Part Two: The Tavern
Part Two: The Tavern
The calendar? Now. The geography? Any corner of the world.
You don’t quite know why, but you are walking hand in hand with a little girl. You are about to ask her where you are going when you pass in front of a huge tavern. It has a large illuminated sign like a movie theater marquee that reads: “History with a capital ‘H’: Café-bar” and below that, “No women, children, indigenous people, unemployed, people of other genders [otroas], elderly persons, migrants, or other useless people allowed.” A white hand has added: “In this place, Black Lives do not matter[i].” A male hand has scrawled, “Women allowed if they act like men.” Outside the doors of the establishment are heaped cadavers of women of all ages and, judging by their tattered clothes, of all social classes, too. You and the little girl pause, resigned. You peek in the door and see a commotion of men and women, all with masculine mannerisms. A man is standing on the bar with a baseball bat, swinging it threateningly in all directions. The crowd inside is clearly divided: one side is applauding while the other side boos. All of them are drunk, flushed, with furious gazes and drool dripping down their chins.
A man whom you presume is the doorman approaches you and asks:
“You want to come in? You can choose whichever side you like. You want to cheer or boo? It doesn’t matter which you choose, we guarantee you’ll get a lot of followers, likes, thumbs up and applause. You’ll become famous if you come up with something clever, whether in favor or against. And even if you’re not very smart, all you have to do is be loud. It doesn’t matter whether what you say is true or false as long as you make a lot of noise.”
You consider the offer. It sounds attractive, especially now that no one follows you, not even a dog.
“Is it dangerous?” you ask timidly.
The bouncer reassures you: “Not at all, here impunity reigns. Look at the guy who’s up to bat. He says whatever stupid thing and some people applaud him while others criticize him with further idiocies. When he finishes, someone else will take their turn. I already told you that you don’t have to be smart. In fact, here intelligence is an obstacle. Come on in! This is how you forget about all the illnesses, the catastrophes, the misery, the government’s lies, and tomorrow itself. Here, reality doesn’t really matter. What matters is whatever is trendy today.”
You ask: “And what are they debating?”
“Oh, any old thing. Both sides are focused on frivolities and superficialities. Creativity’s not their thing, if you know what I mean,” the bouncer responds as he shoots a fearful glance toward the top of the building.
The girl follows his gaze and points at the top of the building, where you can see a whole floor made of mirrored glass. “And those people up there, are they for or against?” she asks.
“Oh no,” responds the man, and adds in a whisper, “Those are the bar owners. They don’t have to show their faces at all, everyone simply obeys them.”
Outside, further down the path, you see a group of people who, you assume, were not interested in entering the tavern and continued on their way. Another group leaves the establishment with obvious annoyance, murmuring, “It’s impossible to make any sense in there,” and “Instead of ‘History’ it should be called ‘Hysteria.’” They laugh as they walk away.
The girl glances at you. You hesitate…
She tells you, “You can stay here or continue on. Just take responsibility for your decision. Freedom isn’t just the ability to decide what to do and do it. It’s also taking responsibility for what you do and for the decisions you make.”
Still undecided, you ask the girl, “And you, where are you going?”
“Home, to my town,” she says, extending her little hands towards the horizon as if to say, “to the world.”
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
It’s Mexico, 2020, December, hours before daybreak. It’s cold and the full moon is watching with surprise as the mountains pull themselves together, pick up their naguas[ii] and slowly, very slowly, begin to walk.
From the Notebook of the Cat-Dog: Esperanza tells Defensa about her dream
“So I’m asleep and I’m dreaming. I know for sure I’m dreaming because I’m asleep. And I see that I’m very far away. There are women and men and others [otroas] who are very other. That is, I don’t know them. They’re speaking a language I don’t know. They are of many colors and have different customs and they’re making quite the racket. They sing and dance, they talk, they argue, they cry and laugh. And nothing I’m seeing is familiar. There are buildings big and small. There are trees and plants similar to the ones that grow here, but different. The food is very other. I mean, everything is very weird. But the strangest thing is that I don’t know why or how, but I know that I’m at home.”
Esperanza waits in silence. Defensa Zapatista finishes taking notes in her notebook, stares at Esperanza for a few seconds and then asks her, “Do you know how to swim?”
I bear witness.
[i] English in original.
[ii] Traditional indigenous skirt or dress.