Flirting, the Evil Eye, Prayers for the Dead

The evil eye is one of the world’s oldest and most widely held superstitions. Religious Jews still utter kinehora, "keep away the evil eye," after noting some good fortune, as a formula, a prayer, to protect that good fortune from bad results, from someone, or some evil force, looking maliciously upon it: "I have three children, kinehora." Kinehora is a contraction of three Yiddish words: “not (kayn) the evil (hara) eye (ayin).” Because it was stated so frequently, the words became contracted. The Italians have their own contracted version, which I regularly injected into my conversations with my elderly patients of that persuasion, malocchio.

I have the opposite. I have a good eye; not for art, but for people. I tend to think the best of people. I am attracted to them. This along with the fact that I didn't get touched enough as a kid, really not at all, leads me to be somewhat of a flirt.

I know the Spanish word for flirt, coquetear in its English version from my misspent hours as a youth in the pinball arcades of Sound View Beach on the Connecticut shore. There was a machine with the name, Coquette, whose glass was painted with an impossibly shapely woman, begloved and bejeweled, relishing the attention she commanded.

My girlfriend, Veronica, who speaks barely a word of English, none-the-less clearly understands, that, in the Organic Market, I am flirting with our potential customers as I try to sell them her woven fashions. Sometimes she chides me, "Tan coqueto" [So flirtatious]. I excuse myself with the reply, "Todo por la venta" [Everything to make the sale] as I pass her the money.

Veronica is in Puerto Rico for a few weeks, attending a class on helping problem kids in school, while tending to her son, who is suffering from digital dementia. I'm left keeping the home fires burning and attending to our stall in the market. I'm quite a sight, pedaling my bicycle the thankfully short distance to and from Mercado Sano, piled high behind with three large, but not very heavy bags, with two or three smaller bags dangling from the handlebars and one hanging from my backpack.

Regarding flirting, I was worse. It got me into trouble. I am reformed. However, I still am a bit like those lost critters in the children's books, who go about in search of mommy. (The real problem has been to accept the affection once I've found it.) Riding over and down into the market yesterday, I unload and stow away the bicycle. Returning, before I unpack a single piece, the Japanese woman two stalls away calls over, in Spanish, "I thought you also went to Puerto Rico." "No," I explain, in Spanish, "I am a slave, a slave of love." The Japanese is normally very reserved, but when Vero is not present she gets friendly, coming over to chat and admire our clothes. Now this type of feminine attention is for me a drug, and, objectively, actually might be an opening to something more.

Truth be told, in the past, when my relationship with Veronica was rocky (and I was having a harder time accepting the affection I had found), I did flirt with the Japanese woman. She herself was interested, but wise enough not to pursue anything with someone who was already, or still, in a relationship. Then, I also am getting smarter. I now understand better that my "good eye" beautifies people. I romanticize situations. I see someone again, a second time, and think them not so pretty. I make an acquaintance and later become disappointed in the person. It is rare when someone lives up to my impression of them.

Yesterday, after pedaling back home, less laden (the sales were good, keep away the evil eye), I exercised and ate in front of the computer. After the comida, surfing the web, there on a news site I was visiting, was an ad encouraging me to "Explore Japanese Women". "Wow," I thought, "These algorithms are getting really sophisticated." Either my smart phone, was spying on me and reading my mind at the market or the laptop itself was somehow divining my subtle, repressed urges. (Imagine the capacity for good or evil!) I though enough of the event to capture the screen, but let it go.

The meal I ate on returning from the market, had been leftovers, featuring my famous spaghetti sauce, which is always better the next day, had atop Barilla capellini pasta (angel hair, because it cooks so fast). Imagine then, if you will, my further surprise when not long after, later that evening, the Youtube video I was watching was interrupted by a well-made ad featuring two Italian chefs cooking a meal of spaghetti using Barilla pasta. I thought, maybe someone has hijacked my computer's camera and they saw me eating pasta. But, when not in use, I always keep my camera covered. Perhaps the digital beast has learned to smell?!

The materialists will tell you that when, as you are strolling up 5th Avenue and, looking through the plate glass window of a store, you lock eyes with a college friend, whom you have not seen for 35 years, as happened to my cousin some time ago, that given this and that probablility, it is only chance. However, in that the materialists are wrong, and also in their fundamental contention that the universe is all just mindless matter. (They've been unsuccessfully trying to explain away even the human mind for decades.) The phenomenon of Mind looms large in current scientific thought. A well-respected camp posits that Mind is a ubiquitous, cosmological force. Like gravity, electromagnetism or the nuclear forces, it just is.

A Chilean friend of Veronica's who, was going to Mexico City anyway, accompanied her all the way to the airport. Yesterday, he and I were playing chess in the market. The Japanese woman came over once or twice to see who was winning; me, every game. After, during our conversation, I was trying to explain to him, in Spanish, something, a subtle point of language, that is hard to describe even in English. It is this: The word "coincidence" has a pejorative bias, as in, "It was just a coincidence." That usage implies that the juxtaposition of occurrences, that two things happen simultaneously, is without meaning. But, in fact, coincidence just means that things happened at the same time, things came together, they coincided. The word does not, or shouldn't, pass judgment on the event; maybe it's not meaningful, but maybe it is.

I don't think the algorithm read my mind regarding my urge to explore Japanese women or that they knew what brand of macaroni I had for dinner. I believe something much more fantastic. I believe that there is a unversal mind that connects us all, now and through time. I believe that this intelligent, spiritual (non-material) web resonates when we pluck it, and when we don't. We spin and are spun by it. I believe this Mind, (God, if that word is not spoiled for you) occasionally, very much out of the blue, taps us on the shoulder. We experience a meaningful coincidence, what Jung called a synchronicity. We turn around and see something very strange: a long lost friend or messages about Japan and Barilla pasta. For me these are hints, reminders of meaning in what often seems like a meaningless world.

Yesterday, was also the death anniversary, the yartzeit, of my neglectful mother, who, by her own admission, elicited by my charge, never caressed, let alone kissed her children; "I know I didn't touch you enough when you were kids, but that doesn't mean I didn't love you." I lit the traditional, 24 hour, commemorative candle. I said the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead, which is traditionally recited on the yartzeit. Pausing there before the candle, before the Kaddish, I meditated on my mother, on my relationship with her. I was sure she was listening, that some spiritual and emotional rectification was at hand. My father once told me that the recitation of the Kaddish is for the living, not the dead. I think that, like forgiveness, it goes both ways. I forgive you Mom and, in so doing, I forgive myself.

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photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr David started this magazine because he could write and liked to communicate. He fully expected that in a town like San Miguel he could find authors to publish in addition to himself. Well, practically no one is submitting anything. Stubborn as he is, he continues, now publishing himself, and a faithful cadre of authors and photographers. His motto continues to be, "It's hard to be ahead of your time."

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