The Plumbing is Out to Get Me!

leaky-faucet-290Dateline: at the junction of two leaky pipes.

I’ve discovered the secret purpose of the various bits of infrastructure in my apartment here in Mexico City: it’s to make me look like a fool. This only dawned on me yesterday, but the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I’m right. And I’m feeling pretty foolish right about now. Circumstances are making me look bad. Not merely bad, but kind of high-maintenance, whiny bad. If you’re a guy who considers himself pretty handy around the house, this isn’t a good thing.

By infrastructure, I really mean plumbing and electricity. Shockingly, electricity was the first to ambush me. Shortly after moving in, the power went out early one morning. Noting that the electricity was on elsewhere in the building, I went to the breaker box to reset it. It didn’t appear to have been tripped, but I flipped the switch anyway. Nothing happened. I tried a couple of more times, again with the same result. So I broke down and called Rafael, my landlord and explained the situation. He came out in his pajamas, flipped the circuit breaker on and off once, and Lo! There was electricity. I was mortified and apologized while simultaneously re-explaining that I had done the very same thing.

Some months later, after more power failures, and some alarming sizzling sounds coming from the breaker box, we found out what the problem was. The circuit breaker itself had a loose connection inside the box. Once replaced, it has worked fine ever since. Though I was indeed vindicated, the fact of the matter is that impressions of idiocy don’t really wear off that fast. Especially when they keep getting refreshed.

So once the electricity left off tormenting me, the plumbing took over. Take the water supply, for example. In my apartment it stops with alarming regularity. Of course it’s the typical, failure-prone Mexican system, where water slowly flows from the city pipes into a cistern under the patio. From there it’s pumped up to a tinaco on the roof from where it flows leisurely into the pipes via gravity. The whole setup runs on electricity and a set of cantankerous float valves, electrical sensors, and relays, all of which suffer from the same “Transylvanian” maintenance schedule. Which is to say that they are replaced or serviced only after they fail. Of course when there’s no electricity, the whole system runs on borrowed time anyway.

Only a few weeks after my electrical run-in, the water stopped and I called Rafael: “I don’t have any water.”

“Don’t worry; the system is back on. You should have water in 20 minutes,” he replied confidently. I was relieved he was already onto the problem. Twenty minutes later, I tried the faucets.  No water. I merely heard a gentle sucking sound. The system was pulling in air as water somewhere below me flowed out. I tried all the faucets. Same result. I waited another five minutes and tried again. Same result again. So I went downstairs to talk to Rafael, who happened to be in his shop.

“It’s working,” he insisted.

“No, it’s not,” I replied. “I just tried it before I came down here. There’s no water.”

“Let me show you,” he said, walking toward the sink in his shop. He turned the valve and to my horror, water flowed out exuberantly.

“Yeah,” I said, “but that’s just water that’s already in the pipes. There’s no water in my apartment.”

“It’s fine,” he insisted. “Go back and check it again.” Meanwhile the water kept flowing out of the faucet. I could feel my embarrassment rising and hoped I wasn’t blushing.

Sure enough, I returned to my apartment and the water flowed almost as if nothing had happened. I felt foolish and could almost hear the pipes quietly snickering to themselves, “foolish gringo, hahaha!” It’s nasty when plumbing makes fun of you,  but I figured this was to be my last insult. After all, how many times can this kind of weird, intermittent problem occur? And to me, who normally has such good mechanical Karma?

Ah, if only! Recently, my toilet flush valve started leaking. Intermittently, of course. Again I notified Rafael, who sent up his handyman, Arturo. Since I couldn’t see anything wrong with the valve, I persuaded myself and Arturo that the problem was the flush handle getting stuck against the tank lid. He duly replaced it. That was about six weeks ago. But it turns out that wasn’t the problem. So Arturo came back and looked again, and we both decided it really must be the valve. I felt rather foolish at having misdiagnosed the problem initially, but Arturo was too polite to comment. But he did go buy a valve. Meanwhile, actually installing the valve seems to have fallen by the wayside, and guess what? Now the toilet appeared to have fixed itself. But don’t tell anyone as they still think the valve needs to be replaced, and my plumbing credibility is hanging by a thread.

