The next day dawned clear, bright, warm, and dry, characteristic for Mexico City, which boasts one of the most pleasant climates I can imagine. The seven thousand foot altitude offsets its location in the tropics to produce a climate much like that of San Diego, California, neither too hot nor too cold. The sky cooperated with light, decorative clouds.
Since the night before, when Adrián and I had agreed to meet, I wondered whether he would show up or not. As much as I love Mexico, Mexicans are not famous worldwide for punctuality, and with any flirtation the next day always brings reflection on whether it should go forward or not. I’ve unfortunately suffered my share of folks who decided that “not” was the better option. And most of them didn’t phone to let me know of their decision either. Would Adrián be one of those, or would more happen? Fortunately, Adrián had agreed to meet me at my hotel, just north of Reforma, near El Angél de Independencia. If he didn’t show, I wouldn’t be too much inconvenienced, though disappointed. We had agreed to meet at noon for lunch.
Fortunately, he was on time, and greeted me in the lobby with a big smile. ¡Buenos días! He was wearing a red t-shirt with an American flag on it. “Wow, what a gracious host!” I thought.
¡Buenos días! I replied. “Where do you think we should eat?” Fortunately my hotel was on a street filled with restaurants. Adrián suggested a small, posh bakery café that looked inviting.
After we had been seated and had time to peruse the menu, the waiter came to take our order. Adrián gave the waiter his order, but the waiter seemed to struggle with it. When it came time for my order, things ran downhill, and I finally had to point at the menu to show what I wanted.
“He doesn’t understand my Spanish,” I said to Adrián.
“No, the waiter is torpe (the Spanish for slow, or thick-witted),” he replied. “Your Spanish is easy to understand.”
“I did get good grades in Spanish in high school,” I said. “But it was a long time ago. I need practice.”
“Need practice” didn’t begin to describe it. My vocabulary was pretty limited, and what vocabulary I did have had a lot to do with cleaning. While in high school, I had washed dishes and bussed tables in a Northern California restaurant with a lot of Mexican employees. During summers I had cleaned dormitory rooms at Stanford, working with a Nicaraguan woman who spoke very limited English. I was fully prepared to discuss vacuum cleaners, hoses, brooms, and mops in Spanish, but only in the present tense, and only at the most basic level. How would I keep up with this enchanting young man who spoke quickly and smiled constantly in a most disarming fashion?
The food arrived. As we ate, Adrián suggested we go to see the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most sacred site in Mexico. I had already seen the entry for it in my guidebook, and it looked interesting. And given that it was a ways from my hotel, I was happy for him to be the one to show me.
“Si, me gusta.” I said. “I like it,” not knowing how to state my enthusiasm any more eloquently.
Perhaps because I had not yet been kidnapped, I still had some faith that the State Department knew what it was talking about on the subject of taxis. So I insisted we go back to my hotel to get a sitio taxi, the kind of cab attached to a hotel, restaurant, or bar. The kind of taxi you can feel comfortable won’t be the one taking you hostage. We arranged to have the taxi take us to the shrine and then pick us up later in the afternoon for the ride back.
As we drove through the city streets, Adrián and the taxi driver chatted in rapid-fire Spanish, only a few words of which I could follow. He also chatted to me more slowly, and snuggled against me in the seat.
“Worse things could happen to a guy,” I thought as we arrived.
As it turned out, we had an amazing day. I was wowed by the beauty of the site, and the beauty of the various churches that had been built to honor the Virgin, seven in all. It also fascinated me to see the history of the shrine, and in a fountain built into the side of the hill, a mixture of Christian figures and the pre-Hispanic feathered serpent. And despite the language barrier, Adrián and I managed to communicate, and more importantly, we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. We chuckled at little jokes we made, enjoyed the same parts of the site, and just felt comfortable together.
This was clearly turning into more than just showing me around, and I was eager to see what might come next.