I’ve walked this road time and time again. My worn sneakers find the larger stones to step on as I make my way up to the mountaintop. The stone road has been here as long as I can remember. My mother can’t recall a time when it wasn’t here either. It’s the road that I and everyone else in the village walk up every day. Some are up before the dawn with the collection bags, others see their kids off first to the small school at the top of the town, and then there are people like me. My name is Lupe, short for Guadalupe. My whole name is Guadalupe Francisco Jimenez Sandoval.
It’s 9:00 AM before I start the walk up the mountain. My head is ripe with a hangover from too many Pacifico beers. Yesterday was Thursday when the bull is brought up from the pasture below the village. Each week the damned thing just stands there chewing its cud until Pachuko comes from behind and slams his head with the maul bar. The bull slumps down and Pachuko does his work as the stench of the slaughter rises into our noses. Thursday is the night we drink in front of the beer store until Pachuko is all done. We play cards, each of us pretending we have more money than we do. Sometimes I win, other days I lose the money my elderly mom gave me to shop with because she’s too blind to make it to the store.
I lost the money last night.
Today I have to pick an extra bag of coffee beans in order to make up for what I lost yesterday. Hopefully, I’ll strip enough of the red cherries from their branches in order to stop at the store in the village before I go home. I don’t want my mother knowing I lost again gambling. I have too much of a fondness for gambling and for drinking and for smoking marijuana. Everyone knows it. My mother knows it too. That’s just how it goes in a small town on the rainy side of a mountain in the lowland jungle of Nayarit, Mexico. We all lived here, far away from the cities like Puerto Vallarta. It’s only an hour or so away, but it might as well be ten hours. I can never afford to go there. On a good day I will make eight dollars a day, twelve it I pick an extra bag of cherry beans.
I walk the stone street that leaves the village. I wind up the mountain. Within minutes I’m wet with humidity and sweat. It takes a good hour to reach the coffee orchards under the enormous Kapok trees. The road up the mountain becomes gradually smaller. The road becomes a path. The path becomes a coyote trail. As the trail narrows, the mountaintop jungle becomes thicker and the bird calls replace the barking dogs in the village. Bromeliads as large as me cling to the trees. Orchids wrap their roots around the limbs of the coffee trees. The passion fruit is everywhere.
I find the orchard owned by the man in the village who has become too old to pick his beans. I reach up into the air and pull the cherries from the branch. It’s December, the month the coffee is ripe enough to pick. If I pick enough to cover my gambling and love of Pacifico beer, I can get my mother something for Christmas. She cooks on a dilapidated camp stove on a wooden table on the porch. It would be nice to get her a new stove.
That’s what I said last year too.