It would happen sometimes, late at night. And when it took place, Eduardo would come knocking on my door, drunk and excited, and I would come outside to look. A little glimmer in the distant wooded hills. It looked like a flame.
Eduardo thought it was a silver mine, maybe an illegal one in the woods, operated when no one else was around.
It was probably managed by those who go unnamed. You don’t mention them, but you always do. The bars they own, the taxis whose fare of which they always get a share. Visible enough, half of Taxco de Alarcon must have seen this little flame from their houses on the mountain.
I wondered what it would be like to go wandering around, looking for the mine in those woods with a flashlight, to find a new deposit of Taxco silver, to build a little cottage in the middle of the woods. I’d start a silversmithing factory with hissing steam-whistles and a conveyor belt. I’d send my finished silver jewelry straight through a tunnel to the purple and gold donned fashion stalls in Beijing. They’d trade and send me porcelain dolls. And when war broke out between China and Mongolia, bowmen on horseback would come riding from the other end of my tunnel to put a stop to my operation, to enforce their embargo. And I’d be able to say, ‘go away, you Mongoloids!,’ in the precisely proper context, for the first time ever.
Now, we were sitting on the roof, talking about the flame, about trade, the old Taxco silver marks and the deal his friend had screwed up by sending the electronics to his cousin without telling Eduardo beforehand; his cousin, who would have no idea how to sell them, in Chicago.
Numbers were mentioned, and we talked about the past abundance that had come to Taxco, most of which derived from its silver trade. Everyone used to have BMWs, he said. Now they struggle.
Why are things so difficult?
Eduardo was a man who could often be heard laughing frantically in the street con sus amigos. He knew the ‘best of the worst,’ as his brother liked to say. A skilled salesman without any formal training, Taxco Mexican Silver, 925 vs. 950 Taxco silver. One whose instincts had made him a success, the same as those that had led him to failure. Distractions had stopped him from seeing his clients. One by one, they’d gone away, and his brother had had to take over the business.
At another time, I had heard a noise from my apartment, and had come into the courtyard to see that Eduardo, in his 40s, had fallen down the set of the steep concrete steps that led from the roof. He had continued to lie there, feet over head, dazed and drunk. I checked the back of his head to see if he was bleeding, just as his mother was arriving home through the front gate. She came around and said hello to me, as Eduardo continued to lie there, staring up, silently. Eduardo’s mother saw me but not him and went downstairs to her apartment, a bag Taxco silver bracelets in hand, from her shop.
At night, from the roof, the sky was gorgeous. It was clear, and the stars were bright. I’d heard somewhere that ‘sky’ derives from ancient Norwegian language, and so does ‘scream.’ My Spanish was still terrible. It wouldn’t be till I got back to Colombia that I’d commit seriously to learning it again. Eduardo talked about his visit to the doctor and about the history of the Aztecs. I had never pictured Montezuma as a real person. The Spanairds, apparently, conquistadors, had tortured Montezuma to try to get him to reveal the location of his gold. They had burned his feet, but he never told.