..First Glyph

The Return to Aztlán
Prologue



To be imprisoned in the human form is to be incomplete. Man was created thus. The unspeakable desire after a knowledge of what heals this incompleteness, and if not to heal to salve, and if not to salve to cloud, has been man's greatest weakness. At the root of barbarous war, and sublime romance, of intoxication and religion, it has dragged him from cradle to grave by the nose through the ages. It is here that I have crafted everything. It is with this that we have shunted and slued him through our designs. Agamemnon will speak for the butchery of our playfulness. Moses and Mohammed of its inconstant morality. The Buddha of its ether. For when a time has come, it is in this hollow of man that we find crevice in which to smolder, in which then to be wet and humid until fungus, until fertile, until the one of our bidding devours us and is devoured by us, to be then regenerated as something new but neverchanging, as that thing ancient, sparkling, fresh, as that undying bloom that is the universe, that is time collapsed, that is myself.

And, indeed, a time has come.

So I will begin here with a simple introduction. Under a sky of hazy night, under an air of dampened dark, we move now to watch an old man sitting in a harborside restaurant. He sits alone, this old man, or rather, sat alone, I should now say--alone, at his favorite corner table, over his favorite evening meal, before his favorite open window. He sat, this old man, in his starched white shirt, in his loose blue sport coat, under his silver gray hair and his sagging age-stained cheeks. He sat thoughtfully, he did, chewed ruminatively, gazed silently through the open window onto the sidewalk; the sidewalk wending by, the one awash in the lambence of the restaurant's lamps. And even though unassuming, even though inconspicuous and even avuncular, it is this gentle old man who is and was and will be the very center of this story. Others will be born from him and revolve around him, yes. But it is he that was and will be the hero here. I present to you, in fact, the one whom we would devour and the one who would devour us. I present to you a man with whom you will become intimate, an old man of long and painful life who by the end of our tale you will know better than yourself, and for whom at its end you will both mourn and rejoice. I present to you one Miguel Angel Seisfuegos Desconcido, the pivotal man of this history, and the one whose brutal death you will witness before its end.

Chewing at his last bite of huevos a la mexicana, Miguel Angel could not know, as I tell you now, that we brought him here. He could not know, as I now reveal here to you, that the restlessness he felt in the few days previous to this, alone at his keyboard in his Mexico City office, was stirred by us. He could not know that the idea of retreating to Veracruz we made to him a soothing one. Nor could he know, as you here are about to witness, that in just a few moments we will show to him the incorrectness of the clock above the restaurant's bar and trip into motion a chain of events inexorable, events that will lead him and us and you to the very roots of time, the very ends of the earth. Indeed, not until his very end will he know, though you know it here at the beginning, that the whole of Miguel Angel's life has been shaped by us in these subtle but unmistakable ways. From his unspeakable desire we have shaped his life. From his incommunicable hunger it has been shaped. For he, being one of the few who recognize his incompleteness, and who, in recognizing it, seek to join with it instead of succumbing to it, or fighting it, or filling it, or numbing it; he, Miguel Angel, from his timely birth as a bastard son to the slums of Mexico City, has been led by us unknowingly. We have shaped his destiny thus, shaped it toward our unfound door.

"Mas café?" the waiter asked.

And "No, joven," Miguel Angel answered, stewing stomachically over the dregs of the digestive drink, rubbing at the loose flesh of his dry eyes, stroking pensively his sagging cheeks as he gazed from the window. It had not yet occurred to Miguel Angel that time was passing, that he should check his watch or the mentioned clock. The thought that preoccupied him instead was of the waiter's deference. The deference troubled Miguel Angel. The boy stood hard by in his smart green guayabera, his round flat face patently struggling to restrain the encomiums it craved utter for the old man. Miguel Angel met the boy's eyes. With a kindly gesture he waved the boy off. Miguel Angel reflexively then reached for his kerchief. But he checked himself. Miguel Angel let the linen lie then in his pocket and fingered a paper serviette off the tabletop. He sipped the last sip from the delicate cup and wiped his mouth with the serviette. What a rare moment of surfeit! The salt air warm and humid, he felt then. The night sea sibilant and rhythmic, he watched, he heard then. A full belly. A coffee.

Pushing the empty cup away, Miguel Angel asked himself why in fact he was indulging himself so. Why was he here? He envisioned Mauricio. He envisioned his unattended keyboard askew at his office desk. He saw his third story view over Avenida Balderas. But he had just needed to get away. He had just felt a need to escape. It had been months since his last break. Mérida. The Yucatán uprising. But that had been work. He never really vacationed. He had just felt oppressed. And Veracruz, the gulf coast, the damp gulf atmosphere, its springtime marimbas and, of course, Gamboa--and in that moment it occurred to Miguel Angel to check the time, which makes that last flickered thought of Gamboa Miguel Angel's last of quasi-freedom, since, as we mentioned, his next thought begins this story--Yes, the Gamboa mural, Miguel Angel thought. What time does the museum close? 7 p.m.? And Miguel Angel looked up to the clock that hung above the restaurant's bar. 5:45 p.m. it said. And checked his watch unconsciously...then to check his watch again quite consciously, but...6:45 p.m., his watch said. To look at the clock again. To look at his watch again. "Padre eterno," Miguel Angel exclaimed quietly, pushing back his chair. He thumbed three paper pesos then for the huevos, for his coffee, for his generous tip, and stood creakily on his cane to limp with his old man's brisk slowness toward the door, and, as you know, my listeners, as I've told you, took the steps that here begin this tale.



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..First Glyph

John Dishwasher

The Return to Aztlán