© Copyright 2012 by Zach Lindsey
After a year in Mexico City, Julieta just did not give money to vagrants, no matter how pitiful their condition.
But outside the Rising Sun there was a man who had been in Nueva Lapuerta since she was a teenager who had lost both his legs on the train in Veracruz. The cops knew he was illegal but no one was cold enough to send him back. Sometimes they extorted him, but never sent him home.
Every morning he sold El Diario and El Centro and she bought those blood-drenched Mexican periodicals with no intention of reading a word or even daring to look at their gory covers.
She liked that he tried—sat on damp cardboard and smiled and moved using his hands. In her memory all the beggars of DF had all their faculties and yet still threatened and cursed if she didn't give them 10 pesos when she only had 20. But here on the border Juan Lago sold his newspapers sad-eyed but smiling, so she bought one that morning and unlocked the bar while he said, “What are you doing, Julieta? You should be in bed with that thing.”
“David doesn't bring home the money, so someone has to,” she said without looking over at him, just fumbling with the five locks.
“You keep dancing and the baby will fall right out of you.”
“Juanito, you know I 'm just teaching the girls. I don't dance anymore.”
She got the locks open but he said, “Why bother?” That stopped her.
“In Mexico City every month the Moiseyev Corps would come through. Now that Nueva Lapuerta is bigger I think we’re ready for that kind of thing. But I want the girls who are interested to know what they’re seeing.”
“What’s a Moiseyev?”
“Oh, a famous Russian ballet corp.”
“Ah, Julieta, Julieta, Nueva Lapuerta will never be ready for something like that no matter how big this damned city is.”
Julieta folded her arm over her chest. They rested on her belly. She looked down at Juan through big eyelashes and wide eyes like a character in an art deco painting, and she clucked her tongue like a hen.
“Why do YOU bother?” she said.
“Suicide is a sin,” he said, without a moment’s thought, or the appearance of sarcasm.
“Yes. There’s that, too.”
“How about you teach me to dance?” He lifted himself up on his hands and shook in a way that would’ve struck her as grotesque if she wasn’t so familiar with him.
“I don’t think you’d look so good in a tutu, Juanito.”
She walked inside the bar and turned the lights on.
One by one or two at a time the girls arrived like they did every other day in the summer and they changed and giggled in fits in the girl's bathroom of Nueva Lapuerta's oldest bar, which had been started by a couple from New Orleans in much better times than this but had ended up in her boyfriend's hands some time before they stared dating while she was away at University.
The girls lined up and quit giggling because even at 23 she was a feared teacher when she needed to be, and they all understood that that they were there for a reason.
Seasons don't matter much in Nueva Lapuerta. The heat is always somewhat sticky, and the young dancers took water breaks but couldn't stop the sweat from forming wet on their foreheads and staining the underarms of their outfits.
Julieta wanted to dance with them, and felt frustrated that she couldn't. She even tied on her ballet shoes before every class, but all she could do were the warm-up stretches.
She drank her water and watched, though, and thought how wonderful it is that her son or daughter, whichever it would be, was absorbing through the lining of her uterus the adagios and rhythmic practice pieces that she played over the Rising Sun's speaker systems.
She divided the dancers into three levels, each watched over by an older girl. All three danced to the same music, but danced different steps. They all wanted to learn modern, but first you need foundations.
She leaned forward in her chair and called to Irina Mondragón to hold her position so she could twist her left foot forward. But as she stood up, a man walked into the bar. Her eyes took long to adjust. First she noticed he was fairly overweight in a simple green polo shirt and jeans. Then she saw his face. He wasn't physically very ugly but his mouth had an aggressive hook to it that frightened her.
“Get me a Pacifico.”
“We're closed,” she said.
“Isn't this the Rising Sun?”
“Yes, but the bar is closed.”
He began walking toward her. The girls had all stopped dancing and abandoned their positions. They stood rigid and watched him advance.
“And isn't it owned by David Navarro who lives at Independencia 144 in Colonia Guerrero?”
“Yes,” she said. “But we're closed.”
He did not stop walking. Closer and closer. In front of her he was massive. She was short anyway, and he was tall.
Less than a foot from her, he stopped, looked first at her belly, then at her breasts, and she shied at the feeling of his breath on her face.
“And you're pregnant?”
She paused for a moment and her courage slunk away.
Back to her eyes. He met her and held her with a look that was a choke hold and she felt as though she were asphyxiating.
“You are lucky for that.” And he walked away.
She didn't move; didn't breathe until he left the bar. It wasn't until the door slammed behind him that she could hear the music again. She turned to the girls, who were all still.
“OK. Well. What are you waiting for?”
They started their steps again, but everything was different, weaker, meaningless. She sat down at the bar and took a deep drink of water and wished she could drink tequila again and said, “Irina, watch your damn foot or you're going to break your ankle.”
Two days later she went to the Rising Sun at 9:30 a.m. and didn't say hello to Juan just walked inside and sat there and waited until a few minutes before 11 but not a single student showed up.
And at 11 when the class should have been ending, she said to the empty bar, “Well, so much for Moiseyev.”
And then she cried.Zach Lindsey is an American author and journalist. Formerly a U.S.-Mexico border correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, he currently works for the Express-Times in Easton, Pennsylvania. He’s the author of one novel and an editor for Atheist Alliance International. More of his projects can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/closeandfaraway.
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