June 2007: Mexico City & Love!

June 2007        Mexico Ciy

Dear gentlefolk,

Okay, I can admit it now, I’m in love. No, no, not the usual techno-lust —although after having lugged a heavy “laptop” to and from the Archives – 45 minutes each way – daily, I am looking seriously (read drooling) at ultralights.

This is real love, misty-eyed sweet love.

Not chocolate, carnitas and huaraches and enchiladas and moles [pronounced mo-lays]; limones, mangos. Ah well, maybe passion for all those, yes. Sometimes a burning passion if the salsa is too picante.

Not the Talavera pottery, too many pieces of which now ride in the Dodge Caravan, snugly comfortable (uh, David would say stuffed) among our dirty laundry. Pottery: that’s a hankering that I easily let myself indulge in.

His name is Brián [pronounced bree-ahn]. His curly close cropped dark hair is a joy to ruffle, and his eyes, sooo soulful.

This is a devotion that I can’t explain, but I can tell how it happened.  It all began one typical afternoon in DF, in the Colonia Escandón. We’d run out of bananas and mangos and oranges (for my freshly-squeezed morning juices), so I sauntered out to the frutería a block away. The señora there and I often had nice conversations, and she no longer looked at me oddly when I brought my bags back in each time to fill with fruit (recycling of plastic is interpreted differently here, but that’s another story). 

Every time I went to the frutería, I passed by a salón de belleza and the beautician inside seemed very capable and as I watched clients enter and leave, they seemed improved and happy with the results. Well, girlie that I am, I had been thinking my hair looked a little downcast, and I had always thought a manicure might be fun, and once I had spoken to someone who had regular pedicures, and she described them as a beauty and spiritual must.

Well, temptation and seduction both played a part I suppose, and then there was the set of special beauty offers for the week, all prices less than ½ of what one might pay in an American salon. We’re talking a small, working-neighborhood salon: 2 chairs (2 for customers, the other for the beauty expert), 1 mirror, 1 sink.

So, I took a deep breath and entered.  The young beautician has a wonderful smile, an engaging way about her and, within minutes we were tu-teando, that is, using the familiar forms of address with each other, no stand-offish polite official forms. Her name is Pili (short for Pilar, a popular Hispanic name for women). It was if we had been friends for a long time and she took one look at me and said, “Linda, your hair looks like a sponge. Let’s make it natural. I’ve got the perfect thing for you. Curls, yes, but not like a brillo pad. Your hands and feet are a mess! You’ve never had a pedicure? A manicure either? Well, we’ll fix that.”

She had me sit down, take off my rings and sandals; meanwhile, she organized towels, and bowls, and ingredients, and before I could take a deep breath, my feet were immersed with gels and salts in a tub of vibrating warm water. She started working on my hands (if you’re expecting heavy technical vocabulary beyond terms like nail files and clippers, well don’t worry. I got all the Spanish words, but since I don’t have any English/Anglo experience in these things, I have no corresponding translations).

Okay, hands dipped in waters with salts, nail file handy, and then we hear a noise at the salon’s glass door. Ah, my first glimpse of Brián, whose nose was right up to the glass, eyes curiously looking, and, with only a second’s hesitation, right into the salon. Pili and he seemed to be old friends. But she had no time for him as she was busy repairing what’s left of my cuticles, so I thought I’d greet, “Hola” (always a good start). But Brián was looking at me a little warily – something I’m kinda used to as a blonde/white-haired obviously not-from-around-here sort of person. So I say a few more things, the usual, “what’s your name?” and “do you come here often?” Pili nodded encouragingly at us both as I tried to start a conversation. “It’s okay, Brián, just sit down right there.” But Brián didn’t sit down at first, walking around the entire room, checking everything out, walking on both sides of me, checking out my soaking feet. Then he nudged my bag of fruit out of the way and sat on the chair next to me.

