Read Part I HERE
The voice of honest indignation is the voice of God.
Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by people I did not know. The room was no different than any room in middle class America, white walls with a few framed prints, sparsely furnished. It was split into a living area (carpet) and a dining room (linoleum). Four women sat around a coffee table munching on a plate of Mexican botanas (snacks)—shelled and fried, dark-skinned cacahuates (peanuts) and ruddy chapulines (fried grasshoppers), Oaxacan cheese, chips with pico de gallo (salsa fresca) and guacamole. Two men stood in one corner drinking mezcal. I heard children playing in a back room. A golden retriever dozed by the dining table where an elderly couple, obviously the grandparents, had a bird’s eye view of the scene.
A large purple skeleton-lady (calavera) was perched on a small round table in the corner opposite the two men eyeing them suspiciously. The ceiling above the grandparents was decorated with colorful papel picados (intricately cut tissue paper banners). The wall behind the dining table was adorned with photographs of the birthday girl where a coffee table was piled high with wrapped presents.
I stood quietly by the front door taking this all in while unfamiliar faces turned in my direction.
“I should make some introductions but I don’t know your name.”
I tried to look relaxed but I was uncomfortable. I came to the party on a whim. Now I was trapped. There was nothing to do but make the best of it.
“I don’t know yours either,” I replied. A swarm of disembodied eyes stared in my direction like bumblebees who had discovered a new source of pollen.
“Oh, right. I’m Narcedalia but everyone just calls me Narce.”
“A beautiful name. What does it mean?”
She blushed. “I’ve been told it means gift from God.”
“And so you are, my Dear. A lovely name and very appropriate too. I’m Jeffrey. Jeffrey Farmer. It’s deceptive. I’ve never been on a farm in my life. I brought a present for your goddaughter. I hope it’s appropriate, a stuffed animal from Chiapas, a rabbit.”
“I’m sure she will love it. Conejo in Spanish.”
“Good. Well, I guess I’ll be shoving off now. I just dropped by to thank you for the cupcake and to bring a present for your goddaughter.”
“What? You just arrived ! You’re not getting off that easy Mr. Farmer. You’re here and you’re staying for the party.” Narce turned to the others.
“Todos, este es mi amigo Jeffrey Farmer que se ha unido a nosotros. Hazlo bienvenido.”
Everyone waved and smiled at me. I felt like a passenger who had arrived at the dock in a foreign port with nowhere to go. It was too much. I mumbled some words of excuse and went back out the door onto the front porch. The house was uphill from the Zócalo with a view of the historical district several blocks away. A thorny pochote tree rose up on one side with a spectacular display of pink flowers. I could pick out the twin domes of the Santo Domingo church in the distance. After a certain age one scarcely needs people anymore. I’d had my fill.
Narce walked out to join me.
“What is it that causes you to refuse, to rebel against everything? Why do you suffer so? It’s not necessary. Of course I don’t know you or anything about you. But, I can see in your eyes the desire to fit in, to belong. You won’t act on it. Why not? The fact that you showed up here, Mr. Farmer, that’s proof enough that I’m right. Yes? Don’t refuse us. Come back inside. We have no expectations. You can sit alone in a corner and watch if that’s what you want.”
She was so sincere, so beautiful and yes convincing that I almost walked back in. But I couldn’t.
“I can’t Narcedalia. I’m sorry.”
At the sound of her name she blushed a second time. “Why not?”
I walked to the railing and turned away from her.
“Let me tell you a story. I thought once of being a priest. It’s a mystery, capitalism and Christianity. It makes no sense to me. It’s pretty obvious Christ was a communist. Each of you who does not give up all you possess is incapable of being my disciple. I thought I could find the golden mean, but it didn’t exist. America is the most religious country on earth and the least Christian.”
“When I gave up that idea I turned to science which still seems to me to provide the best answers. But science for all its great successes is cold. I thought the arts combined with science could create a whole so I plunged into the visual arts and music and literature. I couldn’t achieve the synthesis I longed for. What I created was artificial, a parody of what I wanted.”
“I was told family was the answer. The old quip that people dying never say they wished they’d worked longer but say instead they wish they’d spent more time with family. The problem is that what I most cared about my family cared not about at all and what excited them bored me. So, here I am in Oaxaca where I’ve always felt at peace.”
When I looked at Narcedalia I thought I saw tears in her eyes but maybe she was just squinting at the bright sunset.
“You are a sad man, Mr. Farmer. A very sad man.”
“Yes, it’s true. And, I don’t want to project that on you or your family. You are a gift from God, Narcedalia, and I’m happy to have met you. I’ll be on my way now.”
I walked down the stairs to the street and went on walking and walking until I reached the central square. I wondered. Could it be that because tonight my soul has really died that something like peace has settled over me? Perhaps just. Perhaps just.