Jo got back in the car, trying to avoid Micah’s alert brown eyes. She was thinking of Angel, of how much they had in common. Angel used to recite poems from Lorca’s “A Poet in New York” from memory, then translate them for her. After listening to the music of the original, Jo had always been amazed at how angry the poems seemed in English, how horrible and strange the city sounded. Angel said he’d never been there, but she now thought she understood why the work had such importance for him. It was a way of coping. A way of fighting for oneself amid forces at best indifferent, and more often antagonistic to one’s very being.
“Have you ever been to New York City?” Jo asked.
“I have a brother who lives there. At least, I think he still does. His wife was stabbed in a mugging a few years back, and when she died he bonded with her parents. They kind of adopted him, and I don’t hear from him anymore. It’s like he’s got this new life.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Isn’t that something? His wife dies but it’s me that’s left alone.”
They began to pick up speed, and coarse brown bushes burst by Jo’s window. “What about your parents?” she asked.
“My parents stopped talking to me a long time ago.”
“Oh.” They’d never spoken about Micah’s personal life, and Jo felt suddenly as though she’d crossed a line. “Well, it didn’t go very well,” she said, changing the subject.
“That’s about how I was interpreting your silence.” “Jack is… well, I think he misses me.”
“Really? That’ll be useful.”
When they reached Arivaca, they passed the Inn and headed east up West 5th Street. It was being decorated for the Busk Ceremony. Outsized papier-mâché crops were tied to the unused telephone poles and hung like they were there to teach bad crops a lesson. Look what happens, they seemed to be saying, if you don’t produce! They parked in front of Maker’s Market and Micah got out, disappeared into the store and emerged a minute later with a bottle of tequila and a six-pack of Negro Modello. Two horses were tied up to a metal bar running along the front of the store, and as Micah passed they flinched. How strange, Jo thought, that such majestic animals could be so skittish, as if they had the souls of small birds. The close one, mottled black and brown, turned his big head to the side and eyed Micah warily as he climbed into the car.
“They don’t like you,” Jo said.
“Are you kidding? Horses love me.”
Micah backed the car out.
“So what did Jack say, exactly? Is he coming tonight?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Yes.” Jo expected to be wrong, but it didn’t matter. Whatever passed privately between her and Jack didn’t have to reflect poorly on her efforts. Why implicate herself? If he didn’t show up, if he didn’t cooperate, well, he clearly had his own reasons.
“Did you tell him what we wanted?”
“We didn’t get that far.”
“Don’t worry, Jo, you did the best you could,” Micah said, and pointed the car back down West 5th. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
He was being uncomfortably understanding. He actually began to whistle.
It was nearing dusk when they reached the hotel, and Micah brought chairs out front to the small cement patio, along with two opened beers. He handed one to Jo, who shook her head at first, then took it. The cold, recycled glass was sweating and the label came off in her hand. The fluorescent light above their heads was dim and buzzed softly, and they sat for a while in silence, feeling the air grow cooler. Within an hour they’d have to put on a layer or go inside, and Jo wished for time to slow.
Presently a man and a boy dressed in white suits walked slowly by, singing. The man played an accordion covered with mother of pearl and the boy carried a small matching snare drum. The song was plaintive, slow, and all the man’s notes seemed to bend over and sway, as if staggering under the weight of his words. The boy ran over and held out his hand, grinning, and Micah dug in his pocket for some change. Seeing this, the man nodded and sang a little louder, as if recharged, and the boy flashed his white teeth again before joining his partner and continuing down the street.
“He was singing a corrido,” said Micah. “It was about his brother who lives on the other side of the Wall. He said he wished they’d both die so they could be together again.”
“That’s terrible,” Jo said, sipping her beer. Then she said, “I wouldn’t take you for a sympathizer.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong,” Micah said. “I think we live in sad times.”
They listened as the drumming stopped again for a few seconds, the boy no doubt courting another sympathetic stranger, and Micah leaned back in his chair and toed the sandy white cement with the tips of his dusty black cowboy boots.
After a few minutes of silence, Micah put down his empty bottle and opened another. “So how’d Jack get that Border Run! thing off the ground, anyway? I was looking at it while you were with him and I gotta say it’s a pretty impressive operation.”
Jo hesitated. She was irritated by Micah’s casual attempts at conversation. She felt stiff and awkward, and had it not been for the beer—she hadn’t eaten because of her nerves—she would likely have been nearly unable to speak. But she did speak, and once she began, pushed into her memory as though running for cover.
“What you’re seeing down there wasn’t really what he’d had in mind, originally.” “Which was…”
“Which was an educational stop. A center for the history of the border. He even made a trip to DC to speak with the Director of the Advisory Council of Historic something or other. He tried to argue that his idea would be—”
“It would satisfy their interests and contribute to the public good.”
Saying this, Jack stepped from the shadows of a neighboring building as if from a curse, and ambled across the lot toward them. Jo tried quickly to remember what she’d spoken out loud to Micah while they’d been sitting there, and what she’d only thought to herself. Micah, seemingly un-phased, stood up and held out his hand.
“It’s an honor to meet you, friend.”