We saw Augustino, Cecilia, and Mateo last night and delivered double scoops in cups for the three of them (although they said they would prefer iced cappuccinos). We didn’t stay to chat; we rushed off to locate Cafe Central.
When we returned to the Zocalo, we decided that we should sit and watch the night. We could see the kids in the distance still enjoying their scoops (Neopolitan and three chocolates). They spotted us and came over to sit with us and talk. Part of me lamented that it has taken four months (and the presence of M) for them to feel comfortable sitting in the dark with me. Smart Cecilia (with Mateo at her side) did most of the talking while Augustino performed look-what-I-can-do tricks in the background.
Cecilia started, asking shyly if I live with M. What he does for a living. What I do. Mateo wanted to know if I have a car. He seemed to imagine it when I described it as blue.
Mateo liked that his name is Matthew in English. Cecilia said: “Matthew.”
Cecilia continued, explaining that they have to walk to the Zocalo and back from a colonia (neighborhood) called St. Martin Mexicapan (9.5 kilometers, a twenty-minute taxi commute from the Zocalo or a two-hour hike). They leave the Zocalo around one in the morning and return the next day by six in the evening. Part of me wonders why go home when the home Cecilia describes is something bare.
Do you have a plant? she asks, and I am a bit embarrassed by the thought of my home lushly populated with vegetation. I have beds and couches, chairs and art, too.
They do not go to school, but their father knows how to read (though he spends the day at the Central de Abastos). What can he teach them on the long walk home?
My insides hurt. I can hardly stand the details or continue to respond to her interrogation truthfully.
The three of them need new shoes, cold medicine, money for a taxi home each night and that’s just to keep them ready to sell gum in the streets.
We promise to return tonight, this last night, to sit with them under the laurels in the darkness.