Monday, April 11, 2011

People #1: Señor Diego

I met Señor Diego several weeks after arriving in Mexico. The barbershop was little more than a wide hallway, slotted between an ice cream store and a mini-mart. He worked slowly, deliberately, his practiced hands floating in search of stray hairs. Talkative, though not garrulous, he inquired what I was doing in Mexico, having quickly noted my accent. When he finished cutting, he passed a strange hand-massager along my shoulder and back, the final touch of a ritual.

Over the next few months, I would learn that Señor Diego had lived in Mexico City since the fifties, having moved here from the mixteca oaxaqueña. He talked with pride about his children, who were working as lawyers and doctors, and recalled how the city had changed. Most often, though, he talked about the house he and his wife were constructing in Zacatlan, Puebla, and where he would retire.

When December came, he had decided to leave at the start of the New Year. In shaky, uncertain lettering, he deliberately wrote out directions to his home on scraps of paper. And then, with a warm handshake and best wishes for the future, we parted ways.

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