[Note: Except for the first image, none of these pictures have anything to do with this story. But I like them anyway—and every blog needs visuals.]
Oaxaca, 1/21/2018 – Brújula is a cute corner café about as close to the Church of Santo Domingo as a café can be. Sarai was waiting for me when I arrived, along with her colleague Jorge. We ordered drinks—a double cappuccino for me—and sat on stools along a high wooden table. It was a nice spot; the black-and-white floor tiles were decorated with cartoonish skulls, and sculpted paper lanterns hung from the ceiling.
There was some business to attend to first, regarding my itinerary in Oaxaca – I’ll be visiting some mezcal producers, of course, and the town where they make all those painted wooden animals. My magazine story has to include some local color, no? But this trip has a specific purpose, a quest, and all of the other good stuff – Zapotec ruins, mole, mezcal, chocolate, and painted animals – must take a back seat to my search.
So as soon as we were finished with all that other planning, Sarai asked me if I was ready. I was. She picked up her smart phone, and called the number she had been given yesterday for the sister of Fernando Limon: the woman who would of course be Luisa (or Rosita’s) aunt.
I sat quietly, hopefully, and very nervously next to Sarai for the next 15 minutes, while she chatted in increasingly animated fashion with whomever had picked up at the other end. Halfway through the call, though, her eyes widened. She glanced at me, and began speaking rapidly into the phone, her voice a register higher. I looked at Sarai pleadingly. She put her hand over the receiver, barely able to contain herself.
“Her brother – Fernando – is alive!” Sarai said.
I was flabbergasted. How was this possible? There had clearly been some kind of misunderstanding, Sarai explained, by the neighbors at 604 Santos Degollado. Javier and Luis had been misinformed. For me, this was almost like having someone come back from the dead. Although I have not seen and be in touch with Fernando for 24 years, I found myself in tears.
And it didn’t stop there: Rosita, it turned out, was in fact the name of Fernando’s sister, on the other end of the line. As for Luisa: She was back to being Luisa.
I was nearly jumping out of my seat with joy, unable to believe this wonderful turn of events. But there was some unfortunate news, as well. None of the Limons, except for Rosita, still lived in Oaxaca. Furthermore, Rosita was not willing to give Sarai Fernando’s phone number or email. I asked why this was so.
“I think, because, these days there are many … abductions in Mexico” she said. “Maybe Rosita is a bit worried.”
This gave me pause. “Then is it possible,” I theorized, “that Luisa really does still live in Oaxaca?”
Sarai shrugged noncommittally. I knew it wasn’t likely. But it was a hope. “Okay,” I said. “So what happens now?”
“Rosita told me she will pass your phone number to Fernando,” Sari told me. “If he wishes to, he will call you.”
My heart sank at this news – not only because it makes me reliant on a person who may be suspicious of my motives, but because my dirt-cheap burner cell phone, bought here at a corner store, rarely deigns to receive phone calls or messages, even from someone standing next to me.
“If you don’t hear from Rosita by tomorrow,” promised Sarai, “I will call her again to remind her.”
“Okay,” I said, because there was nothing else I could say.
As of this afternoon, Sunday, I have not heard from Fernando—or Sarai. But as the saying goes: Anything can happen, at any time.