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I want to tell you my Café Luna story. I have tried to tell it many times but no one has ever believed me. It’s about another place of mind, in another world. The first time I told it in my native tongue, which is a slow paced Texas drawl, but it didn’t make any sense to the people in the country where I was living.
I began the story because I had come to that strange point of existence when people no longer listen to you, let alone believe what you say. You see, it’s a catastrophe that happens to all of us. We become old, and no longer have any value to be heard. It’s bad enough for the young ones to see us, but to listen, and understand us, taxes their mentality something fearsome. They become deaf to our words.
I tried to tell them about Café Luna, and what happened to me in that place and how bad things might happen to them if they didn’t do something quick. Nobody understood me. Well no wonder, no one there talked Texan. So I decided to tell it in the language of their country. Spanish. The funny thing was I discovered their words were more poetic than my words. In fact, I remember that once I started using Spanish phrases, many people would continue to listen even when I knew I was just making up bullshit
When I was three years old I saw that my life was different from other kids. It was then I discovered magic. I found it in the tip of a pencil. It could take me to secret places. For many hours, I made squiggles on yellow paper with blue lines. I went on a journey of imagination. Sometime later, a year or two maybe, I saw my big sister paint a picture of a black stallion. I remember the picture well. It was night time when she did it. She painted it under the hard light of a naked hundred watt bulb hanging from a cord off the cracked ceiling in the kitchen. It was like light from another world as that gleaming black stallion appeared on the white canvass propped up with cook books. I could feel the hot sun on that stud’s back. I could feel the wind that was blowing out his long mane and tail, and I could smell horse shit right there in the kitchen.
I was still in that magic place when something strange happened to me. My brothers and I had a game where we would a jump off a bunk bed and grab a frame at the top of a door then do a somersault and land on our feet. One day, my fingers slipped and I fell upside down on my head. After that experience I heard strange sounds and did weird things. For example, my mama’s piano began to ring like a huge church bell and I began to piss in my brothers shoes at night. The piss was always gone in the morning. It was magic. But this story is not about me pissing in my brothers shoes. No, it’s more than that.
I can hear you say already, “Why do you call this your Café Luna story?” For me it’s a metaphorical space that nurtures the transient curiosity of the perpetual artist. It is the Café Luna where I go in my imagination to feed my mind and sometimes lose my heart. It is a place as sweet as the arms of my mama and sometimes it’s ugly as the cruel bastard she loved. The Café Luna is a world where I can dance under the nocturnal miracle of the suns reflection. The irony of this game I’ve invented is I’m beginning to believe the theater of the absurd makes sense
I went there the first time when my fingers slipped from the top of the door and I fell on my head. It’s crazy to believe when we have a good experience it’s always going to repeat itself. And so it was for me that day when I jumped off from the bed thinking I would land on my feet as usual. Destiny had another plan. A small centipede was put on top of the door and when my fingers came down on it, the creature turned into grease. I lost my grip and my feet shot like skyrockets into the air and I came crashing down sticking my head into the solid hard world. I don’t remember the sound of the crash, only that the light became very brilliant. Maybe the lubricating centipede, with his small poisonous stinger was successful in finding one of my fingers. Yeah, maybe he succeeded before he died, but I do believe he was reincarnated. In fact I am sure I’ve met that centipede three more times in my life. Each time he came in a different form. One time he was a very beautiful woman. The next time he came as the entire United States Army, and then later he turned into a huge hippie festival full of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. Now, I believe he’s become the Café Luna.
The building has very antique, cracked, stucco walls, the color of faded roses. The entrance doorway is wood of mahogany, and it to is very old, split and faded. Surrounding the wood frame door are heavy terracotta molds that only partially hang on the wall. The door and mold work is the color of powder green dust. The street in front of the café is made of ancient cobblestones polished by millions of walking feet. The street is a perfect gray. The mottled colors of rose, green and gray quietly complement the loud beauty of cacophonous street music - the buses and trucks with no mufflers and people jabbering a foreign tongue.
When you enter Café Luna, there is the harmony of an amber century. Inside there is the obvious touch of a world artist, someone who has a happy love affair with light and shadow. It is the soft mixture of Dutch old master painters with a small splash of salsa. Café Luna is like many bistros that intellectuals visit between Amsterdam and San Francisco. There is the intentional placement of the tables and chairs within the rooms and spaces, with plants and artistic knick-knacks found from all around the world. It makes you feel like you have been there before.
So I began to explain what this place is. It is my crazy imagination, but I like it that way. Why you ask me? I love the idea of being able to go to any part of the world at any time. In the Café Luna this is possible, but not a simple thing for every person. In fact, it is just a little bit dangerous. The imagination is able to form real life in your mind and maybe even change into a nightmare. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go there. Stay here with me a little longer in the Café Luna. There is still more to tell you, even though there is nothing here to be sure about.
I have a little bit of fear here. There’s a huge tapestry hanging on the wall next to me. It is woven with portraits of running horses, billowing clouds, beautiful naked women, and there are mountains, rivers, forests, and wild animals. Some are half-goat, half-man, and they are dancing and singing. I am able to hear music and laughing but it is only a tapestry, only a simple tapestry.
I lift up the tapestry and look underneath, and I can see there is an opening into another room. Far off in the back corner of the room, next to a large black window, sitting between many computers with lights flashing, there are two Mayan women. But something is wrong. I look more closely at the two women and I can see they are both wearing cheap looking hairpieces, the kind of wigs that usually hang loosely on mannequins with one arm missing in funky department stores. I’m able to look very close at the Mayan women. Both wear their traditional costumes in a sloppy manner. In fact, I can see underneath their clothes, because there are so many areas exposed. I can see their skin is a luminous green. It’s almost like a light from underneath their clothes. You bet I’m surprised but no idea has come to me about what todo.