“Who are you,” he asked; and then without waiting for an answer, continued for about 5 minutes with a running stream of commentary, questions, and observations. “Why is your hair that color?” Are you getting your fingers done? It’s a manicure and Pili does them all the time. And are your feet cold in that water?” And so forth. Gentle, inquiring, concerned questions. Loved it. He wanted to practice his English with me a little, but we found that to be difficult, so back to Spanish. He took a close careful look at my hands and tsked over a couple of ugly nails. He checked out the salts that Pili was using, and then went off for a few minutes to run an errand.

Pili explained that he often stopped by and was so sweet (I had already deduced that), and, no, she didn’t mind at all that he got involved with the clients.  Brián returned shortly and stayed with us, puttering around the salon and listening to the music and generally continuing to ask questions. “Where do you live? … But you’re not from here? …. Ah, from the United States, where? What’s the weather like there? … No, I’ve never seen snow. … What do you like about Mexico City? … What do you miss there?........” And I realized that more than an hour had passed. I was more than intrigued; I was enjoying the heck out the conversation.

Ah, but then it was time to choose the nail polish color. I expected that I wanted clear (I’ve never been too happy with my nails and don’t like to draw attention to them). Well, Brián would have nothing of it. He wanted us to consider the possibilities. He brought out every single color and we discussed pros and cons:  He placed the polish bottles next to my hands, then next to my arms, next to my eyes. Ah, no, coral will not do: too drastic; the dark reds are very “in,” now, but not for you, too harsh; the pale pink, um, maybe. Oh, you don’t like pink? Well, then, another possibility? You were considering purple? Purple?  Please, not good, not good at all.  Finally, we (that’s Brián and I; Pili had long given up interjecting ideas) had it down to 2 possibilities, and I was so amazed at his understanding and ideas, I just closed my eyes and let him choose. Five minutes later I opened them to see 10 sparkling fingernails painted with glitter-filled clear polish and what are called “French points” (which is a line of white across the tip of each finger). It looked so elegant, and I thanked him profusely.

Another hour and a half passed in lots of conversation, nibbling cookies and talking about school and learning. And meanwhile, Pili and I continued conversing as well. She’s 19 years old and already runs her own shop, after 2½ years of training and other salon experiences. And soon she hopes to go to her home state of Hidalgo, to a smaller town to open up another shop. She has great ideas.

It was a great time, almost like a party --  I was getting my feet massaged, cleaned, scraped, and taken care of as well.  When it came time to look at colors for my toenails, sure enough, there was Brián, judging, considering. What color of clothes do I generally wear? He began looking a variety of possibilities, pushing me to consider more risqué/risky ones. He took 2 bottles at a time, lifting each one up separately to his eyes for me to judge. It was like a game and we all 3 had to stop to laugh. Again, while I absolutely refused the dark crimson polish, the other 2 candidates were for Brián to narrow down.

I entered the salón at 5:30 on a Wednesday afternoon tired after a day at the Archives and a little hesitant about “having my nails done.” I left at 8:30 pm with a smile, feeling totally refreshed, with 2 new friends, and glowing glittering nails.  And an appointment for the next day to get a hair permanent. Would Brián stop by? Absolutely!  [By the time I got home that Wednesday, I found David worried that I had gotten lost!, and eating a mango to console himself.]

Well, to make a long story short, indeed on Thursday, we three were laughing, eating, and making fun of me with my hair up in a different kind of special curlers for permanents. It took Pili 2 hours to roll my hair up; then about 45 minutes of solutions and rinses, and then another 30 minutes to undo my hair. Brián was in stitiches looking at me with all the curlers, but he also wanted to know if they hurt, was I comfortable, was I tired (poor Pili was the one doing all the work). But then, before it was all done, Brián had to leave for another errand. But I promised to stop by and show him the next day.

Friday afternoon, I walked down the street where the salón de belleza is, and Brián indeed was there waiting. I gave him a picture of daughter Abby in Kingston snow so he’ll know a little bit of what it’s like, and he sighed wistfully and wishes aloud that he could actually see & touch it in person.  I wondered to myself, if only he could come to Kingston, he’d love the adventure.

Ah, but his mom says that as a six-year-old, Brián still has to stay at home and go to school.

Sigh, he is so wonderful…..