you thought we had space and wind in new mexico. but we still have a schedule here. we have plenty of deadlines and appointments, the website to update, the frocks to be dyed ... the patterns to be drafted. we have all these windbreaks up here.
our windbreaks fell away on the road to the hacienda. the road seemed straight enough when we turned onto it from the highway, and anyway i had a map in my hand, but as soon as we left the pavement, it went all figure eights - it was like following a fox back to its den, we were both predator and prey, trying to stay on track, and trying to lose the busy grid from home. it had followed us from airport to airport to be sure. it followed us to the hotel and down to the hotel bar-cafe, where we were too tired to stay for more than a few minutes. it followed us out on the street in the morning. it followed us onto the road to the hacienda, but the dust kicked up in earnest from behind our car.
we were to meet the scenery, the caretaker and our models, and we had calculated time and distance, in order that we meet our best angles of light prepared. we figured two hours from town to stage set. the driver, so jovial while we packed up the car, said little once we left the highway. the driver said nothing of being pursued by what we could not see. the driver drove according to a mirror image of the map i was following. my frustration mounted. if i called "derecha" from the back, she braked gravel-shrill to slow, and turned left. every time it was like that. coasting into a cloud of dust, she required a cigarette break, she assured us we needed an agua fresca break, none of was to pass up a cervezita at her cousin's comedor. the driver had to loop and double back more times than we would have thought imaginable, to lose facebook, to lose mapquest, to lose whole foods. she stopped fast and swerved to lose wikipedia, to lose the weather underground. she mopped her perfectly made-up brow, and slowed down, to lose photoshop, to lose amazon, to lose twitter. she turned off the engine, to lose pinterest.
two hours were not enough. the driver stopped every fifteen minutes to step out of the car and poll the passers-by, are we lost yet? every time we were still filthy with the stain of 2013. we still wondered if there wasn't a GPS in the glove compartment. we didn't have enough dust in our teeth yet, our hair wasn't ratted with the winds yet, our eyes still tried to fix on which souvenirs would suit which friends back home.
we had barely left home. the people shook their heads: todavía no. the people shook their heads. pointed somewhere, pointed nowhere, didn't tell us which. the people pointed. the people gestured with a shoulder or a nose. the people smiled the brilliant smiles of those with nowhere particular to go. the people shrugged. the driver continued her survey, never leaving anyone out. she consulted small children. she consulted dogs. the people were vigilant: they looked at us and shook their heads.
until we were pleading, until we gave up, until they recognized something in our eyes that they agreed with, that the road was not in our hands, that the road was open only to surrender. and then, after three hours on the clock, the hacienda chimed on the horizon ahead of us, sudden, unlikely, wraithlike in its clouded majesty. the hacienda arose like an offering, where we had seen only dust, once our eyes adjusted.
the caretaker's lip curled a little while he watched us unloading the camera gear. he was missing a tooth in front, so he lisped more than a spaniard. i thought i must have imagined him saying "more interesting is the photo inside of the photo". i shifted a little closer to him to hear. he carried a rectangular black cellphone, incongruous in his hand, which was busy with wrinkles, alive with almost as many memories as the great hall he showed us into. there was something in his carriage, in his aspect, in the simple formality with which he handled this relic of modernity, which made me wonder if he had ever been the marquis himself, if he had not hosted many a waltz in this salon de baile. the thought surprised me. i credited the wind, and fumbled in my bag for a bottle of water.
he looked straight at me and laughed, as if to say, not exactly. he laughed like a child who is about to tell a story, like a child charged with making his story good enough to be believed.
"only once," he said. "i caught it here." tapping on the display on his phone.
my confusion was apparent.
"to see them."
to see whom, specifically?
pues, ¡los habitantes!"
i looked around. photographer, models. us. you mean...?
a peal of laughter. "Los habitantes actuales," he explained, too patiently.
"sí, los habitantes," he repeated, complicit, but casual. "you can see them. you can, come to know them. them." he had the same way of indicating with his head that we had seen along the road.
“lo invisible." he rolled his eyes. i rubbed mine, and squinted at our host. too much dust.
"lo cómo?" i attended, politely, casting a glance at the photographer behind me, setting up the lights.
"o sea que," lisped the caretaker, and his face changed. he looked down and his features escaped from the light. "you can see all that you would like to see." when he raised his head again, the light returned to his face, exploring the wrinkles around his eyes. "it is only the fear of the present-day. that makes the people blind. they stopped seeing."
he stretched out his hand, which suddenly captured the dusty white afternoon light. even this."
at the last emphatic syllable, the rafters released a great rush of doves. they flew in an arc, a fount of white across the clay-coloured walls. i stole a hurried look at the photographer behind me. she was checking exposures. i thought maybe i could use an agua fresca after all.
"¡por eso!" cried the caretaker, for the first time raising his voice. he hadn't moved his hand. his hand remained illuminated by the hazy light, a testament at the end of his arm.
"you see, señora, don't you?"
he drew his hands together and continued, "es un pecado, señora, to abandon the vision. as the people have consented to give up the vision, we have no more future. our future became impossible. in this place, they produced mezcal, and gunpowder. our history is here. today's news is here. tomorrow's news is here. they try to look after us, señora. they allow us to see them. how generous they are! they would dance with us. only look closely, señora. mira bien, vecina, our country, gone blind."
i thought i heard very faint strains of music. wasn't it some kind of waltz music? it seemed to be getting louder.
"¡bueno!" hollered the caretaker into his phone. "yes! tell me!"