved it.”

She has a sister in Nevada and one in Arizona. “My younger sister is even crazier than I am,” she told us, “she’s a ferrier and works in forges in the heat in Reno, her arms are covered in burn marks. I’m sure our parents thank god for Linda. I borrowed four thousand dollars from her this summer and now she tells me I’m an indentured servant until it’s paid off. She’s got a lot of home-improvement projects and things to do. Linda has the most boring life!”