Hombres On The Curb – October 2009

Hombres On The Curb

By M.A. Porter

 

burro2Every evening, Chuy and Miguel can be found perched on the curb of the craggy rock sidewalk that lines the barrio. Conversation flows between them as easy as that of two aging lovers. They are cousins and best friends who have about 60 years apiece but their banter is that of two adolescent boys, peppered with chuckles that waft through open windows. Lucky for her, they are both past the stage of life where testosterone-laden machismo inhibits conversation with a barrio gringa.

Chuy and Miguel share a small corn farm near San Juan but they are also laborers, and the best of their stories come from job sites of old. They’ve been on home construction and remodeling sites since 1967 and have noticed many curious changes in the quality of gringos who’ve come south to share a slice of paradise.

At first, it was the artists – wild-haired whiteys, some with ponytails, and all with money enough to buy a street hut and start creating something wowie zowie. A decade later came the businessmen and golfers, dressed in expensive pants, who desired houses like castles, upsetting the rhythms of Chuy and Miguel’s life because the businessmen wanted things yesterday and the golfers rarely graced the job site until after 18 holes.

Chuy says another type of gringo has arrived and this one makes him scratch his head. It’s the Youngster gringos, people who only have 50 or 60 years but who have already retired from work. They’re like the artists, in a way, because they want things wowie zowie too, but they’re also like the businessmen – they want it right now.

But the Youngster gringas please the two men greatly. Chuy thinks they’re awfully pretty, as pretty as Mexican ladies who have only 20 years, and he likes to watch them pass by while their voices sing greetings in Spanish. They both wonder, how do they do it? Their wives Ellie and Maria don’t look that way. Ellie resembles a plump cactus fruit and Maria’s skin has taken on the texture of an old leather chair, and they are most-often dressed in the clothing of their dead mother. Oh, sure, their wives are both still lovely, but there’s something fascinating about the leggy, stylish gringas whose teeth beam wattage and whose fingernails are painted like sports cars.

Miguel remembers a time when gringas didn’t seem this way. First came the hippie chicks and, well, it was hard to conjure up any romance with them even though the girls were willing. They seemed unclean, so it was not possible, perhaps even dangerous. Then the businessmen’s wives weren’t too friendly and the young men beheld fear in the women’s eyes, so they stayed in the background and averted their eyes.

About thirty years ago, a golfer’s woman caught Chuy’s fancy for a few months. She was 21 years older than he and full of charm, but when she showed up at his house one night, drunk, weeping love and shouting her willing sacrifice, his mother locked him in a store room for three days until the passion died. The following month, he married Ellie. The golfer’s woman returned to the USA but he still sees her man around.

The two men grow restless if a gringa stays too long on the curb, even though she plies them with her homemade sweet biscuits for the evening’s treat. So she only stays a few minutes before retreating to her writing room, where she often records their stories for no particular reason other than to beckon the muse.

Ojo Del Lago
Latest posts by Ojo Del Lago (see all)

Leave a Reply