Oh, and I had an intermittent problem with the hot water too. Like in the middle of a shower, suddenly the hot water would slow to a trickle. Mind you, the cold still worked fine. That was such a weird problem even I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. Later, after my cold shower, I’d check the hot water and it’d be fine again. But now when I told Rafael, he didn’t believe me. “Maybe the hot water doesn’t like you,” he said, chuckling. It took me a week of hot/cold/hot showers to persuade him that I wasn’t imagining this problem. When he finally looked into it, he apologized and said I was right. That particular problem now seems to be fixed.

Then about a month ago, my shower started leaking. Not a lot, but definitely leaking. So, figuring I’d give Rafael all the facts and let him decide what to do, I stuck a bucket under it to measure the flow and then sent Rafael an e-mail: “my shower is leaking about 1.5 liters a day. I personally don’t really care if you fix it or not, but I’m letting you know.” I never heard back from him, figured he didn’t care about a small leak, so I resigned myself to a leaky shower.

Since I don’t particularly like to waste water, I left the bucket under the leak and started to use it to flush the toilet. But the sound of the dripping water began to annoy me, especially as the bucket in the shower stall created an odd sort of resonance, making the sound MUCH louder than anyone might imagine. And then, perhaps fortunately, the shower began to leak in earnest earlier this week. Now it was leaking 3 liters an hour, and even using the captured water to flush the toilet, a lot of it was ending up going down the drain. So this time I messaged Rafael on WhatsApp, and he agreed to send Arturo around on Monday.

So what’s happened since? Yesterday the shower fixed itself, and now it’s not leaking at all.

As for me, I’m busy looking for a hole to crawl into.

I Am a Vampire

¡Bite Me!

My Mexican Buddy

Dateline: An EnCRYPTed Part of the City

I am a vampire. I’m sure this is something you never suspected, and of course, I’ve never given you any reason to be suspicious either. Because I’m really good at passing. But I can’t take living a lie any more, and Mexico City has proven surprisingly supportive of my true nature. I’ve decided that it’s time to come out of the casket and live my life openly as the blood-sucking immortal that I really am.

Well, ok, I exaggerate. I’m really only half-vampire. You see, my father is a vampire, while my mother is mortal. So as I’m fond of telling my Mexican friends, I can take the sunlight, but not very much. When I’m out and about in Mexico City, I wear sunblock and a wide-brimmed hat, and I cling to the shadows. In fact, I always cross the street to get to the shadowy side, even if that means I have to cross back again to get to where I’m going. I seldom go out at high noon, and I try to avoid the sun as much as possible. When I go out to exercise, I jog wearing a wide-brimmed hat and dark sunglasses. It’s a bit of an odd sight, but it beats being reduced to a pile of ash on the sidewalk.

There are other challenges, too. This is a very catholic country, and there’s a church seemingly on every other block, festooned with crosses. I’m usually ok if I don’t touch them, but I have to confess they give me heartburn whenever I walk by. People think I’m crossing myself, but I’m really just gagging. It’s better if I’m wearing sunglasses, but being only half-vampire, I can look at them from a distance, though my vampire friends warn me about getting too close.

Caption

It’s buried deep underground for a reason

The real problem here is all the crucifixes people wear. And I’m not just referring to the availability of fresh blood. It’s ok when you can see the crucifix and steer clear. But lots of times people wear them under their clothes. And that’s where the trouble starts. Last Thursday I decided to go to the Centro Histórico at rush hour. Bad idea. The metro was mobbed. And wouldn’t you know it? I ended up in a car, pressed up against someone whom I can only assume was wearing a crucifix under his shirt. The burning sensation was excruciating. I kept trying to pull away, but I could only get little breathers before the person pressed up against me again. I nearly fainted. Fortunately I got off the train before things got really ugly, but I’ve still got a nasty burn mark on my left arm. Remind me to just turn into a bat and fly next time.

