3 a.m. in Mexico City

I'm terrified of Mexico City. On my first full day here a lovely woman named Laura stopped me in the OXXO convenience store and asked me if I was alright. Later she told me that I looked like a frightened rabbit in the jungle and that she felt compelled to stop and talk to me. A former beauty queen who lived in Toronto for over a decade, Laura is now a telenovela actress and living in her home city of Mexico City (called the DF in these parts). I mention this detail because despite the DF's dangers, overcrowding, pollution, and terrifying size, somehow it is also a place of blessings for me. A place of random encounters and experiences. Of signs that I should stay, despite the language barrier and the oh so painful fact that everyone I love so dearly is a country and a half away.

Two days ago I almost decided to leave after a string of uncomfortable occurances that felt mildly dangerous. The following day, after a long slow breakfast in Polanco (the ritzy area of the DF), I stopped in a bookstore. I received a text that a room was available for me to stay in. I considered it. No, I couldn't stay. I couldn't risk further intrusion on my sense of security. And then I chanced upon a book titled Bronwyn. Every page, every section said "Bronwyn." In huge letters dividing the different sections. Peppered in the poetry. Bronwyn. Bronwyn Bronwyn Bronwyn. I felt an incredible draw to this strange text; it seemed to be calling, nay SHOUTING, my name. I had to take it as a sign that perhaps the DF too was crooking a finger in my direction. I decided to give the city another chance.

Last night I moved to a Quaker hostel close to the centre of the city. It was the fifth time I'd moved in a week and a half with my little clamshell of a life strapped to my back as a I navigated another set of incomprehensible subway lines and streets. Another text came, this time from a friend I'd met at a taco stand a week prior. He advised me that the delicious meat I was consuming was tongue. I followed him to a recording studio in an old yellow house with a winding staircase. Last night I ended up in an ancient Centro apartment with him and a motley collection of red-eyed creative types. I drank Tecate and looked through a sketchbook of vibrantly coloured monsters reaching for the stars. Plants, in massive pots and seedlings sitting in tiny pools of water, were crawling all over the apartment. We listened to Joy Division, Bob Dylan, and Spanish electronic music on the record player. The halls with their massive concrete walls, looming shadows, and dusty corners recalled an insane asylum. Doubtless, ghosts lurked thick as thieves in those parts. The staircase wound up to a littered rooftop, raw and chipped, a hazy moon high in the sky. The record player could still be heard far below in the courtyard.

I am terrified of this city, but at 3 a.m. I found myself wandering the streets of the Centro, accompanying two gentlemen on a certain art project. Men rapidly sorted tabloid newspapers for the day ahead. Cantinas glowed furiously on dark streets, drunk men still quietly enjoying their night. This wily city draws me in, and pushes me away. Like the most troubled of love affairs, I'm compelled to see it through.


Julie Wilson said...

Think of you daily, B, and pass along a little piece of wisdom from a friend's father: Only a fool doesn't change his mind.

Point being, it's incredible what you're doing. Trust your gut, no matter which direction it points.

You can always leave; you can always return.

Based on this post alone, though, always keep in touch. You're a wonderful writer.

Joots xo

B.Kienapple said...

Thanks for this Jules. Sometimes I so badly want to go home. But we're always free to make our own decisions. If you listen to what you really need, really want, I think you're going to be OK. The world is hardly constant, and we need to be flexible along with it (especially in a city like this!). xo

Steph said...

Wow. This is an awesome post. I too think about you, even though we hardly know each other. I think you're doing the bravest thing. Julie said the rest, really.

When I was 19 and 20, I left for a year in Paris. I had a very hard time. I was in a place where I had to sneak phone calls home curled around the toilet and whispering. So homesick and so many times I wanted to come home. But even then I knew the experience would be beneficial in pushing me past my limits and changing me for the better. I lasted nine months of the twelve, but those nine months were, in retrospect, utterly amazing. I wish the same for you.

Amy said...

That sounds like an amazing and incredible adventure. Great random occurrences. And you are so brave to be there doing that!

Good luck, I hope that it continues to be fun and work out.

Clare said...

I have a wonderful friend in her 60s who did this kind of travelling when she was young. I never ever tire of her stories, and so I salute your sense of adventure! You will be the one with the stories.


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