Mexican love stories don’t have a happy ending. It doesn’t matter if they are based on real love, it doesn’t matter if they take place in the city or small little towns, if it’s 1930 or 2007. Love may be powerful, lasting, but no matter what, it never ends well.
Medina pretends his working hours are longer than they really are. He is 82 years old, and has worked since he was 10. He leaves before 8:00 am, takes 2 buses and arrives to his daughter’s house. The pub is almost ready, Medina has been working in renovations for about half a year. He is a mil usos, he knows how to paint, clean, how to fix this and that, and if he doesn’t he finds a way. He eats lunch at work, with his daughter, yet it’s unclear what they talk about. He is pretty much done around 3:00 in the afternoon, but he doesn’t want to return home so early, he doesn’t want to be with Carmen anymore. It isn’t lack of love, rather it is lack of understanding, patience, resources, it is about the exhaustion of life.
Thirty five years ago, he was a taxi driver. On a rainy afternoon he took as passengers Carmen and her daughter. He knew who they were. Carmen knew it too. It had been years, many summers, multiple children, at least four presidents –all from the same political party-, but here they were, looking at each other through the mirror, nervous, wondering and dreaming. Carmen whispered to her daughter and told her who this man was, the daughter knew about him, she knew stories. The ride ended, and the daughter hitting her mum’s elbow implied that she should ask for Medina’s phone number. I don’t exactly what happened, but that was the beginning of a second love story, as powerful as the first one during the 40’s.
Medina takes again the same 2 buses but in different order to go back home. He will have a small dinner with Carmen, the usual Nescafe with milk, a piece of bread and perhaps some gelatin. They say very little to each other nowadays. She waits for him in the patio, anxious to see him arrive safe. Carmen can’t follow a conversation anymore, and Medina has given up in trying. She talks and makes sense, she may be repetitive, but her sentences make sense. When dinner is over they go to their room to smoke and watch TV. At night-time, Medina still tucks-in Carmen in the blankets. Just Carmen’s father and Medina have ever tucked her in bed.
Carmen packed her bags and left a note for Alonso. She had lasted more than she though she could, and her children were old enough to understand. She wasn’t abandoning small kids; the youngest was over 20, the oldest already married. Medina and Carmen couldn’t afford their own place, so the moved with Medina’s sister, Ana. After a few months they found a place, their dinner table was a simple cardboard box, but they were happy, they were oh, so happy! Opportunity arrived and they moved to the jungle, yes, a la selva. Once again, Medina was going to be half driver, half mil usos, and mostly a great help for the engineer Roman.
There were no bridges to cross the river into their new home, that’s why the engineer was there, to build the bridge. Medina and Carmen crossed the river in a panga, a story that would become mythical in their relationship, one of my favourite ones. They pretty much lived on a tree house in the middle of the jungle; once Carmen confused a giant toad by a rock. It was hot, there were mosquitoes, they were in their fifties, in love like when they were teenagers, when mambo was badly seen by seniors and when happiness seemed reachable.
Carmen wanted to be a teacher, and I know for sure that she could have been a great one. She wasn’t allowed to continue studying. She wanted to learn to play the guitar, but she was told that no woman in the family was going to be playing guitar, in a cantina with the legs wide open. But despite those disappointments she found love while jumping on the floor. She was dancing to Perez Prado’s mambo while young Medina, standing on the street watched this young crazy lady jumping and jumping with the mambo notes. He serenaded her many times, just like in those old Pedro Infante movies. Despierta, dulce amor de mi vida, despierta si te encuentras dormida…wake-up, my dearest love one, wake-up, if you’re sleeping …the song goes.
Carmen wakes up early, there is something she needs to do, there is something she used to do. She isn’t sure anymore, so she walks through the kitchen and finds fresh chopped papaya in a bowl and some glasses with orange juice. She looks at them, she contemplates them without moving. Carmen’s daughter arrives and asks her mum to set the table. Carmen sets the table. Everybody eats, and then it is time for good-byes. An hour later, Carmen wonders where Medina is, has he left without any breakfast? Carmen asks this question to her daughter about 10 times in an hour lapse. Medina was served breakfast that morning by Carmen herself. Now, it’s noon and Carmen feels anxious about lunch, there is nothing ready, what are they going to eat? Lunch has been ready for hours, Carmen is told by her daughter. After an hour, Carmen can’t help it, she knows nothing has been prepared for lunch, but the pots are full with rice, soup and a mole de olla, over the stove, heating-up. She asks her daughter what does she need to do for lunch? Buy something? Perhaps make some soup?
This afternoon Carmen looks through the window and sees no jungle, she listens to the rain instead of el mambo Lupita. On his ride home from work Medina sings to no one, he just wants to go home and rest. They had so much love during the 40’s, they have always love each other deeply. They have survived it all. But happiness is not based on love, and this is Mexico, where no love story has ever had a happy ending. They are still here…, I guess one can only hope.