Crosses and crucifixes aren’t the only problem, at least for a half-vampire. Since I’m not a full vampire, I don’t strictly need to drink the blood of mortals, though it’s refreshing when I do. But I try to keep it to a minimum. Peer pressure from hanging out mostly with humans? Who knows? Mainly I survive on regular human food. When in restaurants ordering meat, that’s when my true nature starts to really show, especially here. In the USA, you can order a rare steak, and no one blinks an eye. Here in Mexico, nearly everyone cooks meat really well done. So I spend a lot of time explaining to waiters that I want my meat rare, just seared, nearly raw. I usually explain this in great detail, in a slightly fanatic tone of voice, saying I’d like the center to be a bit bloody. Then I repeat my order and instructions, with my best vampire smile, revealing just enough fang to show that I really mean it.

El Gringo Suelto had Vampire Orthodontia in his 40's

Rare! I’m not kidding!

Usually I’m met with incredulous stares. Most waiters simply refuse to believe me. Rare meat! Say it isn’t so! Not possible! Just bring him the usual! But when I send overdone meat back to the kitchen, they start to suspect that maybe there is something more than a little odd about this deathly pale foreigner with his sharp teeth and a taste for something just a little bloody.

Perfectly Cooked!

Perfectly Cooked!

As for my Mexican friends, they’re totally cool, and make the drawbacks worth it. They’ve seen my fangs, noticed my habits of avoiding the sun, and politely overlook my bloody steaks. Due to my ambiguous accent, many guess that I’m from Eastern Europe anyway. And of course when I talk fondly of Transylvania, you can see the light bulbs going off in their heads. Fortunately, they have all been very accepting. Indeed it’s become something of a running joke with Luis, my new flame. He’s very vampire-positive, and I love that about him.

Where I live is the perfect place for a vampire. Well, except for the lack of a moat and towers, which might draw unwanted attention. The house is pretty old. But more importantly, the maintenance is a little, uh, “Transylvanian.” So the doors creak VERY mysteriously when opened. And when visitors come (never to leave), I have to go downstairs, cross the patio, and open an enormous, old, creaky front door to the street. The last time Luis came to visit, I didn’t hold back. I descended, unlatched the lock, stood invisibly behind the door and let it swing slowly open with a long, drawn-out creak. As he entered, I leapt out of the shadows, grabbed him, and kissed his neck.

He greeted me with laughter and a big smile. He knows I won’t eat him (though I occasionally do nibble) and he’s one of the biggest supporters of my “vampire-ness.” He’s also a big part of the reason I feel I can come out in the open now. Heck, everyone here has been very supportive. Most of my friends know, and they’re all incredibly cool. I could never do this at home; Boston has much less tolerance for the undead or semi-undead. Here? There’s much more of a “live-and-let-live-forever” attitude. As a foreigner in Mexico, you really get an amazing amount of freedom and leeway, no matter how eccentric you are. It’s a perfect place for a half-breed vampire who can survive the light of day.

I might just stay here for eternity.

The Mysterious Stranger

Mysterious Stranger_MG_2671Dateline: Colonia Roma Sur on a Sunny Afternoon

“Hey! Remember me?” I’m walking down the sidewalk in my barrio, not far from home, taking a little break from my daily routine. A young man stands looking at me.

“I’m the son of the carpenter. Remember me? Diego.” Now I’ve stopped, and I’m puzzled and looking at the guy closely. He’s about 24, 5’6”or so, dark, reasonably good-looking in a somewhat tough kind of way, someone I think I’d remember. “You remember, I’m the son of the carpenter who installed the floor and built the closet.”

Now I’m even more puzzled. There’s been some (very) minor plumbing work done on my apartment by Arturo, my landlord’s handyman, but this guy doesn’t look anything like Arturo. And the closet and floor were already there and haven’t been touched since I moved in. And I know all the folks who have been around here doing other stuff. This guy wasn’t one of them. “Closet? Floor? Uh, I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” I reply.

“He also did the tar job on the roof.”

“You mean next door?” I ask, remembering that the neighbor had his roof recently re-tarred. But I’m starting to wonder about this guy’s memory, as I seriously have no clue as to who he is. And why would he care who I was if his dad was working next door?

“Yeah, next door. That one.” There were indeed some guys working on the roof next door about six weeks ago. But this young man wasn’t one of them, and neither of the roof workers were old enough to have a son this guy’s age.

