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Getting to Know Houston


We woke up in Houston this morning, esconced between the high rises and the grey sky reflected in the glass. It’s warmer and more humid than Austin, but the same feeling of ample, open spaces remains. The same feeling of being able to expand into the wide, flat terrain, once desert, now asphalt, concrete and glass with patches of green and yellow wildflowers blooming from last week’s rain. Large trucks and sports utility vehicles share the road with clean, well-lit buses, trains and the humans and cool air-conditioned cars wait at the light. It’s all so orderly it alienates me in its silence.

Texas is the West although it feels like the border of all things to me – desert and marsh, pioneer and settlement, American and Mexican, order and disorder, modern and throwback, blue and red, us and y’all. This morning we got Brad’s passport. The doors are open again to the world outside Texas. But Texas itself is an open door, it’s just a matter of deciding to walk through. It’s an open door back to Guatemala, down the rabbit hole and into entropy, it implodes in itself everyday. But somehow as Brad plots his return – dog and truck in tow – my heart sinks to leave it, as if it were a relinquishing, a surrender of sorts, a giving up. I am always there when I’m not, mired in the wet soil of the banana fields where mi tio roams freely between the tall corn husks and the African palm and green banana. He talks out loud, the fields his companion along his timeless journey where as a schizophrenic he never left.

As we wait for the bus, I hear the silence again, that deep quiet of order that I always find in the United States. The birds don’t sing as loudly, the camionetas don’t rumble, the ayudante doesn’t swing himself from door singing “GUATE!” the dogs don’t bark from the rooftops and church bells sleep in a permanent secular hush. Cars blast hip-hop at the streetlights and gourmet marijuana smoke wafts near. There’s the regular chime of the metro train, but’s quiet in between. No one talks, no one is smiling, no morning greeting (buenos días, Doña Blanca) and there’s a small sphere of private space surrounding each person. Things don’t just hang out loosely and unthreaded. The narrative is in the quiet of predictable things and its stillness. I write at the bus stop and wait. There is an older man with a black felt pork pie hat and thick gray moustache waiting next to me at the bus stop whistling. I offer my seat, he smiles and reassures me that it’s OK. He tilts his hat. On his shirt is a picture of San Salvador, a distant beach, and the caption: ¿Te recuerdas? Do you remember?

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