Sunday, 25 July 2010

comida corrida

The narrow street ascends steeply, bordered by white walls that make it impossible to see the houses and apartments beyond. The space is further constrained by stubby green trees offering shade and cool in the summer. Argo is happy to have the shade, even though it is winter. He is not used to the weather yet.

He sees a chalkboard sign marked with a price and advertising comida corrida, meal of the day: chiles relenos, rice and beans and a coffee. There is no indication of the name of the place but he guesses this must be the one described to him. He peers into the dark hallway of the open gate, there is a small courtyard beyond vegetation-filtered light dances invitingly and so he steps inside, rehearsing the little Spanish he knows in preparation for ordering.

A woman, middle-aged, barrel-shaped, steps from a doorway and points him towards an empty table. There are several people eating already, mostly alone. A warm breeze carries a scent of cumin and fade again. Argo sits, accepting the laminated, grubby menu from the woman's hand. It simply repeats the chalkboard menu and Argo points and says please.

"Algo mas?" The woman says.

"Agua." He replies.

The bottle of water is brought out with a shout to the kitchen. Instinctively, prompted by reading guidebooks, he checks the seal on the bottle is still intact. A hummingbird falls through the courtyard and starts to dart around the falling pattern of red flowers tied to the wall.

Everything seems to come alive; a contentment unlike any other he has known seems to fill him, pouring through every cell of his body, dripping from his skin, splashing and pooling around him into the world. This is not his place, he realises. He is watching it from the outside but he is here, waiting for a three dollar meal in a Mexico he has never seen before.

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