“What street was that on?” I asked. The guy paused. “I don’t think I’m who you think I am,” I added. “What street was the work on?” The bar to answering this particular answer was pretty low, as we were about a half block from my street and all the guy would have to do was point down the block. But he had no answer.

“What was the street where all this work took place?” I asked again. The guy said nothing and started to back away. “What street?” I repeated. Now he turned and walked across the street without another word and then disappeared. And that was it.

I’m not sure what it means, though I wonder if it wasn’t the opening act for some kind of scam. I was looking even more like a foreigner than usual that day, dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, sandals, a panama hat, and sunglasses. Definitely not a local. And I don’t normally forget 24-year old Mexican guys, especially ones who look like him.

In fact, I’m certain I’ve never met the guy. And I’m equally sure he’s not gay and trying to pick me up. If it was a scam, what might it have been? And if not, what was he after?

These are just some of the small mysteries of living in this country.

Mexico’s Other Internal War

_MG_2248 Virgen de Guadalupe

Please Protect Us

Dateline: In the War Zone of Mexico City

There’s a war going on here. A battle in the streets. You may not have heard of it. Sadly, it’s been going on for years now, so it’s not really newsworthy any more. Oh, sure, the occasional outrage beyond the normal course of battle may well get a couple of lines on page D-11 of the local papers. I know I’ve read a story or two about a particularly gory dumping of remains here and there. But pretty much the conflict has faded into the background, with everyone resigned to this war as just one of the facts of living in Mexico City. The capitalinos are resilient bunch, if nothing else. And foreigners had better just adapt if they want to live here.

Perhaps more shockingly, this battle isn’t limited to some fringe areas like the infamous Tepito, some random, informally-settled hillside at the edge of town, or in some other marginal neighborhoods. Nope. This battle is being fought in some of the poshest areas of town. Reforma itself, Mexico City’s “Champs d’Elysées,” is the site of near-constant conflict. And skirmishes regularly break out in places like public parks, plazas, the leafy Boulevard Álvaro Obregón, Condesa, and yes, even in Polanco. The tourists complain about it, but the locals just shrug. In fact, most don’t even notice.

But this is not to say that the city is just accepting this state of affairs. No. The government of Mexico City has hired literally thousands of warriors to fight this battle. And the city shows no signs of wearying in its attempt to impose order on the streets. To their credit, they’ve got an impressive force. Thousands and thousands of these agents patrol the streets, armed with traditional, but sturdy weapons. And despite their archaic look, at least to Gringos, these sturdy weapons are more than up to the task of waging the battle, however inefficiently. Moreover the city has heavier equipment that it deploys when the battle grows intense, as well as a number of fixed installations, though not enough, and too small and weak to really control much territory.

Undaunted Warrior

Undaunted Warrior

But as the history of this war too clearly shows, it’s a war of attrition, with victory far from a foregone conclusion for either side. Though the city’s warriors are well-equipped for battle, adequately trained, fully backed by the force of law, and willing to fight, the fact of the matter is that they are vastly outnumbered by the superior, if lazier, millions on the other side.

Victory! At Least For Now

Victory! At Least For Now

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of combatants on the dark side who are tiring of the battle and would like to come clean, literally. And interestingly, their fellow combatants haven’t taken any reprisals against these turncoats. Perhaps because the forces of darkness are almost endless? Perhaps because they accept a certain level of attrition? Who knows? But there’s seemingly little to no downside to escaping from a life of grime.

Sadly, the city hasn’t made it easy for the turncoats to come clean. Oh sure, any strong-willed person could easily cross over to the good side, just as some people can simply quite smoking. But for most it’s tough, and recidivism runs high. And maybe that’s just the nature of things, that this battle will rage on eternally. Personally, I’m praying for peace.

I refer, of course, to the battle against litter and trash. Simply put, I seriously doubt there’s a city in North America with a lower ratio of public trash cans to population anywhere. Take the Plaza de Los Insurgentes, crossed by literally millions of people a day. It’s the size of a football field and always full of people. Yet there is not a single public trash can. Not a one. I’ve repeatedly scoured the place, and I can assure you. Elsewhere? On street corners? Nope. In other plazas? Nope. Along busy pedestrian streets? ¡No mames, güey!* Mostly this is a trash-can-free city, though there are a few exceptions.

