After spending a night in a Las Cruces motel, we arrived, just ahead of the movers, at our new house in Anthony on a late-May morning. The movers unloaded the van in light, intermittent showers. As I directed the movers inside and outside of the house, I sensed a difference in this new place we now called home: an added weight―of silence, stillness, and, given that Anthony is at an altitude of 3,800 feet, an additional 1,500 feet of space above.
I beheld the surrounding mountains―the Franklins, Potrillos, Aden Hills: scattered, diminutive, barren, and worn. If the Rockies of Colorado and northern New Mexico are the waves, and the Sandias and Manzanos of central New Mexico the breakers, then the mountains about Anthony are surely the foam, the spindrift. Our previous neighborhood, on Albuquerque’s east mesa, not far from the Sandias, had wings. Anthony had wings, too, albeit the wings of a roadrunner. Anthony felt mainly afoot.
After the movers left, while Linda napped on a bare mattress amid stacks of boxes, our front doorbell rang. When I opened the door, I encountered a Latino in his mid-50’s. He had thick, curly, salt-and-pepper hair. His sparse beard was a week long. His jeans and buttoned shirt were worn, his running shoes surviving on duct tape. His scratched, mud-encrusted off-road bicycle leaned against a post of the portal. His expression was blank, his dark eyes remote. A sadness seemed to be just below his surface. I realized where I now was, and thus everything about him seemed to murmur “Mexico.”
Before I could say anything, he began talking calmly but rapidly in Spanish, oblivious to his words ricocheting off my obvious incomprehension. As he went on, I summoned what little I recalled from my Spanish classes at UNM, repeatedly interjecting, “No hablo Español.” However, the man, becoming increasingly agitated, continued talking in Spanish. I concluded that he had spotted the new arrivals in the neighborhood and was looking for an odd job. “Work,” I wondered. What the hell is Spanish for “work”? I wanted to politely inform him, “No work.” Yet I couldn’t recall the Spanish. Eventually, my visitor presented the upheld palm of his right hand, which I took as a request for a handout, and which struck me as an odd shift, given that I thought his original and perfectly honorable desire was for some work in exchange for pay. Somewhat affronted by this, yet maintaining my composure, I patted the obviously empty pockets of my shorts and, recalling an expression I first learned in Leadville, said firmly, “No dinero.” With that, my visitor, with no fanfare, turned, mounted his bicycle, left our property, and headed south on Opitz Road, dissolving into this strange new world.
The evening that followed was calm, its skies were clear. As I swept a puddle of water from the patio off the kitchen door, I heard the distant voices, in Spanish, of our new neighbors in our section of Anthony. Had our house’s previous―and original―occupants not been gringos, I would have felt far more alien there. Now I relaxed in the desert stillness as I watched a full moon rise over the Franklin Mountains.