Pology Magazine  -  Adventures in Travel and World Culture.
Travel and World Culture   
Travel Image: Guatemala City
 Photo: Kim Seidl
Travel Image: Guatemala City
 Photo: Esteban Balte
Zona 6, Guatemala City (cont.)

So that first morning it is with equal parts amusement, exhaustion, and exhilaration that I have doffed my clothes and sprung quickly into the shower. The turkey, a teenager and ugly, races under the swinging shower door and pecks at my legs, guessing me to be a slick intruder.

“Pavo!” I shout. “Páre! (Goddamn turkey.)”

The house is still asleep, and a few minutes later I stand freshly clean on a piece of cardboard, hair dripping, enjoying the sun breaking in the top of the pregnant mango tree. The sudden heat appears to be too much: mangos begin to moan and plummet to their succulent deaths. I brush my teeth and spit, aiming for the turkey. I know already we will not get along, and I tell him in English, sweetly, “one of us eats dinner, and one of us is dinner. Sucka.”

I tiptoe back indoors—Maria is still sleeping in the room she has had to share with me, buried deep beneath a pile of old blankets and dirty laundry. The windowless room is stuffy and still but for a small whistle of air coming from somewhere, smelling of damp. I sit on my small single bed and prepare to comb my hair, the room lit only by what light has blown in from the yard, through the curtain. A large spider is making its way up a chair leg directly across from me, its long legs tenderly caressing the white plastic. I watch, fascinated and disgusted. Just as the spider reaches the chair seat, a rat darts out from underneath it, between my legs, and under the bed.

Having stumbled from her own dark room, Fialilley has prepared me the first in a series of intense breakfast experiences—a deep fried bun with a greasy pepper burrowed inside it, a hole she has cunningly created by pushing her middle finger in it as far as it will go. Over the months these buns will be violated by uncooked hotdogs, chicken wings, chicken skin, and once—just ketchup. I begin to wrap them in napkins and run out the door, explaining how late I am for the bus, and can I eat this delicious Guatemalan poptart while I go?

As I walk, peeling and eating the bun skin before tossing the rest to a pack of whiny, mangy dogs, I notice people staring at me. The younger woman on her way to the bakery registers a small look of surprise; the old woman tossing out dishwater almost certainly shakes her head. Every morning, it is the same. It is only after three months that Fialilley reveals my cultural transgression: “Pues, si una mujer come cuando se anda, significa que nunca se casará.”

Well. Not only was I hungry every morning, I had evidently condemned myself to eternal spinsterhood. Perhaps too because any grooms-to-be along the way saw me dismembering a bun, hands bloody with ketchup?

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