Soldier Overwhelmed

Midget Soldier, Overwhelmed

Sure, there are a few places with public trash cans, like along Reforma or in parts of the Centro Histórico. But they’re almost laughable, tiny little things, the child soldiers of this particular war, unfit for the battles that await them. Like two office wastebaskets, joined at the hip and hiked up a small pole with a small opening, they are somehow meant to contain the trash of several hundred thousand pedestrians before they overflow. And that’s when the bins themselves aren’t completely missing, leaving only the poles behind, an all-too-common occurrence. Unfortunately there are too many of these “walking wounded” soldiers around town. It’s a disquieting sight.

Wounded Child Soldier

Wounded Child Soldier

So it’s likely this battle will continue to rage on, with the city’s army of trash sweepers, equipped with their Harry-Potter brooms on one side, and the millions of trash-dropping combatants on the other side. Those of us who simply wish to put trash in its place are stuck in the middle of this combat zone while the battle rages on.

But Where? Where, oh Where?

But Where? Where, oh where are these places to drop trash?

For now, the city is winning through sheer perseverance, but tomorrow is another day. As for me? I’m doing my part, but it’s a daily struggle.


* Chilango-speak for “You’re shitting me!” or “No Way!”

Update From an Alternate Universe – Cupcake Love

Cupcake Strawberry-Red-Velvet-Cupcakes Low ResDateline: At the intersection of cupcakes and puppy love.

My problem is that I think I understand people. And maybe I understand Americans of a certain class and background and age, but that may be the extent of it. Or maybe Mexicans really are just as confusing and unpredictable as their country. But I can’t really get my mind around that one either because all of my genuine friends who are Mexican, including my ex BF “F,” are understandable within my established mental framework. And I also have perfectly–understandable friends who are British, one girlfriend who’s Italian (sort of; her mother is my neighbor in Boston), and I’ve had plenty of Asian friends in San Francisco. Sure, these folks aren’t open books, but they seem understandable and predictable. More or less.

Maybe my problem here is a generational thing layered on top of the cultural thing. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been dating younger guys. In fact, I’ve been dating guys who are ridiculously younger. So much younger that I’m a little uncomfortable writing about them here. But before you decide that I’m some kind of child molester who’s operating just over the line, as it were, consider a few factors.

First, my ideal guy would be close to my own age. Sadly, most of the guys my own age are overweight and out of shape and that’s a complete “buzz kill” for me. I can still fit into clothes I had in high school, and while staying trim requires some effort, it seems to be worth it. Two I’ve gotten to an age where my contemporaries are slowing down. They get tired. They want to take the elevator. They aren’t interested in walking four kilometers across town because the bus is full. But if I can find a 50-something guy with my energy level and fitness, he’d be ideal. Now, in all fairness, such men exist, but I’m sure a lot of them are already taken. I certainly was for a long time.

So the next best thing would be to meet a guy in his latest possible thirties or mid-40s. Alas, those guys are a pretty rare find, often already have boyfriends, or are too tied up in their careers or whatever to have time to date.

So enter the twinks, the twenty-somethings, the young fellows who want to explore the world and have new experiences. Here in Mexico in general, there’s a lot less age segregation than there is in the USA. Go to any Mexican party, and you’ll likely find people ranging in ages from teens to grandparents, all hanging out together, and all pretty much acting like they’re at the same party, e.g., not being totally clustered into age-specific groups. That’s one of the things I really like about Mexico since I think the USA is way too age-segregated and way too age-fixated. In fact, if you are a gay guy trying to meet someone online in the USA, the first question almost always is “how old are you?” It’s not, “are you cute?” “Are you in shape?” “Are you bald,” or whatever. It’s about age.

But here in Mexico, it’s positively shocking how many really young guys (mid-20’s ish) not only have no problem with the idea of dating an older guy, but a lot of them seem to prefer it. And I’ve discussed this at length with at least one very good Mexican friend who sees the same thing in his city. And this is part of what makes dating in Mexico City feel like such an “Alternate Universe,” at least to me. I’m being hit up by really young, super-cute guys all the time. Oh, and demographically, there just are a lot more of them here too. (And no, Felipe, the vast majority are NOT looking for money, as you’ll come to appreciate.)

