Some days here feel like they last a week, so full they are of dense mini-chapters. Yesterday was such a day.
The night before, I had begun watching a documentary called "Dirty Money," the first episode of which recounts the story of Wells Fargo's fraudulent practices that came to light in 2016.
Watching the show, I remembered that while I had closed my WF account years ago, I had re-opened a small one last year in order to facilitate an online transaction that I could not make happen with my credit union.
I made a mental note to close my account in the morning and transfer the $500 that had been sitting there.
Except that the $500 was mostly gone.
Two withdrawals and a string of monthly fees for being under the limit had emptied my account.
The first thing I thought was how amazing that I had watched the show and been alerted to get into that account. The last withdrawal was only two weeks old.
Anyhoo, that felt all kinds of weird, especially that my email and phone number had been changed on the account.
I got on the phone and was passed around, put on hold and finally decided to shelf the whole thing until Monday and instead redirect my energy to getting lunch for the guys at the house, in the same process treating all three of us to a bowl of local goat birria at a palapa-covered roadside restaurant.
So off we went, ordered four portions to go, and sat down to the traditional dish of stewed meat and tortillas.
Being a bit weirded out by the bank situation, I was grateful that there were no goats bleating on the other side of the fence of the restaurant. That always unsettles me, knowing that I'm eating their friends right in front of them.
As often when it comes to meat, I liked the experience more than the food and Lila ate most of my food from under the table. The passion fruit water for delish, though.
As a big group of people arrived to eat, I talked about how strong men bonds seemed to be, over here. Something different than in the States and even different than in Italy where you will see straight men kissing and touching each other affectionately. This is another flavor, one that has made me feel excluded a few times, one that I file under my "may never fully understand" mental folder.
Loaded with two big containers of stew, fresh tortillas, and salsa, we made our way to the land.
We got out of the car and I called out "Birria!" to a strangely non-receptive group. Rigo was up on the roof welding the end of a beam, Anselmo was doing something, Jorge was gone and Catarino was under the shade, dressed as though he was going out, not building a house.
I told him: "Hey, I have birria, you hungry?" Catarino is hugely hungry.
"Not really" was his answer.
Something in his eyes was turned off and there was no hint of the trademark style.
Before I could ask, he said to me "my cousin got murdered."
Something in me was shocked, something in me was not surprised. Something in me knew that my instant tears were inappropriate, too.
I heard pieces about "he had just returned from the States, he had young kids, I am not sure what problems he was into, he was left there, two people ran away..."
The birria sat, a bunch of goat meat suspended in broth while his words floated in the air.
The other two men were working, a couple of the unstoppable jokes flying between them and when we left a while later I knew once more how much there is that I will never understand and yet how much more I understand than I did a year ago. What would have been pure shock and a slew of questions last year had made a place for a maroon-color ache that said: "this too, is living here. And you know it. And you are choosing it."
We passed Jorge on the way back and an hour later he texted me to say that they were taking Cata to his uncle's house and would be back in the morning.
Why all four of them had to go, I don't know. I felt petty even wondering. And even though it has been a choppy week attendance-wise, my heart felt glad knowing he had his guys friends with him, the people he shares most of his waking hours with. His tribe.
Back home I decided to try and resolve the bank situation in the time I had before going to the water meeting. I needed to fix something and that seemed like a good focus.
It took a couple of hours, some dropped calls, a lot of holding time, not settling for half solutions, and finally, minutes before I had to leave, a man named Kevin threw enough focus at it that this morning most of the money is back in my account. Which I will close as soon as I get the fees back.
Then it was time to go to the water meeting.
A bit earlier, not knowing what to expect (I knew this was not going to be any standard HOA meeting), I had wondered if maybe I should bring something. Would it be like a potluck? Would everyone bring something but me? Would I be the only one bringing something? What should I wear?
In the end, I got in my car and made my way there.
I was tired. My heart hurt. The bank thing semi resolved still left me feeling violated. Not being stunned by the news of Catarino's cousin did not take away the horror, the knowing.
And now, this.
This movie-like scene.
Picture a group of maybe 20 people standing in a circle in the middle of a dusty road, at sunset. Some are leaning on motorcycles, a puppy really wants to play fetch and I am the only white person.
Anytime a truck goes by, the circle splits then reshapes. I am thanking my angels for not having brought a fruit salad or cookies - yet my orange shawl feels too fancy.
Jose Luis leads the meeting and I am aware once again that I still don't fully get him. His girlfriend is by his side, young and strong, and nodding at his words. Their home, which includes seven beautifully crafted rental units and an upcoming swimming pool is by far the fanciest in the area. He speaks of neighbors, of community, of joining forces. He is a natural-born politician, eloquent, knowledgeable, and connected. Powerful, possibly.
The words are flying fast and I am trying to hang on to most of them.
Independence from the government and their utilities.
There is enough water for 30 houses (or was it 300?) right there.
"The man said so."
Every time he says a version of "the man said so," both his arms move towards his chin in a strong gesture I don't recognize. I vow to pay more attention the next time it happens.
And that's when I understand.
A few weeks back, I had heard Anselmo talk about digging a well near my house, on the land which happens to be not-all-that-close to Jose Luis' house, his "colonia." "But how would we know if there is water?" I had asked. "Oh you just call the man." he had answered, shrugging. The man. At the time I had let it go, not ready to tackle the idea of digging a well.
And now, this. The man again.
The man had been called to Jose Luis' and his neighbors' colonia and he had shown up and he had found water. Using a stick. A stick that had jumped so hard and strong (the gesture that was replayed and I had not understood) that there was no doubt water was there, and a lot of it.
No one in the group had blinked at this. No one.
The conversation had simply moved to the logistics, led by Jose Luis who had gracefully created a committee right there on the dusty spot and was orchestrating this thing which could solve many people's primary problem about living there. WATER.
He talked about the potential cost (3000 pesos a meter), how to divide it. The woman on my left wanted to know how the people who didn't contribute were going to be kept out. She asked that several times.
All this in a circle, in the dust, as the sun set. A movie.
A few times, Jose Luis turned to me to check if I was following. I nodded. He also turned to me when acknowledging a few other people in the group who live in my colonia, a short drive up the road and past two river beds, a two-minute drive but a distance which seemed challenging for water to get to, really climb to.
I became aware that there were two populations attending: the people who live close to the future well, and us, up the road.
A woman from my area spoke up and said that our neighborhood had very little community organization, unlike this one. She mentioned the situation with the electricity, and then mentioned Ofelia, the beautiful road warrior lady I had met just a few days ago. She was the organizer. Since Ofelia had invited me to this meeting, I was wondering why she was not there and was glad when she arrived towards the end, riding her badass four-wheeler, her dog running by her side.
In the end, things were left at: The man is coming Monday. Whoever wants to be part of this, please show up ready to put down some money. The well could be built in two days, then we need to get together and build a cistern.
I walked back to my car as people gathered post-meeting to talk. I did not feel ready to insert myself and am hoping they will add me to the Whatsapp group.
I am not sure what happens next for me. The water seems like a secondary issue to the electricity as I can easily (albeit somewhat expensively) get it delivered. Getting water to climb to our area sounds challenging but I am staying wide open about it.
From what I am learning about this place, things tend to move very fast - or not at all.
I went to bed without dinner and watched more "Dirty Money."
Today is a new day.
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