Friday, April 15, 2011
Ventura and I have been co-habitating for 5 days now and we already have our routine down perfect. No, I haven’t taken a live-in boyfriend, or roommate. Ventura is the town crazy who has decided to take up residence on my front stoop. His reasons for preferring my stoop to the stoop of others have led me to start a town-wide stoop analysis. As I go about my daily life, I take note of the other stoops throughout town. What makes my stoop different from the others? One would be quick to point out that, clearly, the fact that it is, for the time being, a North American stoop. Okay, I can see that. But why would he care? The thought process could have included him thinking, “Well, the white girl has more money and might therefore give me more food.” But in 5 days he has proven this theory to be incorrect.
Our day begins at 5am when he starts yelling from the stoop, to me, to passersby, to the chickens, “¡Quiero café!” At about 6:30am we have our first encounter as I am sweeping out the previous days dust, depositing it back outside so that it can spend the day thinking of ways to outsmart me and come back in. Ventura looks at me with a hint of sweetness in his eyes “Quiro café” he repeats more politely. To which I patiently explain to him that I do not drink coffee but instead tea. His face never fails to reveal his emotions as he becomes downcast at the news. On day 2 of his stay I offered him tea and he eagerly nodded and smiled a toothless smile. I made him a cup of Earl Grey and he took one sip and spat it out on my. He asked for sugar. I gave him honey. He still didn’t drink the tea. He asked for tortilla. I explained to him that I don’t eat tortillas but that I would be happy to share my melon with him. He nodded delightfully but later I found the melon, untouched, and hidden in a corner.
As I leave the house to go to work I wish him a good day and he in return giggles a little and smiles shyly. I return for lunch to find Ventura sleeping on the porch, his boots with no laces set neatly next to him and his tattered red blanket covering his body. My porch is shaded most of the day until late afternoon when the sun’s rays are strong and unrelenting. He sleeps through everything and looks peaceful.
He wakes up again in the early evening and leaves – I assume looking for dinner. He walks through the street muttering incomprehensibly under his breath and looking for treasures in the gutters – bottle caps, rocks, sticks. Sometimes he loses his pants and wanders naked. The good people of my town take him in, bathe him, dress him, feed him, and send him on his way. Everyone knows him; everyone gives him what they can when he asks. I hear him again in the early morning, before the chickens wake up and long before my neighbor women start making tortillas. Its 1am, 2am, 3am, and he’s alone on my porch cackling loudly, yelling angrily, and sometimes crying. His dementia torments him when the rest of the world is sleeping soundly.
I’ve tried talking to Ventura, I wanted to know how gone he really was.
-“Ventura, when is your birthday?”
-“Ventura, how old are you?”
-“Ventura, where were you born?”
-“Up in the mountains. I want coffee.”
And so, I explain to him again patiently that I have no coffee and instead bring him a banana, a compromise for the both of us.