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A Chill on Blackberry Hill


I was out on my daily bicycle ride,
a liberating, but routine affair,
giving my heart its workout,
taking me,
if I am not actually on my way somewhere,
along the same, cobblestone-free route every day:
Cardo, up Prolongacion del Aldama, Las Moras, down and up the hill in Guadiana twice
and back in reverse.

After climbing the hill,
still breathing hard
pedaling as I was in earnest on the level ground of Las Moras
approaching the turn to descend into Guadiana,
as the sun was setting and cool shadows were settling in,
I caught site of a new back in town,
walking away some distance ahead.

Prolongación de Aldama

I've learned,
among other things
here in San Miguel,
that we humans have an amazing capacity to recognize faces.
Still, it's funny how sometimes
you can recognize an addition to the herd
even from behind.
This new character was covered by a sundress,
telling the story of a woman walking home
after a long day out.

I'm rather non-binary when it comes to saying hello to strangers,
first, because I'm generally friendly,
and second, because
after a long day encerrado (closed in)
in the monastic cell that is my house
I am hungry for society,
if only for the sound of the human voice.

Las Moras

Of course, the long hair flowing well down below the collar
and the shapely calves extending down below the hem
of that pretty sundress
caught my masculine attention,
in my own defense,
I've said hello to any number of genders
right there at that very spot.

Curious to see the side with the face,
I rode a little harder,
but she was already two steps beyond the corner when I arrived
and then, what does one say?
Turning, whisking down the hill
I regretted my shyness.
Then pedaling back up I made my resolve.
Foregoing the second loop of the hill,
I went back to Las Moras,
(where, according to its name, blackberries once grew)
and set off in her direction.

The corner of Las Moras and Guadiana

School was getting out
and the way was full of pre-teens,
singly or in groups,
walking or standing still,
when I saw her some short way ahead
crossing Cinco de Mayo
as I gradually wound my way
through the waves of that youthful sea
pedaling very slowly or paddling the ground with my foot
while I stayed seated on the bike,
making the narrowest profile possible.

Across Cinco de Mayo, the way opened up,
and, in a half dozen turns of the crank,
I pulled up by the sidewalk
a few steps before her
and smilingly ventured a hello,
"You can always tell a new face in town."
She, sizing me up in a second as harmless,
responded with her own small-smiled hello
and the conversation continued from there.

At some point
there with the shadows lengthening,
our talk turning towards health,
I mentioned that I was a naturopathic doctor.
She bubbled forth that she already had one of her own,
and that, furthermore, her sister was one, too.
After my enquiring
where Sis had gone to school
and being told, Arizona,
I began mentioning the name of a classmate of mine
who I knew had taught there: "Nick..."
when she cut me off: "Buratovitch. My sister married him."

Me on the corner

As she began messaging Nick
I explained that here in Mexico,
"What a small world?"
comes out as
"El mundo es un panuelo,"
"The world is a handkerchief."

She snapped a photo of us and sent it to Nick
asking if he recognized me.
Unsurprisingly, he didn't.
Time being what it is,
after almost forty years, I don't recognize myself.
She conveyed my claim of having gone to school with him in California.
He wrote back, "I don't think so."
Then, after relaying certain associations that only a classmate would know,
and finally, my first name,
it clicked for him.
There was no joyful reunion,
both of us, very independent sorts,
we had hardly ever spoke,
and weren't going to start now.

With all of this,
and other animated discussion,
night was already taking its place.
Both of us,
she more than I,
scantily clad,
I thought I was keeping her too long.
So, bringing things to a close,
I gave her my contact information
and we exchanged our goodbyes.

The next day she sent me our photo.
I wrote back recommending Luna de Queso:
"They have a great 'natural foods' restaurant and store, and they are right down the hill from you, closer than Mercado Sano."
The day after that she wrote back
asking for advice:
"I got pretty sick yesterday. Fever and sore throat."
Satisfied with what she was already doing,
I further recommended:

Replenish those electrolytes. Electrolyte imbalance makes you feel really bad.
The bromelain in pineapple eats away at the infection in your throat, just like, when you eat a lot, it eats away the top layer of cells on your tongue. Buy a really ripe one at the corner store and eat it all today.
Alternating hot and cold applications (panuelo - washcloths) to your neck change the blood flow, pumping the waste out and allowing the goodness in. The infection is only a few millimeters below the skin. Always end on cold.

She mentioned that she was returning to San Diego in a few days.
I hope she felt better before that,
especially since, here, now, writing this,
it occurs to me that
my stopping her on the street,
as the cool, late-June dusk gathered around us,
she in her little, light sundress,
probably gave her the chill
that brought on her illness.

"First do no harm"
is the Hippocratic oath,
in which I have failed.

Someone said about war, whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins.
When I was young, I hoped to become perfect,
another Buddha.
Now, I just try to keep the blunders down to minimum,
or, at least, not repeat the same mistakes.


Dr. David presents Lokkal, the social network, the prettiest, most-efficient way to see San Miguel online. Our Wall shows it all. Join and add your point of view.


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