So I joined an online service to meet guys. No, it’s not exactly a “find-your-forever-soulmate” kind of service. It’s really more of a hook-up service, but in one’s profile, one can indicate that one is looking for something besides random sex. And it’s popular, so you’ll have some folks to choose from. And besides, I don’t really know of any other service here with much currency. So be it.

Last Thursday, a very handsome young man hit me up. “Hi, Handsome” he wrote me in English. “How are you? I like your profile. I’d love to go out with you. What do you say? 😊

I looked up his profile. It didn’t say much, but what it did say, it said in English: “White Latino twink with daddy issues.” And he’s 23 years old. Yikes!

“Thank you. You’re really handsome,” I replied (in Spanish now). “But why would you want to go out with an old man like me?”

“Old man? I see a cool guy who’s understanding, interesting and handsome,” he replied.

“Thank you,” I said. “Did you read my profile? I’m 54 years old.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“OK, fine. Where do you live?” I asked.

“Aragón [just north of the airport]. But right now I’m in Condesa [very near to me] and on my way to UNAM.” (quite a ways south of here.)

“What’s your name? My name is Kim.”

“Alfredo”

“So are you a student?”

“Yes, French language and literature. Today I’m going to school, but I’ll be free after five. What are you doing today?”

We chatted a bit in French. I used to be fairly fluent, but frankly have forgotten most of it. Worse, I now tend to throw Spanish into it, but with a French accent. Fatal.

“So can we see each other in the afternoon?” he asked.

“Where are you thinking?” I said, “You’re super-cute, but your age is frightening me a bit.”

“We could go to a café,” he suggested, “We can just chat today so I don’t scare you. ;-)”

We chatted some more and then he suggested we meet at six at Metrobús Amores, which is right across the street from “Tacos Joven.” Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Metrobús Amores. Next stop heartbreak hotel.

Metrobús Amores. Next stop heartbreak hotel.

Frankly, I’m not sure what possessed me. Normally if I’ve met a guy online, I like to chat with him for a few days just to make sure that he’s not a total flake, that he’s still interested, that I’m actually interested in him, etc. But for some reason, I decided to meet up with Alfredo right away. Maybe because it was Friday and I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and felt at loose ends. Maybe because he really was extraordinarily cute. Maybe because he speaks French. Who knows? In any case, I fell for it and agreed to meet him.

This being Mexico, the meet-up didn’t go totally flawlessly, and I deserve part of the blame for giving him a vague answer about where and when we’d meet. But we finally met up, and he was just as cute, perhaps cuter in person than in his photos. For those of you who’ve done online dating, you know how rare this is. So when we met, I felt rather nervous, and I think he did too. Since it was later than we had originally intended, we ended up going for some quesadillas at a place near my house.

And we chatted and chatted and chatted. It turns out he’s interested in a lot of stuff, and had originally wanted to be an architect and did 3 years of architecture at UNAM before deciding to switch to French language and literature. He reminded me a LOT of myself and the guys I ran with at that age, most of them Stanford students, all of us fancying ourselves witty, urbane raconteurs, with a dash of dandy thrown in for good measure.

After we ate, we decided to do a bit of an architectural tour of my neighborhood, so we walked around and around, still the conversation flowing like water. After an hour of this, I was getting a little tired of walking, so I suggested we go back to my house for a glass of wine. He was amenable.

But still, I was feeling determined that I wasn’t going to let this go any farther than a platonic date, conversation and then a nice goodbye. But once we settled into my sofa, he just kept edging toward me, and I edged away. But he kept coming closer and closer, and finally, I ran out of sofa and just kind of gave up. Or gave in. Or whatever it is you do when you totally lose your resolve to be a good boy and just let yourself go.

We spent the night together locked in a warm embrace. Every time I would edge away, he crept closer and hugged me again. And surprisingly, I even slept reasonably well. The next morning I made him scrambled eggs and fruit, while he showered, and then he went off to work at the cupcake bakery near my house.

The following week passed fairly uneventfully. We swapped a few texts, but not many as he’s very busy with school and doesn’t seem to have a data plan. We arranged to have dinner on Thursday night, and I said I’d cook something for him. He said he’d be at my house around eight. “What kind of food do you like?” I asked.

