Tonight I'm classing life up a bit by drinking white wine with three ice cubes out of a plastic cup inside a leftover wedding koozie. There is thunder overhead but the rain hasn't hit yet. That pre-storm heat that just sucks the life out of you is doing just that. I'm gasping for rain like it's air. It kind of is - cool cool air.
There was a car wreck on the jungle road leading from Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho a few nights ago and all four women in the car died. Three were from San Pancho. All were moms. This town has been rocked by it but I haven't felt much of the weirdness. I'm sure it's there.
I dug enough on Facebook to see who they were. I'm afraid I think I only recognize one of them and that may or may not be one of the girls who worked in the tienda between our house and my parents.
It makes me feel shitty that I'm not sure if I recognize them. Is it because I don't have things to associate them with? Is it because I don't have any friends that aren't gringos? We've been here more than a year, I barely speak Spanish and I don't have any friends that are Mexican. Writing it makes me realize what a shit job I've done at assimilating.
It's weird to be in this town that's so traumatized and not know who to even acknowledge as a bereaved. Maybe the whole town is. The signs are there.
I was raised to acknowledge death. It's not overbearing, it's usually, I'm sorry for your loss. When my grandpa died, I couldn't hold myself together when someone simply uttered those words to me ... grief is overwhelming. I also know that we're in a Catholic community (the only church in town is Catholic). There are cultural difference and rituals that need to be respected. I'm just not sure how to go about it.
There's a procession from the church to the cemetery after the funeral. I missed that. Acknowledging loss and gawking at mourning aren't complementary behaviors. Instead, I went up to the cemetery days later. I'd heard the girls were buried side by side. Alters to the deceased are beautiful arrangements of flowers and icons and candles and I wanted to see. I wanted to pay respect. I was curious. But as I got close, i saw that their graves were surrounded by family. I huge blue tarp was being secured above the graves, to protect it from the weather. I kept walking up the hill, to the older part. There, grass grows over the headstones. Jesus and angels adorn nearly every grave.
I watched the area around the graves from the hilltop and the clouds above mounted. The novena, the nine days of mourning, had already begun. The graves were adorned with flowers, candles, religious icons, crosses. There is nothing easy about dealing with death. There is sadness. Even for someone who didn't know the women, there is so much sadness.
Of death, poet Octavio Paz once said, "The Mexican ... frequents it ... caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it ... he confronts it face to face with patience, disdain or irony."
These deaths have confronted me with my own disdain. I'm a stranger in my small town, unable to express condolences. Like everyone else, I wait for the rain.