I quickly drop the tapestry and return immediately to my refuge sitting at my table in the security of my own creativity. I want to believe my place is comfortable, and that I am safe in the Café Luna. I am afraid. I want to be in my place under the moon, which is also the moon itself. I want to be here in the Café Luna where I can be together with my friends, and with the creatures I have a loved. I want the circle of my fortune and fame to return to me, the design of my mind to secure me. I want to forget the entire world and all of the noise of chaos. What ever was under the tapestry can stay there. I just want to be at my table at the Café Luna sitting on my real wooden chair.
It is only a technique, like the mental concentration it takes to ride a bicycle, or not get seasick when the ocean is furious. You must keep that rolling waltz outside your mind. One time, I was on an old cruise ship for twelve days in the middle of an Atlantic hurricane. The waves were black angry mountains. All of the other passengers were green with seasickness, but I forced in my thoughts to stay on the solid ground of another planet far away. There was only a little nausea from moment to moment, but I was the captain of my body even if my complexion was pale.
It was then I met Fidel. He was one of the passengers. He vomited from the time we went under the Verazano Bridge in New York City until in the early morning ten days later when the ship went up the moonlit ebb tide of a river estuary that took us deep into Central America, He was very annoyed because I was never sick. He had a habit of pulling on his beard and puffing cigar ashes when he was angry. “I don’t know how you don’t get sick. How you do it? Do you take pills?” Fidel said.
“No Fidel, You see I am in control of my body and its functions. Yeah, I’m the captain of this here ship and I know what to do with the crew.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Fidel acted like I was the one who was sick. He looked at me in vacuous eyes that covered his confused spite. He shook his head briefly and went outside and stood in front of my open port window and continued vomiting bitter green vile.
That’s all I remember of my voyage down the Atlantic except for the liquid mountains of death and later I heard Fidel took over some kind of island. Yeah, it takes concentration to whip the horrors of reality out of the center of your mind. Fidel should have learned that, and then he wouldn’t have thrown up so much.
Now it is necessary for me to struggle against the green Mayan women who I know are under the carpet. I think they are extraterrestrials and I know they are something rare. But I have had enough of rare things. I think these space Martians are trying to take over Café Luna. But I say no! The Café Luna is my flying ship of the soul. It is necessary for me to fight like a devil, and put these weird greenies back out in their spot in the universe where they belong. Café Luna is mine! No shoes, no shirts, no service to goddam space goons. I’ll tell them to fuck off!
My waiter is now standing at the front door with a frown wrinkling his forehead. He is the waiter that has thick glasses and he looks at you with his myopic eyes like he is half blind. Also he is the same waiter who teaches me one word of Spanish each day when I come here. Yesterday for example, he taught me a word I think means either “asshole” or “ashtray”. I had put my cigarette out in my plate, and then he slapped a half-moon tin ashtray in front of me and said very clearly, “CE-NI-CE-RO.” Maybe because he has such bad vision is why he is so sensitive to enunciating words with each syllable and consonant crisply defined. But now he’s looking at the empty chairs around my table. He’s not happy. He won’t find any money here.
This is a possible problem. My waiter is coming to my table again. He asks me if I want another cup of coffee, or if I would like a piece of melecotón cake, I answer his question vacantly, because even though I love that wonderful cake with peach and delicious chocolate, I don’t have any money. Maybe I should create a distraction and jump to my feet and announce to the entire clientele that there are extraterrestrials under the tapestry. Yeah, then there would be a giant evacuation - but wait - there might be the opposite reaction, and everyone here will think I’m crazy. Maybe the best thing to do is tell my waiter that I have three friends (naturally there are three empty chairs) who are very important and rich, and I am waiting for them. Yeah, yeah, certainly this is better to do than that other thing. But it’s also the truth. I do have three rich friends, even though they are not here with me, and even though they are assholes.
But what will I do now? I see Alfredo; my waiter is looking in my direction. It is necessary that I do something. “Pssst! Alfredo.” I’ll think of something, I know I will.
“Sí, Señor Santiago?”
“Alfredo...” I hesitate, because my heart is in my throat, then I decide to take the leap. “Alfredo, do you know what is under the tapestry.”
“Naturalmente, Señor Santiago,” This response I am not expecting.
“No, No, Alfredo, I mean do you know what is under the tapestry?”
“Sí, Señor Santiago. Our Mayan representatives are there.” Alfredo says this very confidently. Panic runs all over my mind.
“No, no, no, Alfredo, I have reason to believe they are...”
“Extraterrestrials?” He says in his perfectly enunciated manner.
“You know?” I’m sure my face has turned white and I feel seasick.
“Sí, Señor Santiago.”
Alfredo smiles and he looks at me benevolently with those myopic eyes of his. I also notice he’s got that stupid white uniform on again. Damn, I wish he would dress like waiters are supposed to dress.
“Señor Santiago, you know it is time?”
“Darn it! Is it already Alfredo?”
“Sí, Santiago, now take your cup and swallow them all. Do not put them under your tongue. You know I will catch you. And then I want you to go to your bed.”
“Oh Damn! This is no fun. Can’t we play some more Alfredo?”
“No, no, no. It is very late for you Santiago.”
1) excerpt from PARKING METERS
2) excerpt from ASSASSIN'S ANGEL
3) excerpt from THE CRYSTAL TIGHTROPE
4) short story, MASSACRE AT HAPPY VALLEY
5) short story, CAFE LUNA
6) short story, THE RIVER SONG
7) short story, TURN OF A CIRCLE
8) short story, THE BEACH HOUSE
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