First published in 2009
Step out of the oppressive afternoon sun into the cool shade of a typically Mexican Café just off the Rio Cuale. The Rio is actually two rivers with an island down the middle. The rivers and island run in parallel through the center of the city and empty into Banderas Bay. A this time of year the Cuale contains smoothly polished rocks in abundance and only a little water. The island down the middle is home to the Puerto Vallarta Cultural Center, gifts shops, restaurants, and vendor booths galore.
The Café we have entered is just clean enough and open to the air as are so many of the restaurants here. The stone fountain, four levels high, ornate, adorned with Mayan figures and symbols does not work. Several dozen tables with multi color striped cloths are arranged along the railing that overlooks one of the branches of the Rio. Each table has four brightly colored, locally made high backed chairs with a soft seat pad tied in place. Orange, turquoise, navy blue, yellow, red, crimson, green. Did I say brightly colored?
Large piñatas gently blowing in the breeze are hanging from the wood beamed ceiling, along with out-of-place crystal chandeliers. Green plants abound growing up from the river bank and filling the Café. Green painted cans suspended from the awnings of the restaurant are filled with vines that lace from one to the next. Other plants hang from the columns and more grow in terra cotta pots leaning one against the other. Fresh flowers adorn each table.
On entering, I motion towards the tables rather than towards the bar and ask if we might sit only to have a drink. The waiter waves us in with, “Bienvenidos!” “Welcome!” He asks what we would like to drink and I ask for “la lista” or menu. He returns and after a short look at la lista, I order a Sangria for me and a fizzy water for Gregory. His arrives in an old fashioned glass soda bottle with a stemmed wine glass full of lime halves and mine in a locally made, oversized, thick walled glass with a layer of lemonade on the bottom and red wine and ice floating on top, which when mixed become my Sangria. The haze of condensation on both of our glasses speaks to the refreshing drinks within.
As we sit at a table by the railing among the plants, an older man is playing a fairly well but not perfectly tuned piano. After each piece, he looks to the two tables of people currently in the restaurant to acknowledge our applause at his playing. Sometimes he looks to us before we begin our few-personed accolades causing us to increase our enthusiasm. His songs include classical, Spanish type Malegueñas, and tunes from the fifties. With the latter we try to guess the titles and in my mind, nostalgia of a childhood begins to take shape. The old man covers his missed note mistakes as easily as he makes them and every now and then a flourish on the keyboard actually causes you to listen more closely.
Outside the shaded walls of the restaurant, the sun is brightly warming the passing people with its glare. We watch and comment as people pass over the bridge. Some tourists shopping, some workers returning home, some natives just out for a walk. Then a dog or two. Birds fly from tree to tree and call out. Busses, taxis, cars, motorcycles rumble past on the rough road.
An old old man selling “Tuba” or coconut milk out of his aged, hand carved gourd which holds at least a gallon of the stuff, is stationed at one end of the bridge. An old lady selling “Fruta” of various types on sticks works the other end. Perhaps they are a couple. Vendors sit in their stalls, greeting and waving in the shoppers who are walking by. Children sit under a table watching a beat up television set with cartoons speaking in Spanish.
As we are sitting there silently, neither Gregory nor I saying a word, both contemplating our surroundings, listening to the piano, quiet together - I realize that I am so very happy. And that Gregory is so very happy and so very content. And that no words are passing or need to pass between us in our contentment. I realize that I am sitting there, taking it all in and wishing that this moment could go on forever. That it would never end.
Tears fill my eyes as I realize that our love will always go on forever and that in the silence of our lives and inability with words that someday living without each other is destined to arrive, compliments of Alzheimer’s Disease. But for now, words are not necessary between us, just silently being together is enough to express our contentment, our love for each other, our joy at life!