Dinner and a Swat Team

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”

Joan Didion wrote that, it’s the first line in the The White Album. I admire Didion’s writing, her spare prose, permeated with insight in the guise of simple introspection. I hope someday to write something as clean and acute as she. But, neither is my way so I will weave my way through this story.

 Dinner and a Swat Team

On the other side of our small town that lies in the foot hills of the Sierra Madre, a four-year-old girl is having nightmares, she dreams of armed and masked men. She has begun to wet the bed. She is afraid in the daylight, afraid of shadows, she is afraid to be alone. Her father comes to my house and beckons to our houseguest, a practitioner of Santeria*, to come heal her. He visits the girl in the morning before he and Felipe go off to work; he leaves before daylight, before coffee. Three days into the girl’s treatment I am told her tale.

EnramadaOne week before a trip to the US to renew my Visa, Felipe and I were enjoying dinner. It was a special meal, we had wine, and we got out the fancy glasses. We try to have a few nice meals together before I travel. Suddenly, so suddenly the dogs didn’t even have a chance to erupt into the usual cacophony, our patio filled with soldiers bearing arms, some of them wearing facemasks, snipers. They wear masks because as executioners they don’t want their identity known. Our reaction was, and here is the shocking part, casual. Felipe and I looked at each other, shook our heads and laughed at little.

The captain emerged and asked for Felipe’s papers, he went into the house to retrieve them. I was now sitting in my enramada, a nine by five meter area enclosed by six-foot high chain-link fencing with approximately 15 armed men and exactly 2 snipers. I smiled at them. It was a genuine smile. It seemed like a good idea to be congenial with a sniper. One of them was wearing glasses, I thought how odd, a sharpshooter with corrective lenses. Felipe emerged with his papers, as the soldiers searched our garden. I pondered whether the garden search was prompted by information that the last time the military had visited our land there were two marijuana plants in our garden. Felipe’s Mother asked us to grow it for her, she uses it in her arthritis remedy* and was concerned about growing it in town. Continue reading