“Something vegetarian?” he suggested.

“Sure,” I said thinking I’d make him my own variant of ratatouille, which also has green olives and capers. And I’d serve it alongside the basmati rice a friend had managed to score for me at Costco.

Thursday arrived. I decided to give the apartment a thorough cleaning. As the afternoon drew to a close, I set the table the best I could. (The apartment isn’t really furnished with much in the way of tableware, though there are a couple of decent placemats.) Then I cooked the ratatouille and the rice. Eight o’clock rolled around. Nothing. Eight fifteen. Still nothing. Eight thirty. “Ay! Where is this boy?” I thought. In my book, standing up someone who’s cooking you dinner is about the single rudest thing I can think of. I texted my Dear American Friend, who lives in town. “This is why I don’t want to date 20-somethings!!! I thought I left all this nonsense behind years ago. I’ve sent him WhatsApp messages, SMS messages, and even called his phone, but he’s incommunicado. I hate this!” DAF was comforting, but really couldn’t do much.

By eight forty-five, I was heartbroken and starving. I poured myself a glass of red wine and started to eat. Not three minutes into my meal, the phone jingled, and there was a WhatsApp from Alfredo, “I’m so sorry. I’ve had a horrible day. Remind me of your address. I’ll be right over.”

I half considered ignoring his text and nipping the bud of this little affair. But in the end, I really wanted to see him again, and decided to give him a chance. Especially as we had only set the time as “around eight.” Ten minutes later he showed up, beading from having walked as fast as he could from where he texted me to my apartment. And I was delighted to see him and he was forgiven.

Over dinner we discussed his day, my day, French existentialism and the absurdist playwrights of the era. I’m a big fan of Ionesco, and it turns out he is too. He praised my cooking, and loved the wine. We laughed and had a lot of fun. And again he ended up spending the night, and it was just as sweet as the first, maybe sweeter.

Friday morning after he left, I was on cloud nine. Yeah, he’s certainly young, but goodness! So well read and conversationally capable. I started to fantasize. Maybe we really could bridge the age gap. Maybe he really does want a daddy, and maybe I can play that role. I sent him a smushy text, “Hey handsome, it was a pleasure waking up at your side, hugging you with the memories of last night fresh in my mind. And now that you’ve gone, your presence lingers in the apartment lightly reminding me of how much I want to see you again. I send you a hug and kisses. Saludos.”

No answer. Well, ok, he’s busy with school and doesn’t have a data plan. And he told me that the wifi at school basically had too many people on it to work properly. No matter. I don’t want to rush anything either. And it was Friday and I had work to do, so that was that. Still, I could hardly stop thinking about him. I had gone to see a penthouse for sale the afternoon of his first visit. Now I was fantasizing about the two of us living there together on the 11th floor in a totally chic style with a marvelous vista of the twinkling lights of the city. I fantasized about bringing my convertible down from Boston and driving him around with the top down, the wind tousling our hair. In fact, there was virtually no ridiculous fantasy I didn’t have.

The next day, Saturday, he still hadn’t answered my text and I began to wonder. Surely he had gone home and been able to use his own wifi, no? Or he’d have gone to work and connected there? Why hadn’t he answered me? Was something wrong? I started to feel a little bit anxious. But I occupied myself with stuff around the house. By the afternoon, I thought, “I have to see him. I’m dying to see him.” He had mentioned that he worked at a cupcake bakery near my house and I think he said I could stop by any time and see him. So I set out to do just that.

I walked past the cupcake bakery, and there was Alfredo. But he wasn’t working, he was sitting at a table chatting with some other young guy. “Oh, God!” I thought. “Kim, you really shouldn’t be doing this. If he wants to communicate with you, he will. Just go home and pretend you never had this idea.” I kept walking and passed the bakery. Alfredo hadn’t seen me.

Just as I was continuing down the block, a dear old gay friend from business school with close ties to Mexico City texted me. I explained my predicament. “And he describes himself as a “white Latino twink with daddy issues.”

My friend urged me to go back to the bakery and “take control.”

“If he’s into daddies, he wants you to be a take-charge kind of guy,” my friend said.

