I was walking up Calzada de la Republica, sweating in my dirty clothes, when I saw an older woman mid-pike off the curb, heading for a facial makeover in the filthy street. There was traffic on its way and she was now sitting up in the middle of the street facing the wrong direction. I ran over. “I slipped on some dog shit,” she said to me in Spanish.
Her large, heavy shopping bag had spilled two paper-wrapped packages from the tortilleria. I extended a hand and attempted to pull her up but her hand refused to let go of her bag. Strange logistics, but finally she reached her feet. I grabbed her tortillas and put them on top of her bag and handed it to her.
“What does that one mean?” she said, pointing and trying to parse the mystery behind one of my tattoos.
“Are you going to be okay?” I said.
Another woman came up and collected some more items that had spilled from her bag and stuffed them on top of the shopping bag.
“I slipped on some dog shit,” she said.
“Actually,” I said. “I think you slipped on people shit.” It was too large and casually perched on the edge of the curb to be the work of one of the neighborhood callejeros.
I suspected the old man who lived in the park across the street.
He slept sitting up with a sheet over his head and asked people to bring him food. I’d watched him for months now since he moved in and had never seen him actually lying down. I wondered about the quality of his circulation. I brought him half of a tlyudita once and he told me to put it under the bench and come back with more.
I’m watching him now while I eat jalapenos from a can. It’s pouring and he’s somehow erected overhead, what looks like a sail, a huge piece of something that’s flapping in the wet wind.
Was this the man responsible for the thin orange graffiti that kept popping up on the buildings in the neighborhood? Its author obviously lacks a steady hand. Most of the slogans are complaints about there not being enough food available. Obviously, there is a similar lack of toilet facilities, though he hasn’t made an issue of this yet.