Over a week ago I lost my glasses.
Somewhere on my way up to Collingwood they fell out of my bag.
They are the only pair of glasses I’ve ever owned – a recent acquisition (well, maybe 3 years ago) for reading, working on the computer… old lady glasses.
It was annoying – the thought of having to go back to the optometrist for a new prescription, having to fork over the cash to her, then more cash for a new pair of glasses… I was avoiding the problem, stalling.
At night, reading in bed, I stuck to the one library book that happens to be a large print edition – the highly entertaining Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.
A week went by. 10 days. I dawdled, squinting at the computer screen.
Then this morning, on the ratty old rocker on the front porch, an apparition –
Returned by the delightful taxi driver from last week who took me to the bus station. They’d fallen out of my bag in her car. And she’d noticed, AND she had remembered me.
What a sweetie-pie!!! I’m in love….
The incident reminded me of the time we were living in Mexico City – we were supposed to be making a film, were often out shooting stuff and interviewing people, lugging cameras and sound gear around in taxis… I had a notebook in which I kept all names, phone numbers, notes and relevant observations, I kept it in a knapsack I took everywhere with me.
The city both fascinated and terrified me – the sprawling monstrous size, the compelling yet horrifying complexity and intensity of a city poised on a gelatinous former lakebed in a circle of mountains – the beauty of some of the architecture, the markets, the flowers and crafts, the rich history, but then the toxicity of the pollution, the extreme violence and prevalence of crime, and yet the hundreds of thousands of bold, beautiful, wonderful human beings living there.
My friend Maria had stories of being held at gunpoint by 5 guys when she was 7 months pregnant – how they’d kicked her in the stomach even though she gave them her cash. But that story not as bad as the time a few years before when she’d been held hostage for 3 days by a man who raped her and emptied her bank accounts.
“Don’t you ever think about leaving?”, I asked her, practically peeing my pants at the thought of staying in this city.
“Solo los cobardes se huyen”, she answered – Only cowards flee.
Count me a coward.
At that point we were staying in a little house in Coyoacan, an old and very pretty section of the city, where many of the houses had walls several feet thick – story was the Spanish conquistadors would hide their gold inside the walls, then murder the slaves who’d built the house and knew where the gold was, and hide their bodies inside the walls as well. There were many tales of ghosts wandering corridors and alleyways around the neighbourhood.
One night we got home to the little house where we lived and I realized I’d lost my knapsack, and in the knapsack, my notebook – probably on the floor of the taxi. All the names and places and ideas and plans and contact numbers…..gone.
There was a yellow pages phone book in the house (it was the 90’s, life before cel phones), and I opened it to the taxis section – hundreds of little companies. Where to begin? There was nothing memorable about the taxi we’d been in – it was one of thousands, if not millions of little VW bugs that served as taxis all over the city. All I remembered was it was one of the green ones, not a yellow one.
Several nights later the doorbell rang. A very formal, reserved man stood there. He held out my knapsack. He’d found the notebook inside and remembered us and our little house, in this city of some 20 million.
“How could you forget something so important?”, he wanted to know.
I stammered with disbelief, called him my guardian angel, tried to invite him in for a coffee, a beer, something to thank him.
He refused all offers. “Estamos para servirle”, he said – We are here to serve you – and went off into the night.