In Acapulco everything slopes downwards to the sea. The mountains are green and lush. Houses are built into the sides of hills and on the tops of hills. We are here at the house of I do not know who, a man who plays some prominent role in the world of bull fighting. There is a group of men (boots, hats, gleaming teeth, all geniality), and Kelly and me. They might be ranchers, toreros, impresarios, or just friends, aficionados. I do not know, or, to be truthful, care.
The hospitality is impeccable, the dinner interminable and when the table has been cleared and the silent serving women have disappeared somewhere in the back of the house, the men are still seated, settling themselves to talk. Cigars are being lit and bottles opened. The mood is becoming more jovial, expansive. They’re launching into an evening of reminiscences, gossip and jokes and I sigh, despondent at the prospect of the long evening ahead. Though studiously polite, these men barely recognize my existence, I am simply not relevant, and I’m self-conscious, dismayed also at the struggle to keep up with the Spanish, the sheer exhaustion of trying to seem engaged. This, in the 70’s, seemed a requirement, I thought. Why am I here, I ask, not for the first time.
A side door into the garden allows me to make an exit, intended to be unobtrusive, and once outside I can take off my shoes, push my hot, sore feet into the coolness of the thick grass.
Light from the room where the men are now shouting with laughter spills from the windows, illuminating grass and trees with a soft glow in the rapidly falling darkness. It’s the end of twilight.
A palm tree towers, a creeping plant twining almost visibly up its trunk and as my eyes adjust, I see a child with a toy truck making truck noises. We ignore each other for a long time; then he sidles over and talks to me, but I don’t understand. “I don’t understand. I don’t speak Spanish,” I explain, feeling pathetic. He looks at me, incredulous, as if I am a madwoman, but goes on trying. He is eating a mango and throws the skin over his shoulder.
At the end of the garden is a beautiful, shapely tree and in the dwindling light I see that it’s hung with green globes, unreal. It’s like a tree on a stage set. The globes are mangoes, and the boy is poking at them with a long pole.
I sit on the grass, looking up. High on a branch, unbelievably, a peacock is roosting, its long feathers draped elegantly, its head erect. It surveys the garden with its round, black eye. The stars are out now and some pink flowers that cover a wall are scenting the air.
The peacock gives its raucous cry, and I can hear the men laughing inside the house. Rustlings in the undergrowth; the boy thinks it’s an iguana and pokes excitedly with a stick. The creature rushes away.
In the shadows, an old man, bent over, is busy with dead leaves, unrolling a hose. He is barefoot. And now leaves, grass, flowers are all glistening with water.
I tell him I like his garden (this much I can say), and he smiles a gap-toothed grin and offers me a mango. I say no, but later one falls from the tree and lands beside me. I peel it and eat it, my face and hands covered with sticky juice. I think the mango falling next to me must be an omen, a gift.
I do not want to return to the house.
Retired high school English teacher Brenda Tipps joined OLLI-USF in 2007. Brenda has been a longtime member of the Great Books discussion group, has taught many courses for OLLI including Readers Theater, poetry and drama.