Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Liquid Life (installment twelve)


There had been other signs of the young doe’s undoings.

One morning she frosted me from bed and into the 5:30 a..m. sunlessness, so we could buy some Maria. On the way there she explained her completely unworkable plan for organizing the Maria dealers.

By the corner, where the houses were old with detachment, rotting orchids on twisted wrought iron balconies, we waited. Elendele said ghosts in Spanish comb and lace mantilla melted under orange trees there in the summertime, and I told her I didn’t believe in ghosts, and that Saturn didn’t either.

They were there, she contended. Contemplating their stillness, their empty shellness, their predecessors in Seville. Contemplating their Pancho Villa, with something for her, for just $10. Same gold tooth. Same rancorous defiance. Same noble crosschest bullets – just not the means to shoot with.

His name was Trini and he was from the deep Baja. He was Elendele’s personal dealer since I had known her. He had worked a hamburger job downtown, clearing tables, sweeping floors, and winking at the corporate girls with their stiff joys, starched collars, and skirt suits. They were what he aspired to, and a few other, nobler things.

A lot of refugees were illiterate, broke bottles in the streets, and through their dirtfulness did everything Elendele was trying to do through her doctrine of civil blasphemy – her intra-real antics.

Trini was different. He read. We saw him run in the March marathon with a Mexican flag on his head. It came down our street and we cheered him until we realized that Saturn’s car had been towed to help make way. He quoted chapter and verse from the Spanish giant Cervantes and another unknown by the name of Betanzos.

One day the immigration came to his workplace and Trini escaped through the back entrance, never returning to the serious world again. He started to sell Maria and was twice thrown in jail; for a three-and-a-half, and then a five-month, sentence.

There he made his first contact with the irrepressible Li’l Criminals who later assigned him to Elendele’s account. Each time he came out of jail he was heavier and the look in his eye was a pinwheel. It was a circular recurrence. Each new reentry rendered him less trustworthy to those employers of the mainstream, and he ended up selling Maria again.

After Trini met Elendele though, his troubles were in an evaporating state. Her weekly contribution needed only the slightest augmentation of a handful more sales, which kept him safe from police. He didn’t have to find her on the street, since he had an appointed Tuesday morning arrangement to drop by the salon, drink espresso and allow her to sample his latest line. Saturn and I were sure Elendele slept with him once to make him feel special and slide him onto her little string of fishes.

Trini was always early and the salon was a world of wonderment to him. He’d never heard the kind of things, or seen the kind of things, that were part of the everyday runnings there. Proof again, that wealth manifests itself in places other than the fold of a well-plied wallet.

But when Trini saw his valuable friend that early morning, even he had to make public the obvious, waiving the tin foil prize in front of her face. “Elendele! Chica! I’m getting worried. You’re doing to much of this stuff.”

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