How can I eat turkey without remembering Thanksgivings past, the way we went for the border, the need to escape the American style of feasting and the knowledge of his birthday coming around another year? Another reminder that he was, yes, still alive, whether he wanted to be or not. For this was true, my handsome lover, my wild trickster, my passionate man of despair, my shadow dancer, that if we didn’t get up and get going before inertia set in, it might be days in front of the TV, it might mean rooms filled with depression and the smoke of his hand rolled cigarettes, it might mean me feeling angry and stifled and ready to give up: but not yet, not yet. I could not bear another loss and especially not after such a hopeful year.
So we packed it up and ran. One year to Las Casas Grande with friends. After Michael had a nervous breakdown crossing the border in Juarez, after he switched places with Robert and sat huddled and moaning in the back seat while we held our breaths and navigated the crowded streets to the outskirts of town, we kept driving to a place that Michael insisted we explore but that we had never heard of. We arrived to Nuevo Casas Grandes late that evening and found a hotel. The first room we were offered had a strange smell. No, we wouldn’t take it. Exhausted by Michael’s weird behavior, the nerve-wracking narrow streets of Juarez, the wait in line for the car visa, and hours of driving in desert landscapes, we were nevertheless ready to try the other hotel in town. But the manager had one room left that he could offer at the same price, the Jacuzzi suite. Just like Michael to be rewarded for his petulance, his lucky star that shone despite his own resistance.
The next day, we drove through dusty roads to search for the Paquimè ruins and museum. The ancient people’s technology of providing water was fascinating. Then we drove to Mata Ortiz, to spentd hours wandering and looking at pots, made from the earth of this tiny village forgotten by time. The ancestors’ way of throwing and firing had been self-taught by an artist who then returned to teach it to everyone in the village. Both children and experienced potters made pots and every dining room table was laden with treasures.
Michael and I, he bored and not wanting to spend money unless it was on tequila and milenesa and I frustrated but determined not to let him out of my sight, walked away from our companions who were searching for Christmas presents. We asked around for a café and were directed to someone’s home, where two tables covered in oilcloth were available for tourists to have a meal. The woman cooked hamburgers and poured hot water into cups of instant Nescafè. Michael, once again receiving special attention that he thrived on, perked up enough to return to our friends, laden with packages, and drive us to the bar we had spotted on our way to the ruins.
I have a pot from that excursion that my friend Victoria gave me for Christmas. It is oval shaped, about three inches high and six inches wide. It is decorated with fish and I call it my pot of wishes. It was after meeting someone who wanted to live, who was ecstatic about life, that I knew I had to let Michael determine his own fate, that I had no right to demand he stay alive just because I was afraid of sorrow and loss. I threw in the seeds that my friend gave me from his garden and they rattle around in the empty clay pot to remind me of all I endured and from where I have come.