How Mexico City Saved Me from Grief


Francisco Goldman in The Guardian (photo Rachel Cobb):

The seemingly anarchic chaos and confusion of the city’s traffic had always intimidated and even terrified me: intersections and roundabouts like wide demolition derby arenas, cars crisscrossing simultaneously from all directions and all somehow missing each other, streaming through each other like ghosts; busy cross-streets without traffic lights or stop signs; one way streets that change direction from one block to another; jammed multi-lane expressways and looping overpasses, where a missed exit inevitably means a miscalculated turn on to another expressway or avenue heading off in some unknown direction, or a descent into a bewildering snarl of streets in some neighbourhood you’ve never been to or even heard of before.

My greatest fear was getting lost on an expressway, on the Anillo Periférico or the Circuito Interior, during one of the torrential summer rains, thunder and lightning in the low flat heavy sky like sonic sledgehammers falling on the car roof, and the rain, dense, blinding, trapping you inside a steady frenetic metallic vibration, and even welting hail menacing the windshield, and in a panic making for the first near exit and descending into drain-clogged streets that are suddenly and swiftly flooding, crap-brown water engulfing stalled cars, the tide rising to door handles; newspapers publish photographs of those routine calamities all summer long.

Every year, it has seemed to me, grief changes, persisting in shape-shifting ways that, as the years go by, become more furtive. But as that fifth anniversary of Aura’s death approached – a year that would mark a period in which I’d now been mourning Aura longer than I’d known her – the intensity of my grief was, unsurprisingly, resurgent, weighing on me in a new and at times even somewhat frightening way that I didn’t know how to free myself from. There was maybe not much logic to this, but I felt there was a problem or riddle I had to solve and that somehow Mexico City held a solution. Sometimes I told myself that one logical step would be to leave the city and begin anew somewhere else, a city I’d never lived in before, one free of memories and associations with Aura but also one in which I’d be able to escape my complicated role as private but also rather public widower. But whenever I thought it over, I’d decide that leaving was an inconceivable step and that maybe the solution lay in staying. And not merely staying, but going further in, embracing with more force what I’d been tempted to flee, maybe that was how to find a way to live in Mexico City without Aura.

More here.