The headlights had no strength, and road signs passed like dreams, too soon escaping. Rain pounded on the roof of the car, and we were all tired. In the painted triangle beside the off-ramp, Axayácatl hesitated.
“¿México or Salamanca?”
“It isn’t time yet, go straight.”
“But we’re not going to México—”
“This isn’t the turn.”
He moved cautiously back onto the highway. Almost immediately there was another sign.
I thought we came by Irapuato.
“Going through Irapuato is hell,” he said.
“¡But maybe this is the turn!”
“Too late now.”
“¿Do you want to go back? We can go back.”
IRAPUATO 8 flashed up once in white letters and flew like a bat to its cave. Potholes began, and lapses in the pavement. Improvised lanes rose like cobras between spattering torches. The car had three quarters of the motor new. T axistas sometimes offered to buy it. I had seen it a few months before, at the scorching hot tianguis, just after buying a folding hat from a vendor. The car was more than we had thought to spend, but there were two other people looking at it. I remember wandering back to find Axayácatl, who was arguing with a coyote beside a sandy-beige car. “Watch out for the c oyotes,” he had told me, on the way to the tianguis.
When we switched drivers the rain swept onto the back seat, but the sleeper sleeping there did not move. The sky was full in remote spaces, beating down on invisible fields. Impossible-to-see fields. It drove the desert clay in great walrus rolls along the shoulders of the road. When Axayácatl fell asleep in the passenger seat, the minutes began to wall up against the windshield. It was so dark. I tried to imagine what I could not see. Fields, enclosed by borders of piled, round stones. Scrappy mesquite trees. Garambullos; agave. Little towns. Livestock sleeping on their feet. Dogs roaming. I started muttering to myself at the wheel.
Dum dum di-da da, / Castles of the foam (green leaves)— G reen leaves a-floating, / Castles of the foam. / Boats of mine a-boating, / Where will all come home —
I had not thought about that for a long time.
A bright, saturated place, far away from rivers or boats, by the edge of a wooded creek, on the other side of a hill.
A kids book, with sugary illustrations.
The sun very hot on my shoulders.
Where Go the Boats? said the cardboard page, Robert Louis Stevenson.
I remembered being caught in the current of the words, a long time ago.
Axayácatl sprang forward, thrown from the progress of a dream.
In Irapuato we came up against enormous white movie trucks, all dim and gloomy, and locked up tight. Trying to be orderly but just too big. Truck after truck full of stars and cameras and cables and more cables and characters and catering and credits and co-stars and extras and—and techies and bad-ass camera men, and gods, and what-not. Stories, or storyboards.
We stared through the windshield at the looming, white shadows.
“Moby Dick,” growled Axayácatl, with mock urgency.
I slid him a look. I had not read Moby Dick.
I stared at the windshield.
Slap, slap, raiiiin.... slap, slap, raiiiin.... slap, slap, raiiiin....