To some degree, knowing a place goes hand in hand with knowing its characters. While Lujan is a small town, it boasts a disproportionately large number of folks who beat their own drum. Or an alternative explanation, is that the general populous is abnormally normal or “cuadrado” ((square) a term I have often heard used) thus being that the few slightly strange people, appear triply so in comparison.
In any event, this post hopes to introduce the reader to three of Lujan’s most prominent characters, nicknamed by myself; bike dude, dog lady and time man. This nomenclature describes my own personal experiences with all three of these people, but equally reflects the experiences of others who have encountered them.
Bike dude is in his late twenties to early thirties and is robust in stature, girth, and in the amount of hair and facial hair that emanate from his lion like head. Bike man can be spotted at all hours of the day throughout Lujan, peddling away ferociously on his thick mountain bike. His outings are never luxurious ones, instead they conducted at sweat producing, heart-racing tempo. As he zooms by one might notice his hands clenched tightly to the fat rubber grips on his handlebars. Where is he going? Does he have a job? A Family? Nobody knows. His relentless biking is not the strangest part of bike man’s profile. Rather that the outfit he wears, literally never changes. Not for seasonal variation, rain, sleet, nor summer heat. Bike man will reliably be wearing a black muscle shirt, black shorts, and sneakers. For spring and summertime this is not a bad choice, however (despite many Americans misconceptions that it is never cold in Latin America), winter invites bone-chilling mountain winds, freezing rains, and the occasional snow. Bike dude, defies the law of the seasons, and hot bloodedly peddles on in his summer ware, laughing in the face of nature.
Dog lady is older, in her late fifties to early sixties, has dry, ex-blonde hair that falls limply to her shoulders. Dog lady is always smoking a cigarette. She wears long wrinkled skirts that billow around her ankles, and she is always accompanied by at least two, and sometimes as many as five dogs. These dogs, like planets orbiting around a star, keep their distance, go on to investigate strange smells or the behinds of other dogs, but always with the gravity of dog lady in mind. They go where she goes. I have never seen her feeding these dogs, although I imagine that where she lives, most likely in some darkly lit and crumbling hovel, she provides ample food and shelter for dozens of street dogs. I picture her chewing on burnt toast and sipping mate, maybe reading the paper, treating the dogs as family members; chastising one when he bits another, comforting the squeals of a pup, rubbing down the sore limbs of a veteran.
Time man, to my senses, is perhaps the strangest of these characters. I find this to be so, because at first glance he doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all. He is an older gentleman, cleanly shaved and dressed, with a rotating wardrobe of (unlike bike dude) pressed brown slacks, and well-ironed buttoned down shirts. He often totes a weighted down grocery bag in hand, so his walks seems to be legitimate ones; he is returning from the store, or bringing something to a neighbor, or running an errand of some kind. It wasn’t until the third time that he asked me what time it was that I realized that there was something strange about him. Perhaps the other glaring clue on this occasion was that he flashed me his watch, complete with the correct time, after asking, and then pleaded that I give him two pesos. Since then, I have felt something spooky about his presence. The slow, but deliberate way his walks down he street, and the innocence of his curiosity about the time, now feels like some cheap trap to lure in unsuspecting young women like myself, and then POW… but this is probably not the case. Most like he’s just another defenseless and senile old man, lost in time.