“Well, I suppose wimping out isn’t exactly being a take-charge kind of daddy, is it?” I texted.

“No. Go in there and be a man.”

“Ok, wish me luck,” I texted back with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t feel like a take-charge daddy. In fact, I felt like I was back in high school, a nervous seventeen year-old trying to figure out how this dating thing really worked.

But against my better judgment, and seeking what was probably inappropriate resolution to the situation, I went back to the bakery anyway. As I crossed the threshold, there was Alfredo. “Hola, qué tal?” I said. Instantly I knew I had done the wrong thing.

He said “Hola” back, but he did so as if I were a stranger that had just casually said “hi.” So I totally played it cool. I went to the counter and ordered a cupcake and a cup of ginger tea. Since the place was small, I had little choice of seat, and I still held out the ridiculous hope that maybe this was going to work. So I sat at the next table across from Alfredo. But I whipped out my cell phone and texted my gay friend from business school and explained the situation. Alfredo and his friend continued talking. Was this his boyfriend? (I never think to ask, but I should.) Why else wouldn’t Alfredo introduce me? Or at least act like he kind of knew me? My business school friend and I discussed the situation, but no obvious solution to the problem came to mind. Save for a time machine that might carry me back fifteen minutes in time so I could just avoid the whole ridiculous situation. And with every passing minute I was feeling more and more like a high-school boy and less and less like some kind of “take-charge daddy.”

After about ten minutes, Alfredo and his friend got up to leave. The friend left first, and Alfredo hung back to talk to me. “Did you get my message?” I asked. A look of confusion passed over his face. “What message?”

“The message I sent you Thursday after you left my apartment.” I said, thinking, “Oh god, this is just getting worse and worse.” All daddy-like thoughts vanished from my mind, and I started to feel like maybe I had regressed to junior high instead of merely to the age of 17.

“Oh, right, yeah. I got it. Thanks! Have a nice day. I’ll see you around.” Alfredo left.

Besides humiliated, I was totally confused. My mind raced, and I said to myself, “This guy spent two nights with you. He looked at you with passion in his eyes. He hugged you all night long. What just happened? Have I really become so completely incapable of reading people?” I finished my tea, left, and walked home slowly. Dejected. Depressed.

I didn’t want to care about this. After all, I had just known Alfredo for a week. He was too young for me. I was fully aware of that. And he had just demonstrated exactly why he was too young for me. But I couldn’t help myself. I was crushed, and despite all of the emotional work I’ve done in the past year or two, I spent the rest of the afternoon in a funk. I called friends and whined. I texted my Dear American Friend here who has some experience dating younger Mexican guys.

He chided me. “You shouldn’t have gone there. You shouldn’t be spying on him. You really brought this on yourself. I’m not trying to be mean. I want to support you, but that’s the truth.”

“I know, you’re right.” I messaged back. “But it still hurts.”

But foolish hope never dies, right? “Surely he’ll text me when he gets home,” I thought. Sunday arrived. No text. Monday arrived. No text. Nothing. Radio silence. Monday afternoon arrived. Still nothing. But fortunately, Dear American Friend was scheduled to come to dinner at my place Monday night so I could whine to him in person. When he got to my place, DAF said I should never get my hopes up about such a boy, they always flake out in the end, even the seemingly smart, educated ones. And besides, the city was literally full of such fellows. “We are the rare birds here. Just keep that in mind. There’s tens of thousands of them and only a couple dozen of us.”

I knew he was right. And I knew that in any case, Alfredo was really too young, would always be so, and besides, I really barely knew him. After a lovely dinner, Dear American Friend left, and I washed up.

Just before I went to bed, the following message arrived from Alfredo: “Hi beautiful. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your message sooner. I really liked your message from Thursday. And I felt like I missed you more after seeing you. And I also really want to apologize for not talking more to you that day in the bakery, but I didn’t feel very good because that day I quit that job. I hope you’re well and I hope to see you soon. I’m sending you a kiss, handsome.” 😘

So that message arrived last night. I’ve read and reread it a dozen times today. And I still don’t know what to do. I’m sure you can see the holes in the story. And yet, he said he wants to see me.

I’m in the Twilight Zone. And I’m not sure there’s any escape.