Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Hector was the kind of muchacho who, had he been born in Los Angeles, would have spent the vast majority of his eighteenth year walking onto sets by day and walking over the cutest chicks’ boyfriends by night, and the girls would be paying the tab. In Puebla, there were no movies or television commercials to audition for, no agents to impress, and very few fast cars or stretch limos. Hector worked at a limo service after school, and in fact, the only fast car in the barrio, a 1984 silver T-Bird with a 280cc turbo, alternately purred and growled into Hector’s street for another totally unwarranted timing adjustment. Angel Diaz had a master’s degree in systems engineering, ran the power station, and when anyone official might see him, he would be tooling around in his Town Car or being chauffeured in a Diamante Limousine, along with government officials far too sober (and far too chary of drawing attention to themselves) to red-line it on Avenida Vicente Suarez. But Diaz, now thirty-four, had gotten Hector a job in the limousine garage after seeing Hector, then twelve, assemble a fully functional one-seat roadster from scrap parts.
One other thing about Hector. He was the one boy in the school, or the church besides, who treated Anna like she wasn’t a sex object. Walking to school, thirty or forty boys would calculate strategic angles of approach with the skill of a Euclid to preen, strut, or flex along Anna’s route. Anna would dismiss them like a royal waving to the “little people.” Anna was not to be had by a mere schoolboy. Was Hector just a better geometer than all the piñas? One thing for sure, when Anna sat down on June 12, 1996, in the courtyard of the Basilica, Hector knew enough geometry, or psychology, or just plain knew enough, to cross her path, reach over and inspect her book, and say, “Nietzsche. Man killed God,” and walk away.
“Uh…,” was all the language that could squeeze past Anna’s larynx, which had turned into a habañera. Forget about her tongue. It had the flexibility of carne asada.
Hector’s stitch-popping jeans and Hollywood-tight white T-shirt strode off toward the Basilica archway.
“Jodito,” cursed Anna, pounding Nietzsche into the open palm of her left hand. She unwrapped her lotus-position, swiped at her sandals, and caught Superman before he ducked into the shadows.
“Hui, chingόn, just what the f…” The Basilica dome is right over my head, and a giant dead Jesus almost heard me say…
“All right, disculpa. But where do you know from Nietzsche? And who are you, anyhow?”
“Hector. Como se llama?” ‘Se’ my ass, I know exactly who you are, Princess.
“Anna. Do you visit iconic Catholic buildings for fun, Friedrich?”
It was still before noon, and the thorny crown on the dead savior’s bleeding head broadcast its shadow straight down on the young man’s sweaty brow. The philosopher girl tucked her leather sandals under her left arm along with Also sprach Zarathustra, hooked one of the man-child’s belt loops with the index finger of her right hand, and led him inside the church. A yellowing marble recessed water fountain was the goal. Nothing special here, two teenagers ducking into a building to slake their thirst. Only this was the Basilica, Anna was barefoot, and from ten meters down the hall, the cura appeared, rattling a key ring the size of Anna’s waist.
Now it was Hector’s turn to guide. He slipped Anna’s leather Jesus-sandals out from under her left arm, then placed the sandals next to her feet. Respectfully shod, they stood in front of the water fountain a little longer before turning to admire the iconography. When he felt certain that the cura had lost interest, he play-punched Anna’s right shoulder.
“You owe me.”Que raro. Anna never owed nobody nothing. Who was this patudo, anyway?
How a person takes one fact about something as complicated as Nietzsche and turns it into a conversation remains one of the dating world’s great unexplained mysteries. By the time that Anna was convinced that Hector had planned his approach like all the weak boys from school and church, his subtlety, self-confidence, and shrewd intelligence had blinded her to the fact that not only was he older than she by only a year, but she was a diplomate and he had not finished tenth grade.
Skillfully, he guided the conversation away from the philosopher and back to the girl.
“Do you think that God died after creating the world?”
“And who said that God was done when He created this one?”
Hector waved his left hand toward the dome under which the two had found the water fountain.
“These people think so. What do you think?”
“I think there is a God, but I think that God underwent a shift when He created the world. The God that was compelled to create the world may be dead, but that doesn’t mean that my God is dead. Besides which…”
“You refer to God as a He. Does God have cojones?” Hector smiled broadly when he said this. Anna felt a wash of shyness, just a touch of embarassed self-consciousness. This stranger, this naco, had captured the initiative, like a gambiteer in ajedrez.
“ ,“ Anna gulped, and then recovered. “No, I just think of God as a man. My God is a man. Maybe your god is a woman, but I can’t believe in a woman. I couldn’t pray to a woman.”
“Neither could I, unless, of course,” Hector paused, “she were my mother.”
“So if I become a mother, you’ll have to pray to me?”
“Ya eres madrisima. But if you’re Hera, I’ll be Thor. Bumm, bumm, bumm, bumm.” Hector pounded his fists on the grass as if he were the Norse god. “Tierremoto! Earthquake!”
Anna opened Zarathustra and hid her head in it.
“OK. I fall in. Do you put the Earth back, or do you rescue me first?”
“I pull you out.” Hector took Anna’s left hand (Zarathustra still held her right), sprang upright in one great motion, and lifted Anna up to standing as well. “Now we are Titans, straddling the wounded planet, and we invert the mountains to heal the breach!”
Anna waved grandly with her book. “I hereby declare a new era for mankind. Now we have overcome our humble origin, and now we are ubermenschen, celebrating the rectitude of our creation and permitting ourselves the full joy of the lives we claim!”
Hector was out of his league, and he knew it.
“Orale! You go, chica, orale!”
Anna felt buoyed by this audience, beyond anything that she had experienced in theater arts class. She created a manifesto for Superman, and Hector played the role of the Greek chorus. Neither the philosopher-princess nor the motorhead with the physique of the god of thunder noticed the passage of time. Only their shadows, lengthening and mostly overlapping, showed cognizance of the passage of the day.
Jesus’s crown of thorns no longer projected a shadow, as the evening sun cast a rosy, almost living tone on the savior’s granite cheeks. The west wing of the Basilica nearly enveloped the courtyard in deep shade. Lacking midday frequencies, the light disguised a hint of chlorophyll on Hector’s T-shirt where his pectorals pressed into the grass.
“Anna,” Hector whispered, brushing back a cascading lock of her hair with the back of his index finger.
“I only read the study guide.”
“I know.” She guided his lips to hers.