El Nuevo Sombrero
By Simon Barget
Every moment but there is no moment; I wanted to die. When the sun recoils from a looped grey sky, the day elided and trembling ghosts, and the streets vacate and not even the cant of speech left audible. Death all over. The drowning man, a smothered windpipe, always there, always will be. Beneath the bleating pulse, beneath the angst, alarm, beneath the cowl of relations, beneath pale sun, anthracite reigns. Peace. A clarity, sharp beyond words. The relief of the peaks against the obdurate sky. I have wanted to kill part or all. Change face, family, name, and voice. When was I born? Thoughts thought into being, a reflection in glass, what you really can’t touch. How am I here? A smile, a show of something. Reaching or being reached to. Self and other. The spirit. A sensible wall, an enclosure. I have wanted to be irredeemably alone, free and faultless. Drawn into sumptuous dreams. I have wanted to know, because it’s the only way through. The funnel, the vacuum, hauled through the mangle. The relief from the must-do. Choicelessness as bliss. This is not the reality. Wake up! This is just coasting. The heart beat quickens, the heart soon stops. Wanting our death. How it comes to pass. To be locked in by convenience, strung by a thread, headless, directed, inane, inert.
El Nuevo Sombrero is a sprawling place where scant locals gather and the weddings aren’t on, and the bar is stocked and the tables are set, and the napkin holders hold their thin triangular napkins, and just a few chatty people linger on high-backed wooden chairs, people you’ll never fathom, and everyone’s gone for the day and the sun goes down round the unprotected pool you could walk straight into in your full set of clothes, and it’s impossible to know who’d ever stay at this place, this cattle ranch, this crumbling cowshed with ochre paint peeling not a stone’s throw from the airport, because you don’t see anyone beside those on the high-backed chairs and further back there’s a football pitch, a conference room and oh so much space behind where your room is, space you won’t get to grips with and suddenly it’s seven and it’s half-dark and the high-backed chair people have made their way home and the big wheeled gate is closing and the thing’s shutting down, the pulse is gone and there’s no outside world, it’s seven and there’s not a soul unless you go right into the reception chamber and go right up to the desk and go right up over the high counter to see the figure of the receptionist way down in a footstool unaware of who you are or feigning unawareness until you venture a pointed buenos noches to make yourself known.
He takes me to a stall down the road. Pollo I say, but he keeps asking me what I want. Pollo, arroz, what’s the deal here. Is that what he wants? What’s he angling for? I don’t know Spanish but he’s like a battering ram. Why, what how? Twenty-one, works every night at the Nuevo Sombrero, goes to school in the morning. Joining the Policia. I’ve never worked in my life. Oh how he has clocked me. And what does she do, my sister? Not working either. He’s listening, paying attention. I feel him watching me, stumbling over the road side. The chicken is a whole chicken, a whole flat side slapped on the foam container. I scatter the rice all over the floor and the table back at the ranch. He comes to watch my last few spoonfuls. Where’s his food? Oh no, not eating, or he’s eaten. Something conceited. Ah, I say, but I haven’t understood. He’s sitting there watching playing his phone. Soda? No thanks. I’ve got my Mapachos and I take in a drag.