One time when I did say yes to Mexico, I got to visit Rodolfo’s milpa, the one south of the carretera, the highway, just west of Ajijic. We rode the bus together, Ana and Rodolfo and their daughters Isabel and Mariane and I. Milpa translate’s literally as cornfield, but Rodolfo grew other vegetables, too. They were all nourished by the nightly summer rains. Every year at harvest they had a gathering at his other milpa, north of the highway somewhere. They roasted elote over a big open fire, the corn in their husks, drank tequila, danced. I don’t know how I missed it, but it breaks my heart now to think I may have passed it up. I hadn’t been there long yet, so I maybe I was too shy, but I know I would have done anything to get there in that second summer. But I left that year when the corn was still growing.
The milpa was a few blocks more to the south, between the carretera and the lake. We walked together on the country road in the late summer afternoon. I remember being transported when I followed Rodolfo through the rows of corn. They must have been twelve feet tall. It was another world inside them, all pale green light, moist earth and growing things. He brought us to a makeshift table in the distant heart of the field. Rodolfo picked a handful of pepinos, cucumbers, and washed them with a gallon of water he’d carried with him on the bus. He had a knife to slice them, and Ana produced limes and salt and chile. We ate pepinos picados in our little spot carved out from the forest of corn, and I remember being charmed and oh so grateful they had wanted me to come.
It began to rain, and I licked lime and salt from my fingers. We grabbed everything and ran down the road, laughing, the rain coming down in fat drops, pelting us as we ran. Rodolfo led us to a half-built home a block away. We stood in an unfinished room while the rain beat down on the metal roof, nibbling on brownies I had bought from a cafe in town and crunching crisp red apples. I have always loved the sound of rain on a metal roof, the smell of the first drops hitting dusty earth. I was glad for the water going to the milpa.
Rodolfo talked about the half-built home, abandoned now. It belonged to a friend of his, and when he looked around, I could see in his eyes the way he imagined it in his mind, picturing it fixed up, livable. But Ana only rolled her eyes. She was not eager to live in the country. Over my dead body, she might have said. But I could see it, too, the place restored, the dream of it. Rodolfo and I looked at each other and smiled. Who knew?
[Cornfield photograph cropped from the full version, © Tomo Yun at www.yunphoto.net/en/. Used with permission.]