© Iskra Johnson 2010
I am coming from a place where the main street is a river, where every person who passes every other person says Hola, where dinner is caught at dawn and served at night by torchlight, where on Sunday morning they wake you with cannons and the scolding of churchbells until you leap from your bed to say YES! I am coming! I am truly here! Ranchero music announces the weekly arrival of gasoline and when a steer gets loose he is roped to a palm tree, a bridge and a delivery truck, in that order. Every time I see him on the cobblestone path this dog gives me The Look: Unabashed need? Resignation? Desperation? Love? and I offer it back.
I am coming from a place where you go each night to the ocean to celebrate the sunset to a place where you do not see the sun except on television advertising Mexico, neon blue seahorses swimming on plasma screens above the cheese-dripping BurgerKing. I am entering a particularly grim system of transport designed to squeeze you through as quickly as possible to the next destination, accompanied by the barking percussion of bins and belts, jewelry and shoes and the irritated squall of security alarms. Only now do I learn about the man who almost blew himself and everybody else up with his underwear. We shuffle.
I am entering the First World, the Fast World, the world where everyone is talking to someone who is not here, and listening to music only they can hear, although I can feel the bass humming through the man next to me and ask him “could you turn your ipod down?” — so I can remember the ranchero music in my head. I have a shell in my pocket and sand biting my heels. Memory feels already very fragile.
Next to me a man comments to no one in particular, “This place is ugly. The light is bad. It feels lonely.” I want to embrace him, because he is saying aloud what I am feeling, he is saying, Where is the Village? I scribble a resolution on my boarding pass, “look for the village wherever you are. Don’t wait for catastrophe.”
Three days later, Haiti. Now the world has another chance to shrink to human size.