I was walking through Llano Park with my headphones on, and I felt someone too near me, right about at my elbow, so I stopped. It was Mateo, of the Little Business Man and Co. Before I could get a headphone out of my ear, he demanded: “Do you remember me?” I said his name and then said what I always say when I see him: “You are much taller and stronger.” He smiled and asked me what he always asks: “When did you arrive?” The implication is and why haven’t you come to see me yet?
He updated me on the rest of the family and this new endeavor that had him shining shoes in Llano Park in the mornings and selling gum on the pedestrian walkway and zocalo in the afternoon. He told me that the eldest brother had resigned himself to being a gum seller after a failed attempt at a corn stand. He mentioned Marcela, the sixth addition to the family. And, of course, he told me about Cecelia (9), the Little Businessman/Agostino (6), and Julio (5).
I promised to visit the zocalo and see the rest of the Co. on an evening I wasn’t teaching to bring the gifts I had from California. I promised I’d bring my Iphone for him to practice photography.
I arrived on Tuesday night, but Mateo wasn’t there. He was out selling gum, maybe by the church. The rest of the family had heard the report of my arrival, were clear they had been waiting, and were delighted by the presents.
We sat and talked into darkness, planning the fun we’d have over the next month.
A shoe shiner with his own official chair was missing, leaving the stand next to my seat on the wall open.
I was occupied with a pile of Julio and Agostino in my lap and trying to “break my face” (a karate game we play) when a man asked me where the shiner was. I said, “I don’t know.” Cecelia said, “There’s another one over there.” I said, “Or we can do it.”
The man’s wife broke out laughing as she imagined me and the Little Businessman and Co. busily shining his shoes.
I am still convinced we could have done it.