Fernando, Parsley, and I set off to the video bar with Gerardo lurching behind us. Fernando took my elbow, urging me to walk faster, yanking me into the video bar where the Minnesota Twins were crushing the Atlanta Braves in their second World Series win in five years at the Metrodome across four big screens crammed into the small bar. I found William glued to a screen, clutching a sweating Corona. Four empties littered the bar in front of him.
I sidled up and seated myself next to him. “Are you hungry?” I asked. Fernando took the stool next to me and ordered coffee.
“Not yet. It’s only the fifth inning. I’ll grab a bite here.” His eyes never left the game.
“How’s the food?” I looked around to see who was there and what the food looked like. The patrons were mostly American surfer types with long sun-bleached hair and fabulous tans. There were a couple of seedy-looking men sitting alone, sipping beers. Soldiers of fortune in between wars? Dealers waiting to score? Spies? The few women mostly hung with the surfer crowd: bleached blonds in mini skirts or short-shorts and bra tops with maximum tans and fresh faces. Even the bartender was a middle-aged gringo, graying at the temples, but looking good in a light blue guayabera-style shirt and white jeans. An escaped nine-to-fiver down for a surfing holiday who never went home?
The bar was decorated in surfer regalia: a couple of boards floated under the thatch, plastic Hawaiian leis draped surfing photos, a few colorful croton plants stood in the windows, and a ceramic sculpture of a woody with boards on top sat atop the jukebox, which played every surfing hit from the 1960’s and competed with the TVs.
“Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s learning how, come on a safari with me.”
People munched piles of fries with ketchup, meat sandwiches that resembled hamburgers, and one guy even had a ballpark frank. Everything came with frijoles and rice instead of potato salad and pickles, but this was Mexico.
English cheers and boos erupted around us and Fernando squirmed. Gerardo, who had managed to find us, sucked up his third tequila slammer. He was having trouble balancing on his bar stool.
“What do you want to eat?’ I asked Fernando in a low voice.
“I love tacos,” I lied. I’d never tried real tacos in Mexico, but I was one of the lucky tourists—I could eat just about anything I wanted without getting diarrhea.
Fernando glanced at Gerardo whose head sagged almost to the bar top, grabbed my arm, spun me toward the door and ran me out into the fading sunlight. Parsley, determined that she loved this new guy, bounded at his thigh happily as he escorted me up one side of the mall and down the other in search of tacos, talking the entire time in slow, simple Spanish I could almost understand.