Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spanish Word of the Day: Mesero

Most of my favorite waiters have hit the skids. I was thinking about them yesterday as I walked the beach.

The first time I met Carlito (who said his name was Charlie) he gave presents to my friend and I. Turns out Charlie did that a lot, giving presents of wood carvings, baskets, boxes covered in shells. He was a pretty good actor, miming parts of his conversation when trying to get his point across to us non-Spanish speakers. And he was very on top of things when our Margarita Monday got out of control.

One day Charlie showed up at my door with a sad story. (I didn't put too much energy into wondering how he knew where I lived.) His daughter was in the hospital in Hermosillo. She'd been hit by a car in front of school and he needed money to pay for her leg brace. Of course I would help but I couldn't give him much and he said that was okay, he was grateful for anything.

Turns out that was total b.s. When I asked the other meseros about Charlie they said he no longer worked there, that he had no wife and no kids. I saw Charlie not too long after that. He was on the pier with a puppy. He didn't look at all like the vibrant waiter who gave us presents.

Little Juan hit bottom hard. A handsome kid with a pretty wife who seemed way more sophisticated than he, when he left his waiter job he did odd jobs for some of us at the trailer park but mostly he worked as a diver. I saw him on the beach one evening and I nearly didn't recognize him. He was drunk, crying, his eyes swollen. "Muchos problemas," was all he said. Not too long after that his wife beat him up, kicked him out of the house, then got a restraining order against him so that he couldn't even see his kids.

Around that time things were disappearing from the park. One night as I sat at the computer, door wide open, someone cut the screen in the kitchen window, reached in - their hand only a foot or two from where I was sitting - and took the notebook off my kitchen counter. I was oblivious to the whole thing until I wondered where my notebook was. The next morning I found it outside the kitchen window on the top of the ladder the pinche ladrone had used to reach the window. He must've thought the notebook was a purse. Small items were missing from my porch - scissors, sunglasses, Bic lighter. I never felt threatened. I thought maybe it was someone I knew.

Jesus who had the greatest smile had been deported from the U.S. after a stint in prison. I knew he wouldn't make it in Kino. There's nothing for an L.A. boy to do here but get a girl pregnant, which he did. His smile faded, he got very thin, then he quit his waiter job and moved to Calle Doce. I can't imagine what he does there to make money. Work in the fields? Process shrimp? Maybe he moved on to Hermosillo. Maybe he deals drugs.

It breaks my heart. The downward spiral happens quickly in a town like this, a town without much in the way of work options. A town where a lot of people still live without electricity and running water, who live with too many kids and not enough food. And yet there are those who manage to live quasi-middle class lives. They work at the hardware store or they own the bakery, the flower shop, the meat store. But for the rest, for the young men and women, their futures are bright only if they can get to a big city. And without money, even that is out of reach.

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